Moisture and Protein Maintaining the Balance

If we were in a classroom and black hair was our course title this topic would be the most important one for the semester. Why? Because this particular topic may be the answer to most of our hair problems.

There are two important words when it comes to hair care, moisture and protein. Above all, if we understand how to balance the act between these two, most hair battles would be won and dreams of healthy hair would not just be dreams anymore for most people.

There is a co-dependent relationship that exists between protein and moisture within the hair strand. The two components work together to produce a healthy head of hair and to promote hair growth. They are co-dependent and neither of the two can work on its own well without the other. The balancing act between moisture and protein is the real key to getting the hair to be the best it can be.

Water molecules bind easily to a sound protein structure within the hair. Hence, moisture is absorbed better when the hair’s protein needs are sufficiently looked after. Consider your hair to be a garden and the hair a plant. Moisture would be the water and protein the dirt. If for any reason there is too much dirt and no water the plant can’t grow. If there is too much water and not enough dirt the plant can’t grow either. It’s the same synergistic relationship that moisture and protein have together, and keeping the hair balanced between the two is very important. It is the most important thing that you can do for your hair.

How To Achieve The Right Balance

Achieving the right balance involves using the right combination of moisture and protein on your hair. Which means you have to get acquainted with your personal hair needs. No hairdresser or casual friend or even an author of a black hair site knows your hair better than you. Hair breakage is the result of being off balance with either protein or moisture. When my hair starts to break I question what is it that I am doing wrong, am I starving my hair of protein or moisture? When the hair chemistry is thrown off balance there has to be some assessment on your part. Don’t just jump to treat your hair not knowing what is wrong or which part of the equation is off balance.

The Equation (Moisture + Protein = Healthy Hair)

When hair is in its wet state it provides an opportunity to do a test to see how healthy the hair is. Though this test can be performed on dry hair, it is better to do a hair test when hair is in a wet state. Frequent wet assessments will help you to monitor your hair needs as you go along. Hair in a good balanced condition will not break when wet unless it is stressed unduly, like brushing, aggressive combing and pulling. Balanced hair will feel soft and supple, yet strong while wet.

Performing A Wet Assessment

Have you ever heard of the test where you hold a single strand of hair and pull on both ends to see if your hair is strong or not? Tugging the hair gently in both directions can give you an indication of the tensile strength of the hair. However the test does not really tell you anything much if you tug the hair under undue pressure, whether the hair is healthy or brittle it will break based on the  pressure that the strand is put under. To test hair to see whether it needs more protein or moisture can be as simple as doing a comb test or touch test. Here are the various ways that you can tell what your hair is needing.

If when wet or dry your hair:
Stretches slightly and returns to its original length without breaking, it is balanced! Stick with your regimen of balancing protein with moisture and continue to get your great results.

Gets just a little or no stretching, and just snaps like a brittle twig; you need to turn up the moisture in your regimen.

Stretches like an elastic band and then breaks, more protein is needed in your regimen.

Feels rough, dry, hard, tough, tangled and brittle, then you definitely need more moisture in your regimen.

Stretches, very far  like an elastic band with no significant breakage then you need to add some light protein to your regimen.

Feels mushy, limp, soft and sticky you need to add more protein to your regimen.

Too Much Moisture Will:

Make the hair extremely elastic. I was once caught up in the moisture craze and I overdid it on my hair. I combined oils, deep conditioner, and vegetable glycerin for weeks because I thought  I was ‘treating’ my hair to a smorgasbord of moisture and that it was impossible to be over-moisturized. My hair ended up looking like a very mushy, soft mess and it could not hold any curls whatsoever. This kind of hair has a weak, limp, spongy feel to it. Protein deficient hair will tend to pull and stretch along with the comb and then break. It will always stretch first then break because of the low structural protein stores, and overabundance of moisture.


Protein. If your hair is  stretching and looks too elastic, its telling you to apply some structure/protein. Protein will be needed to give the hair the structure it so desperately needs. This can be solved in one session with a mild to medium protein deep conditioner such as Aphogee 2 minute keratin constructor or ORS Hair Mayo. Heavier proteins like Aphogee Treatment for Damaged Hair would only be necessary for a serious long -term moisture breakage problem. This is when moisture abuse is taken to a serious level and your hair stretches and then pops like an elastic band.

Another suggestion is to clarify hair with Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse and then follow up with a medium protein deep conditioner.

