Wondering if your hair needs a protein conditioner or how to make one? If you have wavy or curly hair, you’ve probably heard of protein & moisture balance and protein hair cure. But what are the benefits of this hair conditioner for curls, how can you tell if you need one, and how can you tell if a hair product contains protein? And, more importantly, how can you achieve a protein-moisture balance? Read on to find out all the details.
We’ll also show you the best hair conditioner for dry locks that you can make in less than 5 minutes to bring your hair back to life especially after coloring, bleaching, relaxing, straightening, swimming, excessive styling, etc.
Table of Contents
- What is a protein hair treatment?
- Benefits of a protein hair treatment
- How do you know if you need a protein treatment?
- How to recognize proteins in hair care products
- DIY protein hair conditioner for curly hair
- DIY protein hair conditioner with gelatin
- How often should you do a protein conditioner?
- Protein products recommended by Curly Girl
What is a protein hair treatment?
Our hair is mainly made up of the protein keratin. Keratin ensures that it remains healthy, strong and elastic. When our hair is damaged by environmental factors, coloring and styling, the keratin is broken down.
A protein hair treatment is a treatment that gives the hair a protein boost. This strengthens and repairs the keratin.
Benefits of a protein hair treatment
Protein treatments offer several benefits, especially for damaged hair. If your hair has been chemically treated or has heat damage, they will most likely help improve the health of your hair.
A protein hair treatment:
- strengthens the hair
- reduces frizz
- improves the definition of curls
- gives volume
- smoothes the hair cuticle
- increases shine
- makes hair grow longer
- increases elasticity
How do you know if you need a protein treatment?
If your curls are limp, have a lot of frizz, don’t last long or feel too soft, they probably need a protein boost.
Try the stretch test to check your hair’s elasticity. Take a single hair between your thumb and forefinger and stretch it. Healthy hair can be stretched about 1/3 of its length and then returns to its original size. Damaged hair may not fully return to its original size, while dry or brittle hair may break under tension.
If your hair breaks quickly, it needs moisture. If it stretches a lot, it needs more protein.
The stretch test
Normally, hair with low porosity does not like too much protein, while hair with high porosity needs more protein. This is not an absolute norm, as everyone is different and the ingredients in your products will affect how often you need to do a protein treatment.
Still not sure if your hair needs protein or not? Try a rice water rinse first. Rice proteins offer similar benefits for revitalizing dry, damaged or volume-less hair. If your hair feels nice and light after rinsing, it probably needs protein.
How to recognize proteins in hair care products
Many products advertise that they contain protein with terms like “strengthening” or “repairing.” Check the ingredient list to make sure the product actually contains protein.
If you’re not sure what to look for, some of the most common proteins in products are listed as follows:
- oat flour
- wheat protein
- soy protein
- silk amino acids
- hydrolyzed silk protein
A little tip: Anything that is “hydrolyzed” is a protein.
You know a hair care product is truly a protein hair treatment when there is at least one protein in the first 5 ingredients.
DIY protein hair conditioner for curly hair
If you’re looking for DIY recipes for curls, the only option we know of that really works is the gelatin conditioner. However, this is not vegan, which I’m sure is a problem for some of you.
While there are recipes for DIY protein hair masks made with foods like eggs and yogurt, all hair experts agree: the molecules in these foods are too large to penetrate the hair shaft, so they don’t really work. This is also the case with rice water.
Many people recommend a rice rinse as a protein hair treatment. Rice water is amazing and offers similar benefits, but it’s not really a protein treatment. Nevertheless, it can be used for the same reasons and gives almost the same results.
If you want to try gelatin, check out this recipe.
DIY protein hair conditioner with gelatin
Gelatin mask is a simple, natural and effective DIY hair treatment for colored and straightened hair, as well as for frizzy, dry, limp and weak hair.
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of gelatin – the cheap gelatin from the supermarket will do.
- Optional – 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (gently cleanses hair and removes product buildup).
- Optional – 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oils for beautiful scent, to soothe the scalp and therapeutic effect on the hair. Lavender (calming), cedarwood (supports hair growth) and rosemary (cleansing) would make a good combination.
- Spray bottle – a new or an old lotion, shampoo or conditioner bottle.
- Optional – silicone free conditioner or deep conditioner (the normal amount you would use for your hair conditioner).
Make your own protein hair conditioner – Instructions:
- Heat water in microwave or on stove for 2 minutes until almost boiling.
- Remove from microwave or stove and add gelatin. Stir well to mix completely.
- Pour into empty spray bottle and place in refrigerator to chill. Or place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes until cooled and thickened.
While the gelatin mask is cooling, wash your hair with a shampoo. Sulfate-free shampoos are recommended for curls, as sulfates are cleansing agents that strip hair of its natural oils and moisture. However, if your hair has product buildup, you may need to use a shampoo with sulfates to effectively remove the buildup.
Apply the gelatin hair treatment:
- Divide your hair into 4 sections, apply the protein treatment to each section, and then brush your hair to evenly distribute the product.
- Put on a shower cap and leave on for 20 minutes (the shower cap helps retain heat to make the hair treatment more effective). For a mild protein treatment, you can leave the mask on for only 5 minutes.
- To allow the protein to really penetrate the hair shaft, blow dry the hair for 20 minutes (using the shower cap). It is important to dry the hair with the shower cap, otherwise breakage and damage can occur as the protein hardens on the hair. The shower cap prevents it from breaking.
- Rinse the hair with warm water and then continue with your normal washing routine.
- If your hair is sensitive to proteins, you should use a deep conditioner afterwards to avoid protein overload.
How often should you do a protein conditioner?
You must be careful not to overdo it with the proteins. Too much protein can cause your hair to become brittle, dry and split more easily.
Protein treatments should only be done when your hair needs them, and according to the product’s instructions. Some products can be used weekly, others monthly.
It is generally recommended to do protein hair treatments every 4-6 weeks for severely damaged hair. For other hair types, do it less frequently. Also, products that are more moisturizing and not just pure protein can be used more often because they are not as strong.
For deep treatments/hair masks with protein, weekly to monthly use is fine. The more damaged your hair is, the more frequently you will need to use them.
If you’re using something stronger, it’s best not to do the hair treatment more than once a month.
Pay close attention to how your hair looks and feels after treatments to make sure you don’t overdo it. And if your hair feels dry and stiff after rinsing out the treatment, use a moisturizing deep conditioner.
Protein products recommended by Curly Girl
You can also incorporate protein into your daily routine by using products with some protein content. Then you may not need to do protein treatments at all. However, you have to experiment a bit when doing so. Some hair loves protein in cleansers and conditioners but not in styling products, and others prefer the opposite. You need to find out what your hair likes.
So check your current products and see if they contain protein. Consider how your hair will behave if you switch to products with more or less protein.
It’s a good idea to write everything down when you try new products, change your hair care routine, or try to figure out how certain ingredients affect your hair.