Have you ever wondered why your hair breaks off no matter how much you care for it? Does your hair seem so weak that it seems to snap at your touch? It might be an issue with the moisture and protein balance. You may have heard a bunch of times that your hair needs moisture, moisture, moisture! But it is critical that your hair have a balance of protein too. Too much moisture or too much protein is actually not good for the hair. And here's why.
- Hair needs water to maintain its elasticity, or ability to stretch. Since water is the ultimate moisturizer, water-based products are best for really getting the greatest moisture benefit.
- Moisturizers are simply products that are water-based and nourish your hair deep within the strand. Products with moisturizing properties tend to be your conditioners and other specific moisturizer sprays or creams. A water-based product will have water as its first ingredient.
- Good moisturizers will not contain cheap, filler ingredients like petrolatum, mineral oil, or lanolin. Avoid products containing these ingredients as they will actually do the opposite of moisturize; these ingredients actually coat the hair and prevent any moisture from entering.
- Sealing in moisture is critical. Our hair naturally contains moisture, but because our hair is also naturally porous, keeping the moisture inside is a difficult task.
- Water molecules and moisture from these supplemental moisturizing products easily pass into the hair shaft, but they pass out just as easily. The moisture you apply needs to held in by something. Oils, butters, and creams work very well as sealants that lock in the moisture and prevent it from escaping the hair strand.
- A light coating of an oil, butter, or cream after your daily moisturizer will help seal the moisture inside. Sealants are made of large molecules. These molecules are too large to absorbed by the hair strand. Applying sealants to the hair and scalp will coat them and trap the moisture that is inside on the inside and the moisture that is outside on the outside.
- The key is to use the sealant to "lock in the moisture." If you use sealants without a moisturizer or before one, it will seal the moisture out of the hair strand and lead to a coated feel and eventual dryness. Sealants do NOT moisturize.
- Protein is what gives the hair its strength and structure. Hair is about 70% keratin protein by nature.
- Proteins bind to the hair cuticle and help temporarily rebuild any weakened areas. Protein-based products reinforce the hair shaft, and help it remain strong enough to fight breakage.
- Collagen protein, silk protein, wheat protein, keratin protein, and vegetable protein are a few examples of proteins found in conditioners or treatments that help replenish or strengthen hair.
- Protein conditioners/treatments are great for those with highly porous hair. They repair those "holes" in the hair shaft, strengthen weak spots, and help the hair act less porous.
The Balance Issue
- You can't have one without the other! The unique relationship that exists between the protein and moisture balances within the hair strand is not simply a case of balancing opposing forces one over the other to prevent hair breakage. These two components work together synergistically to produce a healthy head of hair, and neither can work well without the other.
- Keeping the hair balanced between these two entities is very important. Protein loss from chemical treatments is almost always followed by a moisture loss of some degree. Hair that is properly proteinated absorbs moisture more efficiently because water molecules bind easily to a sound protein structure within the hair. Achieving the proper balance involves using the right combinations of protein and moisture based products for your hair type.
- When the hair has too much protein, it can feel very dry, rough, crunchy, and brittle. It can also break off very easily. The hair does not have enough elasticity, so it breaks with the slightest pull.
- When the hair has too much moisture, it can feel gummy, limp, mushy and very stretchy when wet. The hair is very weak due to the lack of structure, so it can stretch and stretch until it finally snaps off.
- Hair that is shifted too far on the protein side will break easier, both wet and dry, because it lacks elasticity. Elasticity is what allows us to style, stretch, and manipulate our hair without breakage. Hair that breaks with very little tension or stretching is a sign of an overabundance of protein, and a deficiency of moisture. Too much structure makes the hair rigid, and decreases its elasticity.
- Hair that is shifted too far on the moisture side will be "super-elastic" and stretch more because it lacks a sound protein structure. Many people describe the feel of over-conditioned and over-moisturized hair as "mush-like" or "overly soft," especially when wet. 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.
- To treat over-proteinized hair, you will need to go into a simple deep conditioning and moisturizing regimen. Protein-induced breakage conditions can take several weeks to correct repair, and this form of breakage requires much more intensive conditioning and treatment than moisture-induced breakage does. It is by far one of the most aggressive and common forms of breakage. It is much easier to overload your hair with protein and cause breakage, than to overload your hair with moisture and cause breakage. That is why if you are not sure what is causing your hair breakage, you should always try giving it moisture first.
- To treat over-moisturized hair, you will need some kind of protein to give the hair structure again. Moisture-induced hair breakage is typically corrected in one protein deep conditioning session. The mildest forms can be corrected by simply moisturizing the hair twice a day with a protein-based moisturizer. More severe forms may need a protein treatment.
Be sure that you are maintaining a proper balance of moisture and protein! A balance of moisture and protein is essential to having beautiful, healthy hair.