Protein and Hair

Proteins are necessary for the construction of new tissue and for tissue repair. Every cell needs protein to maintain its life. Protein is also the primary substance used to “replace” worn out or dead cells. Your muscles, hair, nails, skin, and eyes are made of protein. Next to water, protein is the most plentiful substance in your body. My anatomy and physiology instructor at university once jokingly told the class that we are made up of water and protein. She was right!

Protein is what gives the hair its strength and structure. Hair is about 70% keratin protein by nature, L-Cysteine and L-Methionine are the sulfur amino acids that form “keratin,” which is the protein structure of hair, egg yolk contains the highest amount of these two amino acids naturally.

Studies have shown that supplementing your diet with L-cysteine may prevent hair from falling out, as well as increase the diameter of the hair shaft. These amino acids have been found to increase hair growth by as much as 100 percent.

There are several types of proteins that carry out different functions in hair care. These proteins bind to the hair cuticle and help to temporarily rebuild any weakened areas. Protein-based products reinforce the hair shaft, and fills in the gaps or nicks that occurs along the shaft of the hair. It does this particularly well because the hair and protein are very similar in structure.

Women with relaxed or color treated hair need more protein than women with natural or unprocessed hair. Relaxing or color treating your hair compromises the protein structure of the hair and weakens it by breaking the protein bonds in your hair shaft. The stronger the relaxer or dye and the longer it is left on the hair the more breaking down of hair bonds will occur and the weaker will be the hair shaft. For this reason, ladies who are desirous of keeping a full head of healthy hair for longer should consider lengthening their times between relaxers or shortening the length of the time that the relaxer stays on your hair.

Some proteins are stronger than others. Daily or even weekly use of even the milder protein treatments may result in an imbalance between the protein and moisture levels within the hair strands in some people. You have to experiment with different products to know how strong they are on your particular hair if you are going to use protein regularly on your hair. Your hair protein tolerance will vary from product to product, not necessarily protein to protein.

Protein is found most prevalently in products like instant conditioners, leave-in conditioners, protein re-constructor conditioner treatments, and some moisturizers.

Conditioners Which Are Protein Based

Infusium 23 Leave In Conditioner, Motions Moisture Silk Protein Conditioner, Aphogee 2 Minute Keratin Reconstructor, Aphogee Treatment for Damaged Hair, Nexxus Emergencee, Nexxus Keraphix, Motions CPR, Cantu Shea Butter BreakCure, Cantu Shea Butter GrowStrong, Profectiv Breakfree Moisturizer, Profectiv Megagrowth Moisturizer, Elasta QP Mango Butter Moisturizer, Garnier Fructis Long and Strong, Organic Root Stimulator (ORS) Hair Mayo, ORS replenishing pak.

Make Your Own

Of course, you can make your own protein treatments and avoid using commercial preparations if you so desire. For a simple  yet effective protein treatment you can try adding 2 eggs to a regular moisturizing conditioner. Other protein recipes listed on the site are:

Hair Growth Deep Conditioner Recipe

Tutti Frutti Deep Conditioner Recipe

Protein Sensitivity

Protein is very good for hair, however, there are some persons whose hair cannot stand added protein, I say ‘added’ because the hair is 70% protein, in these cases after adding protein the hair gets dried out and hard. There are two main reasons why a hair could be protein sensitive, these are:

1)      When a person is getting sufficient protein from their diet and their body is using it efficiently, in this case there is no reason to add any protein to hair. As a matter of fact, additional protein is toxic for hair, nails and skin. How to tell? Nails will break with the added protein, skin will crack and hair will shed and break like crazy.

2)      Doubling up on the addition of protein to hair over a period of time can throw off the protein- moisture balance that is important for healthy hair growth. Unwittingly, several persons use protein products on a regular basis not knowing that their hair is being ‘over-proteinized’ (my word) and under-moisturized.

Solution

Unless you fall into category one, your hair needs added protein especially if it is chemically altered in any way. The best solution is to use moisturizing conditioners and maybe once per month add some light natural protein treatments like yoghurt or molasses or an egg yolk.

There are products on the market that will exacerbate the protein sensitivity problem because there is really no way to know how much protein is added to a commercially prepared product even those that purport to be ‘moisturizing’. So you can make your own protein treatments and see what the results are. How often you add protein to your hair is really up to you and your knowledge of your hair and what its needs are. The standard recommendation is every six weeks. I do a protein treatment every three weeks without any ill-effects to my hair.

Source:

  1. Smith, Nicole Elizabeth, Healthy Black Hair: Step-By-Step Instructions For Growing Longer, Stronger Hair, 2003, Panacea Publishing.
  2. Alma, How to tell if your hair is protein sensitive, http://www.blackhairinformation.com/hair-treatments-and-recipes/protein-treatments/how-to-tell-if-your-hair-is-protein-sensitive, Feb 20, 2010  

10 Comments »

  • Fay said:

    Hi Brenda I use ORG mayo or ORG replenishing pak to deep condition every week and just realized from your article that they are protein based. Is it ok to continue using it every week or should I use it once a month and switch to another weekly deep conditioner. Can you recommend a good weekly conditioner

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Fay,

      How does your hair feel when you use them? You can DC twice per week with them and then use an ordinary moisturizing conditioner the rest of the time. However, if your hair feels fine, don’t change your regimen.

  • Sheila said:

    last week my hair was breaking and shedding like crazy and i didnt know why. my regimen for the last couple weeks has been this. first week i wash and condition with avocado,banana and egg treatement followed by ORS replenishing pak. second week i did a wash and DC with ORS replenishing pak. third week i was too lazy so i washed my hair on the fourth week. i did the same avoacado, banana and egg treatment followed by the ORS relenishing pak and that was when the crazzy shedding and breakage begun. what do i do to achieve balance? is it moisture overload or protein overload? because i am thinking the banana and avocado are moisturizers…what should i do to achieve balance and stop the breakage? help:-(

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Sheila,
      From the scenario you described it would be protein overload, egg is as protein as it gets. However, there are a number of other reasons why your hair could be shedding. Check this out Shedding Hair Causes. There are some articles which follow it too.

    • Jane said:

      Avocados and banana are packed with protein,i think dats why u experience breakage cos all u use on your hair is protein based

  • Shiela said:

    Hi Brenda,

    soo sorry Brenda, i forgot my manners in my desperation i forgot to say “hi”.

    i do love your blog. its very educative and informative as am transitioning from relaxed to texlaxed. it hasnt been easy esp with the three textures but slowly am learning how to manage my hair.

    thank you

  • Maura said:

    Hello. I jjust put 2 eggs 2 table spoons of honey and 2 table spoons of oolive oil with mayo in my hair as a treatment abd now it feels horrible. What do I do?? I washed abd conditioned ir but it still feels stripped!!!!

  • omega said:

    Hey,love your blog ,my hair has been breaking a lot of late and now I’m trying the profectiv break free daily leave in strengthener ,does it qualify as a leave in conditioner? And can I use a protein leave in meant for dreadlocks,my hair is relaxed…please help….

  • Cherise said:

    Hi,

    Love this information and the different types of protein treatments. But I’m really confused as to what I should use as a reconstructor after the relaxer. As I keep seeing information about Aphogee before and then the two step after the relaxer. But I’ve also heard that is for severely damaged hair. I have minimal breakage and wouldn’t want to overly infuse my hair with too much protein all in one go.

    Also I have looked up the Cantu Shea products and see they are good to be used 3 days before the relaxer and 3 days after. Does that mean that they are also a treatment AND a reonstructor in one? Thanks again.

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