Too Much Protein Will…

Leave your hair hard and unmanageable and tough like a brillo pad. Moisture offers elasticity to the hair and allows it to be more manageable when combing, lack of moisture is very easy to spot. Hair that breaks with very little tension or stretching is a sign of an overabundance of protein, and a deficiency of moisture. Remember protein adds structure and moisture elasticity, too much structure makes the hair hard and rigid and in some cases tough.


Luckily if you find that your hair is dry and brittle you can start a dry hair regimen with a moisture rich deep conditioner treatment every week along with a very moisture rich light protein treatment every other week. It is much easier to overload your hair with protein and cause breakage, than to overload your hair with moisture and cause breakage. When in doubt of what exactly is causing your hair breakage err on the side of moisture.

There are several commercial hair products that have added protein. If you are not careful these added proteins can cause hair to break especially if your hair is already dry and pleading with you for moisture. See Moisture for Hair and Protein for Hair for more on these two properties.


  1. Burch Coren,   Wet Assessment-
  2. Howse Cathy, Ultra black hair growth 2, UBH Publications, 2000
  3. Moss, Cheryl Talley , Healthy Hair Care Tips for Today’s Black Woman,  Talley Publishing, 1999
  4. Shamboosie, Beautiful black hair: real solutions to real problems, Amber Books, 2002


  • azeezah said:


    I have a serious problem, I bleached my entire head (DIY) about 2months ago, my hair became very strechy n brittle, I could not even comb it coz it would jus strech n pop back up like elastic leavin my hair badly tangled. Today I decided to straighten my hair using mediscalp straightener to try to get more control of my hair,now its even more strechy n breaks,I am scared, please help me,what can I do to fix this mess?

    Thank you

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Azeezah,

      Sorry to hear about this, this sounds like DIY gone wrong on both occasions. I could suggest a load of solutions but I am really concerned about your hair situation. Please, go see a reputable stylist, somebody who can feel and see your hair in person and can offer assistance.

  • Jasmine Jemerigbe said:

    Hi my name is Jasmine I am transitioning relaxed to natural and I don’t how to start? I am also still having a hard time choosing which hair products I should use. Maybe you can give me some tips on what to do with natural hair.

  • lovely said:

    hey i hear of a prduct call milk protein and olive oil and i was wondering is this product is good cause it has both moisture and protein

  • shonte lee said:

    Hi my name is shonte and i have been natural for a yeari never did a protein treatment on my hair but i feel like i need it csuse my hair shade alot and break alot and my hair to me dont hold alot of moisture i can put oil in it but my hair is very dry my groots are oily but the rest is dry so with that being said i want to do a protein and hot iol treatment can i do them one after the other

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Shonte,
      I would recommend that you do a hot oil treatment every week until your hair starts feeling normal again. Do the protein treatment only occasionally.

  • Rubais said:

    i dont know how to say about my hair.. my hair is like so soft and not at all combable.. i need a rough and hard hair hair so that i can comb it.. its flying when i am going out.. i make it long to comb.. but still i cant comb it.. some one plese please reply for my comment how i can mak my hair to hard and combable..

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Rubais,
      Protein can make your hair ‘hard’ or strengthen the hair bonds giving it a stronger feel. Check out some protein hair treatments under hair recipes. All the best.

  • Sherry said:

    HEYY! so i recently found out i was suffering from moisture overload , i did a henna treatnent & my hair feels soo much stronger & better. Is the balance corrected?
    2ndly , i have very fine hair (relaxed) & even as a natural too.
    i think my hair ranges between 3c-4b (not sure)
    i have been staying away from protein because it always has a negative light on it but recently ive been finding through research that protein is actually great for fine hair & can make it stronger, fuller & thicker! what are your thoughts on this?
    also how do i balance a protein based shampoo & cond. like Mane n tail with the rest of my regimen to make sure the balance is maintained?
    sorry for so much questions :$ thanks in advance!

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Sherry,
      If it feels better and stronger after the henna treatment I think you corrected the moisture imbalance.
      I have several thoughts on protein. Here’s a link to the article- Protein and Hair
      Its easy to get your hair pH balanced, after a shampoo wash, you can balance with Apple Cider Vinegar as a final rinse. Condition as usual.

  • Ieashia said:

    Not only do you give great hair tips but GIRLLL I am in love with your books. You getting all my money over on You are amazingly talented, and I am officially hooked. Your word play is amazing and makes for great “page turning, can’t put this book down even at 1 am and even though I have to be at work in 8 hours” reading. Keep up the excellent work! I will be reading!

