Are your Moisture and Protein Levels Balanced?

By Feron Flo of BesosFeron

Is your hair not behaving how you want it to? Do you have bad breakage? Is it dry and brittle, or thin and sparse? Well, you may be in need of “moisture” or “protein”. Too little moisture or too much protein can and is one of the causes of breakage. The following is a condensed version of how you can tell if your hair needs more moisture or more protein by conducting a strand test. I regularly do strand tests on my hair to help prevent breakage, and to ensure the health of my hair. None of this is a secret, this info can be found from various sites online in more detail. This is simply the main points you need to know and what to look for to treat your hair.

Strand Test

To do the strand test, take one of your ‘shed’ hairs and wet it. (Note, the difference between a ‘shed’ hair and a hair that has broken off is the ‘shed’ hair will have a little white bulb on the end)

While holding each end of the hair and stretching it:

-If the hair stretches slightly and returns to its original length without breaking, you are balanced.

-If the hair stretches and continues to stretch or stretches a little more than it should and then breaks (snaps), then you need more protein in your regimen.

-If the hair has very little to no stretch to it and instantly breaks(snaps), then you need more moisture in your regime.

Now, other than conducting the strand test, you can also tell by how your hair feels.

-While wet, if your hair feels weak, gummy, very stringy, or limp, you need protein.

-While dry, if your hair feels hard, dry, tangly, brittle, weak or any combination, you need moisture.

If you find your hair needs protein, then you should do a protein treatment as soon as possible. I use Organic Root Stimulator Hair Mayonnaise once a month or every two months as needed, depending on my hair. I recommend doing a protein treatment once a month or less because having a protein over load will make your hair hard, tough and prone to breakage.

If you find your hair needs moisture, you should do a deep conditioning treatment. I do a deep treatment once a week using LustraSilk Shea Butter Cholesterol Plus. If you aren’t already, try doing a deep treatment once or every two weeks. Also, if you’re able to, invest in a steamer.

Hope this has helped and remember, your moisture/protein balance may be only one cause to hair breakage or the lack of health of your hair.  All hair types can benefit from this! If you have any questions, leave them below.

About Jenell B Stewart

Jenell Stewart MS, the founder and editor in chief of the award winning website KinkyCurlyCoilyMe.com dedicates most of her free time educating and uplifting women with natural hair by way of her extremely popular website and YouTube channel. Jenell has been featured in Essence Magazine, Black Enterprise.com, and starred on the Dr.Oz television show as a Beauty Expert. In 2012 she was named one of Essences top Instagramers and that same year KinkyCurlyCoilyMe won an award for “Favorite Website” of the Natural Hair Community.
  • http://www.mykinksandcurls.com/ Nia Everal

    Very useful. My hair instantly snapped as I pulled the strand. I need more moisture but I feel as though either I’m not sealing correctly or as if the moisture leaves my hair quickly… Sigh*

    • http://www.facebook.com/Feron.Rose Feron Floyd

      You may need to use an oil as well as a cream based product to seal your hair. I use castor oil then I top it with home made whipped Shea. This might be too heavy if your hair is thin but my hair is super thick and highly porous so I need all the product I can get!

    • queenbee9

      Be sure to wet your hair before applying any oils to “seal” or feed your hair. Oils do not moisturize, they seal or condition hair by coating the hair strand and preventing larger molecules from either getting in or out. Many naturalistas swear by the LOC method (wet hair, (liquid), then apply a feeding oil, then apply conditioner or moisturizer–seal this with another, heavier oil and you have now done the LOCO method.

  • Cinna

    I did it. I stretched my hair and then it broke. It turns out I need protein bad. I used Aphogee Products It worked really good then after three weeks it started again. Aphogee two-step can only be done every 6 weeks please help thinning and breakage.

  • Mika

    Thank you. This was straight forward and easy to understand.
    I did a strand test and my hair bounced back, and is stronger than before. I’ve been on my journey for about 1 month now and moisturize/seal daily. Plus Im glad I read because I found out I dont need a protein treatment just yet. But I do love Aphogee 2 Step whenever its that time.

  • http://twitter.com/6lack_Madonna 6Lack_Madonna

    Love it…

  • joan

    My hair was very stretchy and never broke, but when I let go of the strand it coiled up all kinky and didn’t go back straight. I recently had a Redken smoothing treatment done to my hair and I use Keratin shampoo and conditioner regularly. This treatment damaged my hair. My hair is just as frizzy if not frizzier than it was prior to the treatment

    • queenbee9

      Hi! When your hair stretches, this points to elasticity. This means how much your hair can stretch before snapping. Tensile strength refers to how strong your hair is and how much stretching it can take before snapping. When you describe your hair coiling back up you are actually referring to PLIABILITY not tensile strength and NOT elasticity.

