Strenuous styling can deplete your hair of protein and moisture, here's what you need to know

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  • Healthy hair needs a healthy balance between moisture and protein, one element cannot work efficiently without the other.
  • Strenuous styling methods such as colour treatments, chemical processing and heat styling can all contribute to hair losing protein. 
  • When addressing a lack of moisture and protein, it is important to consider whether the hair has low porosity, medium porosity or high porosity to adequately address its needs. 

As the weather becomes colder and dryer it becomes even more important for us to ensure our hair stays healthy and protected. Often our biggest concern is usually centred on keeping our hair moisturised, we look for signs such as it being dull, brittle or having no elasticity.

While sufficient hydration and moisture are important concerns, especially as we approach the cooler seasons, protein loss is one to pay attention to as well. According to Thabo Ngwenyama, Revlon’s Realistic Technician, hair needs a balance between moisture and protein to remain in a good condition because one element cannot work efficiently without the other.

But, how can you tell if your hair needs protein? Thabo says you can do a simple elasticity test. “If you take one strand of hair, wet it and then stretch the strand. If the strand does not bounce back or breaks and is highly porous,  this indicates the hair lacks protein. Hair that lacks protein will be limp/flat as well as gummy/sticky.” 

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Colour treatments, chemical processing, heat styling can all contribute to hair losing protein. And if you find your hair depleted as a result of this, Thabo says you should try do twice as many moisturising treatments compared to protein treatments to maintain a healthy protein level in the hair. 

“Various styling methods cause hair to lose protein and at the same time, too much protein treatment causes hair to become brittle and dry hence both moisturising together with protein treatments are necessary and vital for treated hair to prevent protein depletion,”  says Thabo.

And add that “becoming familiar with your hair and the way it feels will help to determine what your hair needs to maintain a good protein-moisture balance. Insufficient/too much protein is evident in hair that is stretched and ends up longer and/or breaks. Excess moisture will be indicated by hair that feels limp/weak and lifeless. It is suggested that hair should be twice as much moisturised for every protein treatment”.

Thabo says chemically treated hair (using products such as relaxers and dyes) requires a lot more protein because the process of straightening and colouring does cause a significant amount of protein loss. On the inverse, non-chemically treated hair will require less protein treatment because the hair is not exposed to the same chemicals and treatments that cause a great depletion in protein.

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Keratin is among the buzzwords used in hair care conversations when discussing how to silky, luscious and healthy hair. But, why is there so much emphasis on this nutrient? 

Harper’s Bazaar defines Keratin as a structural protein found in our hair, skin and nails - and is commonly found in styling products as well to help strengthen hair. Hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons tells the magazine that Keratin treatments commonly offered are a semi-permanent hair straightening treatment that smoothes and adds shine to hair, but notes the treatments work not through the use of keratin but with a solution containing a formaldehyde derivative or glyoxylic acid to make hair straighter and smoother. 

Thabo says DIY keratin products are relatively safe but notes it is preferable to use ‘formaldehyde-free’ keratin treatments at home, which is regarded as being much safer.“With a well-ventilated area at home, there shouldn’t be any issues of safety provided instructions are strictly followed,” Thabo adds.

Keratin treatments are typically done at a salon or by a professional but can be safely done at home as well. Thabo says there are DIY kits that people can use at home, but stresses that following the leaflet instructions strictly abided.

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There can be a variety of reasons why your hair is not holding its best form, which is why it remains important to ensure the needs of your hair are adequately met when it comes to moisture as well. 

When addressing a lack of moisture, among the important factors to consider is hair porosity, which is the ability of your hair to absorb and retain moisture. Revlon’s guide to maintaining moisture and protein according to hair porosity is as follows: 

If your hair has low porosity it means the nature of the hair strands makes it difficult to absorb or retain water. You can use steam, warm water or a heat cap to add moisture. Only add extra protein if you are sure that your hair is lacking in protein, as added protein can make your hair feel dry and stiff. 

Medium porosity hair is suitable for added protein, however, if your hair does feel stiff after use, leave it for a little longer before your next treatment. To add moisture to medium porosity hair use leave-in conditioners and moisturisers and seal with oil after wetting your hair. 

If your hair has high porosity, you need to seal in the moisture. Leave-in conditioners can be used daily and different oils can be experimented with to see which suits your hair. Products with added protein provide and maintains strength.

Have you experimented with protein treatments on natural hair before? Share your experience with us here

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