    Once again thanks for the hair tips. I could not figure out whyn my hair was breaking and kept piling on the protein. After one moisture treatment it is a lot better. Now I just have to find the right moisturizer for me.

  • Deborah said:

    Hey, just found your article after several months of searching for something to help with my brittle hair that has stopped growing, but continues to break and shed, for over a year and a half. For last 9 months, i used ORS oil moisturizer with a sealant every night and hair seemed healthier. Then it went back to breaking and shedding to the point I had to sweep it up from the floor each morning. I went from having shoulder length to hardly any length. I thought it could be my meds (blood pressure and water pills) but I have been on those 25 years. Then I thought menopause (52 years old), but no other symptoms. I thought it could only be hormone replacement, but I have been off those for well over a year. I included ORS hair mayonnaise to my ORS shampoo and replenishing regimen and if I rub my hand across my hair when wet, hair comes off in my hand. I just don’t know what else to do. I have relaxed hair which I get touch ups every six weeks and have been doing since I was 24 years old. (Now I am adding Jamaican BCO daily). Any advice will be appreciated. Stylist says she may try fermadyl with next retouch.

  • Ada said:

    Hello, I just BC’d my hair 2 weeks ago because I had so much new growth and I fell in love with my curls so I cut off the permed ends. Now I just really want to grow my hair and get length, but I’m afraid I’ll over-moisturize my hair and then my curls won’t hold! What I do is: every night I sleep in conditioner and rinse it out in the morning. then I apply olive oil in the morning then seal it. Then once a week a do a protein treatment with hair mayonnaise and I add egg to it. Will this keep a good balance or should I stop this immediately? suggestions?

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Ada,
      How does your hair feel? If this is working for you and your feels great not too mushy and soft and it is thriving then continue with your regimen. My only change to your regimen would be not to add egg to the Hair Mayonnaise, it already has enough protein. And I would do a protein treatment only once a month. However, if this is working for you, don’t stop.

  • Darlaine said:

    Hi I’m Darlaine and I can’t figure out what my hair needs. 10 weeks ago I had protein overload and my hair was breaking a lot I stayed away from protein and stepped up my moisturising. But then my hair started to feel mushy and was breaking a little. But when I did the wet test it was still breaking without stretching at all! But I did a light protein anyway with aphogee 2 minutes. Now my hair kind off feels soft when I touch it but its a little hard @ the same time still breaking a little and still snapping on the wet test. I’m really confused! What should I do? I need help. I’ m relaxed BTW. Tks for answering me

  • Jordyn said:

    I use this homemade deep conditioner where you mix mayonnaise, eggs, vitamin E oil, coconut oil, and olive oil up in a bowl, put it through your hair, put a plastic wrap over your head and let it sit for an hour or so, then rinse with normal conditioner. I had read about it on the Internet and decided to give it a try, the next time I went to my hairdresser she said that my hair felt much better than it normally did, so I guess it’s working.

    I guess I was just wondering, is that giving my hair protein & moisturizing, like does anyone know exactly what it does?
    And is it somthing anyone has heard of or tried at any point in time?

    I try to do it at least once a week, I always do it after I swim and my hair feels gross an I like the way it makes my hair feel.

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Jordyn,
      That recipe works! Except I don’t use the mayonnaise because the eggs are already enough protein. The oils add moisture that penetrates and the egg/mayo protein. Its a pretty good balance of protein and moisture.

  • Samantha said:

    Do I need to condition after a keratin treatment??

  • Mo said:

    Very informative article. Unfortunately the MOISTURE FOR HAIR link is not working properly. Both are linked to the PROTEIN FOR HAIR link. (I’m refering to the last paragraph). I’d love to view the information on moisture for hair.


  • NIcole said:

    Hi, I have twin daughters and one has fine hair that is breaking. It use to be very long and beautiful before relaxers. But now, it is only to her mid back when it use to be almost to her waist. My other daughter hair is thick and much healthier. They both have dry hair and looks brittle after washings. maybe two days later, it starts to look brittle. we use no flat irons only roller wraps and I am wondering what to do about the dryness brittle hair and how can I get it right. Should I use moisture treatments with protein treatments or just one or the other. please help… Ive tried salons, but they cant treat it properly thus far… 🙁 Sorry for long message but really concerned mom…

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Nicole.
      Do you do deep conditioning treatments or hot oil treatments? They can make a difference in the dry feel of the hair ends.

  • Kara said:

    I have two questions:

    If I stick with a daily moisturizing regimen, how long before typically hair starts to improve?

