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.
Burch Coren, Wet Assessment- http://www.sistersofthefaith.com/beauty/the-fine-art-of-protein-and-moisture-balancing-for-black-hair-care-pt-2/
Howse Cathy, Ultra black hair growth 2, UBH Publications, 2000
Moss, Cheryl Talley , Healthy Hair Care Tips for Today’s Black Woman, Talley Publishing, 1999
Shamboosie, Beautiful black hair: real solutions to real problems, Amber Books, 2002