      In order for a “smoothing treatment ” to work the chemical bonds which make up our hair have to be weakened (or broken) to do this a mild straightener is used, this allows the rigid bonds to weaken enough to be manipulated by heat or stretching or smoothing with a comb.

      How well a smoothing treatment (mild relaxer) does or does not work depends on your type of hair. If you have very pliable hair (how fast your hair snaps back to its natural shape) it will take MORE time to straighten your hair because your bonds tend to more resistant to water or products or manipulation. such hair should have the “smoothing solution” (the mild relaxer) applied QUICKLY then repeatedly smoothed out with a comb or hands or the flat iron (which ever method is recommended by the product’s instructions)

      It is like very pliable hair is hard headed and has to be reminded of the needed to lie flat by smoothing it over and over again. Your hair is frizzy because here are the stages straighteners go through in order to straighten hair:

      1. apply and the chemicals which are ALKALINE force the cuticle of the hair to OPEN then the straightening chemical (usually a type of lye or other base chemical) forces its way in and attacks the Hydrogen bonds that link hair to each other (at this point if a person does not allow enough time the hair stays at the lifted cuticle stage and can feel rough or frizzy, look dull, and not be straight.

      It is important to know what kind of hair you have in order to make sure you use enough time to straighten that type of hair This is not the same as typing this kind of typing takes into account elasticity, pliability, strength and density of hair strands. If the chemical is removed too soon, the hair will be rough and hardly straightened, if left on a little longer, it will be frizzy but maybe still soft

      2. Once the chemical is applied and has the time to open the cuticles and get in, it is important to immediately began smoothing the hair. THIS IS CRITICAL. RELAXERS DO NOT STRAIGHTEN HAIR. RELAXERS DO NOT STRAIGHTEN HAIR. RELAXERS DO NOT STRAIGHTEN HAIR.

      Relaxers RELAX the hydrogen bonds that make hair, hair and while they are relaxed –MANIPULATION OF HAIR STRAIGHTENS HAIR. What this means is that you apply the chemical, let it get into the cortex then begin to either gently pull the hair down with your fingers or a comb and SMOOTH The relaxer in putting the hair in the pattern you want it to be in–if you want it to straighten, then you have to press down and pull down the relaxed part, using the back of a comb or the front or your fingers to gently and slightly stretch the hair to make it lay flat and straight IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOT DO THIS PROCESS ON THE SAME PART OF THE HAIR MORE THAN ONCE–IF YOU DO, THE CHEMICALS IN THE SMOOTHER WILL WEAKEN OR BREAK THE HYDROGEN BONDS AND YOU WILL HAVE BREAKAGE AND BAD HAIR DAMAGE.

      3. Once the hair is straightened it is important to immediately STOP the chemicals from continuing to weaken the hair bonds–the base chemical never stops working on the hair. it will keep dissolving and weakening the hair bonds until the hair just falls out of the hair. To stop the chemical , it must be neutralized. This is done with an acidic shampoo or conditioner usually called a NEUTRALIZING shampoo.

      A neutralizing shampoo is normally a very acidic shampoo, it neutralizes by being a direct OPPOSITE from the alkaline straightener –this opposite cancels out the alkaline product and so stops it from being able to dissolve or weaken the Hydrogen bonds in hair.

      Neutralizers can be any shampoo with less then 4.5 pH. It is best to use whatever is recommended by the product.

      This step cannot be skipped, if you do, the hair will continue “processing” which means the alkaline base will keep on dissolving the bonds until they cannot hold on and the hair will fall out.

      4. Smoothing, straightening, relaxing, texturizing,, texlax, perm, are all similar processes but may use different chemicals. All will rely on a base chemical to weaken the hair bonds, then rely on either flat ironing or curling or smoothing with a comb or hands to straighten the hair or manipulate it.

      5. No smoothing process involving use of chemicals is natural– smoothing is just another word for straightening when applied to hair. Relaxing refers to softening the natural curl–texturizers are milder relaxers. Texlax is just a mild relaxer left on for less time…, relaxers are the strongest straighteners, but you can texlasxwith a relaxer by leaving it on for less time and not smoothing down the hair during the process. a curl is a base product (ammonium thiohglycalate) that is applied then hair is processed and rolled up on perm rods then after the curl is set, the product is neutralized. Still a base manipulating the hydrogen bonds.