    Also, the moisurizers I’ve found are water based, but also contain oil. Do I need to use a sealant in addition?


    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Kara,
      Does your hair need the moisturizing daily? If it does, you should see results when you start feeding it, very soon. Maybe a week or less, it will definitely start feeling much better, more pliable.

      Water as first ingredient is a good thing. I doubt you’ll need to use an oil if the moisturizer already has one, your hair may feel and look greasy.

  • Ada said:

    Hi, I have a problem! 🙁 my hair won’t take moisture! It’s been about a month and I’ve tried everything: deep conditioning, co-washing, honey with olive oil… nothing works. With my water based moisturizer on it still feels dry and hard. Even though I use the moisturizer everyday, my hair remains unmoisturized. (I use olive oil after it too). When rubbed together, the strands make a lot of noise, and I know moisturized hair should be noiseless. It’s very frustrating, idk what to do, please help.

  • Anna said:

    Hi ,

    I am black but have no clue on Hair. Everytime my Hair is wet i even don’t comb just by fingers combing i have lots of Hair on my hand.When i Washing my Hair i got lots of breakage to i don’t l know why.

    • Shelia said:

      I have color treated natural hair. I have some breakage and everytime I touch it falls out. I deep condition once a week . Please advise

      • Brenda Barrett said:

        Hi Shelia,
        This sounds serious. If your hair falling out every time you touch it maybe there is an underlying issue. Check out the Hair Issues articles to see if any of them can be of any use to you.

  • ebonyskydiver said:

    Hands down…Brenda, you are the hair guru. Everything you’ve said makes perfect sense. I plan to re-touch my hair soon, even bought a water filter to use with the clarifying shampoo. My problem is I am not sure which steps to take in order. Is it first clarifying, protein, moisturize, wait a week then relax? And to make it even more confusing, I use a semi-permanent hair color. Pleeeease guide me through this maze.

  • ashleigh said:

    Hi My Name Is Ashleigh . Im Doing A Protein Treatment And Acv Rinse. What Should I Do First And What Steps Should I Take Between That

  • Melissa said:

    Hi Brenda,

    I have curly hair that doesn’t seem to be very porous (I’m mixed race) probably between 3a and 3b. I had very long curly hair until I started religiously straightening it for years and it has gradually got shorter and shorter. I have stopped and gone back to my natural curl but my hair just isnt seeming to grow (over a year now). I’m really frustrated as I thought it would have grown at least 4 inches by now. Obviously I’m not retaining. I havent really had a trim in forever as I can’t stand the thought of my hair being any shorter and I don’t really have a regimen… I have no clue about protein and moisture! I tie my hair up at night but I dont wear protective styles other than that. Can you suggest something to get me retaining please?

  • Sanjyot Wankhede said:

    Hii my name is sanjyot, my hair have became very dry, moisture less, rough, hard due to regularly travellingin afternoon without any protection to my hairs, what should I do now? I have started doing hair spa once every month, it has helped a little, plz suggest sumthing more helpfull.

  • Allaysia said:

    Hi, i am experiencing extreme problems with my hair! I’m 21 & my hair won’t take any moisture. I tried alot of things but it seems that it just drinks it up and i can hardly tell i put anything on it. Also i don’t think my hair has any protein & won’t grow anymore. Because i can’t take protein. (my body don’t break it down , I’m allergic). I was wondering what protein treatment is good for my hair due to the fact since i can’t eat much protein i can put them on my hair tho. And how often should i do this. I really need help cause my hair used yo be super long but now if you saw my hair you couldn’t even tell. I’m trying to get my hair back to that length tho. (past my shoulders) also I’m natural!!!!

  • Bridget said:

    Hi am Bridget, am totally experiencing trouble with my hair, 4 months back i had plaited braids and when i was done with that i decided to un plait and relax my hair. This resulted into a night mare, each time i wash my hair, there’s lot that breaks same with combing it. Please advise.

  • Janine said:

    Hi, I just came across your website and I am wondering what is your suggestion for colour-treated natural hair. My hair is about 4c and I have coloured it 3 times already since this year. It seems very dry and crunchy when I squeeze it but I’m wondering if it is the colour that is doing that. Does this mean that I need to do protein treatment and if so, how often? Also, how often do you recommend that a person colour their hair? Looking forward to you reply. Thanks. Btw I love the tips you give on here.

