By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom
Nearly all natural hair websites will have an article on balancing protein with moisture. There are also debates about whether hair can be ‘protein sensitive’ or not. Today is a slightly different but related question to help you gain an understanding of proteins in hair conditioning. The question is if your hair conditioner contains protein, do you really have to follow up with a moisturising conditioner or risk ‘hard hair’?
Definitions : For this discussion protein means amino acids (including wheat, silk, keratin etc) and hydrolysed proteins (including wheat, collagen/gelatin, keratin etc). Excluded from the definition is mayonnaise and whole eggs or any other protein that is not hydrolysed .
So, do you really have to follow every protein conditioner with a moisturising conditioner?
Quick answer — Yes and No
The long answer : Yes
You may need to use a moisturising conditioner if you meet BOTH of the following conditions
1. Your protein is in a conditioner that looks mainly like a light brown liquid, it is likely to be mostly a water solution of hydrolysed protein/amino acids. Examples of this type of product include liquid amino acids, aphogee two step and komaza protein hair strengthener.
2. You intend to use the product directly on your hair without mixing it into a moisturising conditioner (i.e one that contains softening or emollient ingredients e.g cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, behentrimonium chloride, natural oils).
Explanation : Using a dilute solution of proteins in water is not likely to leave your hair soft. This does NOT mean that it is not moisturised because proteins are able to hold on to water in the same way that humectants such as glycerin or aloe vera do. The hair lacks softness only because the conditioner does not have ingredients that can coat the hair to create that softness. Therefore if you want softness, follow up with a conditioner that contains these softening ingredients)
The long answer : No
You do not need to follow up with a moisturising conditioner in either one of the following conditions
1. You are adding a few drops of a liquid protein conditioner (see the explanation in the yes section) to a moisturising conditioner which does contain softening ingredients (see above for examples).
2. Your moisturising conditioner containing softening ingredients also includes in the ingredient listing some proteins (commonly glutamic acid, silk amino acids and wheat proteins).
Explanation: Something that is not well known is that amino acids actually aDsorb and penetrate hair better when in a conditioning formula as opposed to in water (J Cosmet Sci pp 347–357, 2007). Therefore adding a few drops of ‘concentrated’ proteins like aphogee or komaza to a moisturising conditioner may in fact be more beneficial than using it straight on hair. As proteins help to moisturise hair, there is nothing wrong with doing the same even in a creamy leave in. Some manufacturers will place some useful proteins in hair conditioners and commonly these proteins will not be listed in the top 5 ingredients (the higher up in the list, the more there is). Small amounts of protein are all that are needed for most hair and just adding a little will not compromise the softening effect of a moisturising conditioner.
How do you follow up your protein treatments?