      6. Frizzy hair means a lifted cuticle, this is required to get in the larger molecule of straighteners or hair color products. To encourage cuticles to lay back down, use a deep conditioner with heat which help the cuticles to relax. This may take several applications. In time the hair treated with the smoothing compound will wear off and the hair will grow out, keep hair with lifted cuticles moisturized and conditioned. Also use ice cold aloe vera juice to try to snap those cuticles close. Once the cuticles are closed, hair will shine more, retain moisture better, be soft and not frizz as much.

      Good Luck!

      • Bigglesmckoy

        Wow – what a fantastic explanation. Thank you so much x

  • queenbee9

    Protein is for breakage. Period. This idea because hair is made up of keratin (protein) that we need to do protein treatments so much is very, very erroneous. I know of no cosmetologist who would do monthly protein treatments UNLESS dealing with hair so damaged by color or chemicals that breakage is imminent. At most, we would do them 1X every 6-8 weeks but ONLY in severe cases.

    Tensile strength is determined by stretching but protein is normally associated with breakage and porosity. Porous hair is often damaged hair (cuticles so damaged that they cannot close completely) To determine porosity of hair, put a strand in water–if it sinks, the hair is very porous if it floats it has low porosity. both low porosity and high porosity cause problems for retaining moisture. Low porosity means it is difficult for product and water to get in to moisturize the cortex, high porosity means hair can suck up moisture BUT cannot retain moisture due to it seeping out .

    High porosity indicates a need for either protein or henna. for those who are addicted to the idea of protein every month, a protein reconstructor is far gentler and less damaging to the hair than protein treatments. Protein overload is not simply from using protein in treatments too much—it is due to the saturation and build up of protein coating the hair strands so effectively that the hair cannot breathe or get moisture..
    Protein treatments wear off over time and for breaking hair, this allows new protein deposits about every 8 weeks.

    To use protein when hair does not have breakage indicates a misuse of a temporary repair medium–because that is what a protein treatment is–a temporary repair of the cuticle and cortex by introducing a foreign (usually plant) protein to bind with the surface keratin to temporarily prevent breakage.

    • Denise

      You sound very knowledgeable and I appreciate your sharing information that may help hair health. Are you a hair care professional?

      • queenbee9

        hello: By training and education, I am a scientist (graduated with a B.S in 1983) and a cosmetologist (graduated and licensed in 2000) I specialized in healthy hair not hair styles. It is important for clients to know the difference. Most beauticians pride themselves in being able to style a certain kind of hair (natural or very short, do weaves or braids, etc) Some hair care professionals go on to get certified or degrees in trichology which is the study of hair and scalp.

        I let my cosmetology license lapse after moving to IA because they did not have reciprocity from where I was licensed (Illinois) so yes I am a former hair care professional–now I provide advice to persons interested in growing their hair and I also recently completed training in sisterlocks though I am not yet certified.

        • pink

          Dear queenbee9 please help my hair, Last summer I decided to do a dry curl. The person did not do a good job. My hair was sheading. I had to cut most of my hair about 90 percent of it. two months, I went to another cosmetologist. I repermed my hair with another dry curl sent my under the dryer with the treatment in my hair, and left for her lunch. When she got back my scalp was burning. I told her she said it is because my hair was already damaged on some spots. When I went home I couldn’t even sleep. It felt like, someone put a knife to my scalp. I tried using all the treatments possible. I had huge pimple in my hair. I went back to her to fix it. She did a treatment and told me different products to buy. The hair stopped sheading and breaking. three month after she put a less stromg product for me. My scalp is ok but the hair is breaking. Please help

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/pinkxxbone Erika Mays

    In Janurary, i will have been on my natural hair journey for 2 years. During this time i have not retained length as well as i hoped to, but i feared using a protein treatment because of the many horror stories out there about protein overload, etc. 2 weeks ago i did the Aphogee Protein Treatment (not the 2 min reconstructor) and as soon as i washed it out i could tell this is exactly what i needed for my hair. Since then i barely get any breakage, over amounts of shedding, and my hair feels alot stronger! I encourage anyone to at least try a protein treatment because i wish it was the first thing i tried to do rather than the last!!!

  • kim

    Hey! Im 13 years old and i am biraculair (dont know how to spell it xd ) i think my hair needs protein but i dont know yet for sure my hair stretsches out far but doesnt come back to the normal curl is this normal also my hair is really thin and doesnt grow… :( this al happend after my keratin treatment and that has been a year ago and my curls are still not the way they wore before.. Sorry for my baf english im from holland xd bye