FREE SHIPPING on U.S. orders over $60

The Moisture-Protein Dance

Posted by Adria Marshall on

Our hair requires a delicate balance between moisture and protein for it to thrive. If we have more than we need of one and not enough of the other, a bad hair day is quickly on its way! In this blog post, we'll talk about what protein is, why the moisture-protein balance is important, when to know that you need protein or moisture and how to use these treatments!

What is protein?

Each strand of hair is held together by something called disulfide bonds. 80-85% of your hair is composed of a protein called Keratin which reinforces these bonds, making the hair stronger and less likely to break. Keratin is, in essence, your hairs’ building blocks - it makes your hair strong and helps to gives your strands their strength, flexibility and elasticity.

How do protein and moisture work together?

So how does moisture enter the picture? Moisture actually hydrates the bonds in your hair, which contributes to its overall look and feel. According to celebrity colorist Matt Rez, “The protein bonds are what keeps the hair shaft together and strong. Without it, your hair will break or snap. Moisture is hydration and what keeps the hair soft. Put the two together, and we have healthy hair!”

Image by LUS Brands 

Why are protein treatments important?

It's inevitable for hair, especially curly hair, to lose its keratin. Chemical treatments, color treatments, the weather, pollution, washing, drying, styling, detangling, heat (and just breathing, it seems!) can erode the keratin in your hair, weakening it. Protein loss is even more of a reality for curly hair. Each hair on your head has a protective layer of overlapping cells called the cuticle. Because of its corkscrew shape, curly hair’s cuticle is constantly lifted – its surface looks like ruffled feathers, with gaps in between each layer. These gaps allow moisture and nutrients to escape, which ultimately weakens the protein chains inside the hair. In a nutshell, protein treatments replenishes your hair's protein. Not only is important to use protein treatments regularly to replace lost keratin, but it's a great idea to be proactive! By receiving a protein treatment prior to coloring, chemically-altering or heat-altering your hair, you are helping to fight off damage before it starts!

Choosing the right protein treatment
It's important to know that not all protein treatments are created equal. Firstly, the treatment that you use should contain hydrolyzed proteins. Hydrolyzed proteins are proteins broken down into smaller molecules that work to form flexible film-like support and rigidity around hair that inhibits moisture loss. This means that simply slapping on an egg or some mayo isn't going to get the job done effectively since those proteins have not been hydrolyzed! Also, it's vital that you understand your hair texture and the best protein for it. If your hair is coarse, choose products with smaller proteins such as hydrolyzed silk, keratin, or collagen. Larger proteins such as wheat, soy or quinoa work better for fine and medium hair or occasionally for coarse hair (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: Our Matcha Boost protein treatment is formulated with both Veggie Keratin and Quinoa to work well on both fine and coarse hair strands!) You can usually spot a protein treatment by how the product is labeled. Protein treatments will normally mention being good for damaged hair and tout repairing or strengthening benefits. Of course, you should analyze the ingredient list to see exactly which proteins are included and the concentration. The higher up in the ingredient list, the higher the concentration of protein in the formula. 


How often and how long?

It's important to remember that protein treatments will not repair the hair permanently, so finding the right frequency to apply such treatments is critical. The elasticity test is an easy way to get an indication of your moisture-protein balance. When your hair is wet, pull a strand. If your hair stretches a bit, then returns to its normal state, your protein and moisture is balanced.  However, if it snaps immediately, you need a protein treatment. Conversely, if it stretches a bit and then snaps, it needs moisture.

In addition to finding the right protein versus moisture balance, you’ll also need to get a feel for the protein intensity, frequency of use, and the amount of processing. In a nutshell, the greater the porosity and damage, the more frequent and intense the protein treatment. I created the following table as a guide, but of course, please do what is best for your hair:

Porosity Health How often? How long? Heat?
High Healthy Weekly 5 minutes No
High Damaged Weekly 30 minutes No
Low Healthy Monthly 5 minutes Yes
 Low Damaged Weekly 30 minutes Yes


So when should you moisturize?

Since protein treatments can make the hair feel a bit stiff and dry, always remember to follow up your protein treatment with a moisturizing deep conditioner! Furthermore, on the wash days where you don't need a protein treatment, do a moisturizing deep conditioning treatment. Basically, when in doubt, moisturize!

I know that this is a lot of information to take in! Over time, you'll learn how to "listen to your hair" to better determine its needs! Pop back in to let me know how your hair's moisture-protein dance evolves over time!




← Older Post Newer Post →


  • I thought if it snaps immediately, it needs moisture. That seems to be what every other website says….

    Lauren on
  • That makes sense! Thanks a lot. My only question is, i have some bleached ends (due to highlights of last year, which i have not repeated since) but my overall hair is healthy and low porosity. With these two types of hair (and therefore differing needs, i guess), how should i then apply a protein treatment?

    Marijke on
  • Very helpful! I took a screenshot of the protein treatment table to save!

    Heather on
  • Great article! 😊

    Irmarie Martínez on

Leave a comment