Why It Is Important And How To Achieve It
I often talk about the moisture – protein balance but there are those out there who don’t know what it is or why it is vital to the health and length of your locks.
Lets start with moisture. Moisture is H20, water and nothing else. Moisture is probably the single most important factor in your hair’s health.
It’s surprising that hair is only about 10-14% moisture but you definitely notice when that percentage reduces because without moisture, whether your hair is natural or relaxed, you are in brillo pad city! Moisture improves elasticity so the hair is able to stretch before breaking. A very useful trait for detangling and styling sessions.
Now protein on the other hand is a bit of a sly dog in that a deficiency doesn’t always present in an obvious way. Some people have ‘mushy’ or overly soft hair when it’s wet which is the classic symptom of protein deficiency.
However, many ladies don’t know that chemically treated or heat damaged hair is automatically protein deficient as well. Chemicals break down the protein bonds in hair and heat or any other vigorous mechanical styling depletes protein in hair.
For naturals, the most obvious sign of an imbalance be it moisture or protein would be hair breakage. If you find little hairs on your shoulders or the bathroom floor after styling your hair, you’ve got a problem with breakage. So how do you know if you are protein or moisture deficient?
Since the symptoms are similar for both deficiencies, the best advice I can give is that you should first err on the side of moisture. Correcting a moisture imbalance is easier than correcting an over-abundance of protein.
Black hair is very porous by nature. As such it takes up a lot of water but dries very quickly as well. If you have ever worn hair extensions(affiliate link) and you wash them along with your own hair, you may notice that the weave hair will dry much slower than does natural or relaxed hair.
This increased porosity is likely due to a combination of our hair’s natural makeup, ceramides and proteins lost during normal styling as well as the fact that in naturally curly hair, the cuticles never completely lie flat so moisture is lost very easily.
To correct a moisture imbalance begin by washing the hair thoroughly. Build up of oil or silicones in the hair prevent moisture from penetrating the whole shaft and as such a good clarifying shampoo(affiliate link) would be in order. Follow up by deep conditioning with a moisturizing conditioner(affiliate link) for at least 20 minutes.
Under a hooded dryer(affiliate link) or steamer would be best for maximum benefit. While the hair is still damp a leave in conditioner(affiliate link) can be applied before sealing with a good hair oil(affiliate link). It would be a good idea to avoid heat for a while so revert to some heat free styling techniques for the time being. Repeat the process in 3-7 days until the imbalance is corrected.
After a protein treatment however, it is advisable to follow up with a moisturizing treatment to avoid protein dryness. Again avoiding heat and excess styling for a while would be a good idea.
Repeat with a light protein conditioner in 3-7 days but remember that ‘hard’ protein treatments should only be repeated after 6-8 weeks.
Learn Your Own Hair
If you are experiencing breakage, knowing which imbalance is causing it is a skill that takes time and patience. You will come to know your own hair and sidestep problems before they occur.
As a starting point, when you are grooming your hair in the evening in preparation for bed, finger detangle or comb you hair with a wide tooth comb(affiliate link) over the sink so that you can see all the broken hairs. Ignoring all the long shed hairs, count the short broken ones.
The following day moisturize and seal your ends with either water and oil or a good hair moisturizer before repeating the combing process over the sink again. Count the short hairs again, if the number of hairs reduces from the previous day then you know that your hair needs moisture. If there is no improvement or it gets worse, then you may be dealing with weak hair caused by a protein imbalance.
Aim to be in the 0-5 broken hairs category!
0-5 – Not too bad. Alternate between light protein and moisturizing conditioners to maintain the balance.
5-10 – An imbalance may be starting so this is your opportunity to fix it.
10-Too many to count – You may be approaching chronic breakage, do something about it now!
Unfortunately, chronic breakage is not always something that can be fixed, particularly if it is caused by chemicals. If this is what you are experiencing in spite of moisture and protein treatments then all you can do is keep the hair on your head long enough to allow new stronger hair to grow in. As the new stronger hair grows in and is well cared for, you can trim the damaged hair and you will begin to see an improvement in the health of your hair.
If you are relaxed then you may want to re-consider your chemical use, switch to a weaker formula relaxer or consider texturizing or texlaxing your hair instead of relaxing.
Naturals who experience chronic breakage tend to be overdoing the heat usage or style their hair too often, so take a step back with some protective styling and a pampering regimen to correct the imbalance. Again not all damaged hair can be saved so bear in mind that you may have to trim badly damaged hair off eventually.
Before I got into haircare, I never really noticed the little short hairs in my brush or my bathroom sink, all I noticed was that my hair never seemed to grow. However when I finally paid attention, I was devastated to see that I was experiencing chronic breakage caused by overprocessing my relaxer. I opted to go natural and start a good hair regimen and the rest as they say, is history. What will you do?
Originally posted 2011-05-22 01:10:03.