  • cintia said:

    hey, I really loved your article, i only have one question. i dont fully understand the hole streching concept. how does the hair streches like when you pull it? or when the new roots start showing? PLEASE HELP

  • Talitha said:

    Hi Brenda,
    Where can i get the shea butter? In terms of the oils i have, jojoba, tea tree, coconut, rosemary. Which oil should i use for sealing after moisturising and which oils are best for moisture and which ones are good for deep treatments? My hair still feels very crunchy so i think I’m mixing the wrong oils, or rather the amount of oil i put in the mixture is wrong.

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      I got my shea from Amazon. Jojoba is absolutely divine for sealing do not add any essentials to it. Coconut with some rosemary and tea tree for deep treatments. Use two drops of each essential oil. Your hair maybe crunchy because of the coconut. My hair gets that way too. I prefer to use castor oil instead. But, you already have the coconut oil add some moisturizing conditioner to it for the deep treatments.

  • Adij@ said:

    Hi!Happy New Yr 2 Evry1 in dis edges is nt breakin but it’s taking long 2 grow out,what can i do 2 it?pls,i’ll b waitin 4 ur comments.

  • Tiffany said:

    Did a aphogee 2 step treatment and my hair has a looser curl patten and had been shedding a lot could it be from too much protein and how do I fix it

  • Tasha said:

    Best I have ever used is Pro Naturals.

  • Neisha said:

    Hi, I am newly natural and still learning. I recently did a protein treatment on my hair and may have overdone it. Got busy with the kids and left on alot longer than expected. Now my hair is hard and brittle and just poofy. What is a good moisturizing conditioner to bring my hair back?

  • Michelle said:

    My hair is normally oily, now I find myself putting slot of coconut and almond oil in daily. My hair is shedding and breaking. When I feel a dry strand of my hair it feels bumpy and brittle, I don’t know what to do. I think I need moisture but not really sure.

  • Naomi said:

    Hi, i used a new conditioner which i left on for a bit longer than i should of and i lost basically all of my curls and my hair was a lot straighter and felt very straw like. The texture of my hair usually is very thick and has tight curls, at the moment my hair is terrible. if i put my fingers through my hair it just sounds so crispy and dry, which it is. i used a cleansing shampoo which made some of my curls come back but the hair itself still feels like straw, its not breaking much just some shedding. I think its protein overload as my hair was fine before using the conditioner which contained protein, but now i dont know what to put it my hair as most of my products include some sort of protein ingredient. i tried shea butter and castor oil as my hair feels overly dry, it has helped a bit but the straw texture wont go away ????. So upset as i started to like my hair for once and actually wear it in a twist out style, but now my hair wont do what i want it to as the texture has completely changed!

  • vat said:

    I don’t have any hairfall or some hair problem. But still i don’t know what is wrong with my hair. I’m unavle to comb them. I try to comb my hair but my hair stay as it is. What could be the problem?

  • vat said:

    First my hair use to be great and everyone would appreciate me for my hair. I don’t have any hairfall or some hair problem. But still i don’t know what is wrong with my hair. I’m unable to comb them. I try to comb my hair but my hair stay as it is. What could be the problem?

  • Julia said:

    Hi. I do nothing to my hair. I use to get it done but I couldn’t afford it for like the last month. I’ve been trying to go without perms to give my hair a chance to grow its strength back. Problem is, it breaks like crazy, so much so that I’m afraid to touch it. I’m not sure if its my diet or am I doing something wrong. It’s dry and again sheds like crazy. I think I’m losing too much hair on the back side of my hair. Please help me with ideas, products and other services I can use so that I can be proud of my long, healthy hair. Thank you. P.S. I sleep with a satin cap.

  • Yeenah said:

    Hi brenda, my name is yeenah, my haur is in the middle of transitioning from relaxed to natural and i have had lots of breakafe nd my haur is very much unhealthy. I dont even know my protein moisture balqnce ir how porous it is but one thing I’ve really noticed is that whenever i do the protein treatment, my hair feels unbelievably softer… As opposed to the result alot of people get(hard?.. Why do u think? And any advice for me? Thanks

  • Radhika said:

    Hi … I’d very pretty hair before 6-7 years but now I take so much of care by applying coconut oil after every wash n then egg treatment still my hair is so brittle n rough after every wash . Please suggest

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Maybe the coconut oil is the problem! It does work as protein for some people. Stop using it and see if your hair recovers.

  • Cleberly said:

    What are the names of some shampoos, deep conditionerand other products I can use?

  • christine said:

    Hey Brenda,
    My hair looks thin and less on my head,what do I do for it to look fuller or what can add volume to my hair?

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