How To Balance Moisture And Protein In Your Hair

You’ve heard and even read that it’s important to keep a moisture and protein balance in your hair. So you alternate between using a protein conditioner and a moisturizing conditioner each wash day. There, the moisture and protein are balanced. But are they really? Is that really all there is to it?

I’ve found that really understanding what maintaining a moisture and protein balance means goes a bit deeper than that. Not all hair needs constant moisture and not all hair needs constant protein. It depends on hair type, styling methods, whether you have relaxed hair, color your hair or are natural.

Balancing protein and moisture in your relaxed hair | A Relaxed Gal

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When I first started my hair journey and I read about keeping the moisture and protein in my hair balanced I did what several others have done and are still doing. I scheduled when I would use moisture based products and when I would use protein-based products.

I have to say for years it worked for me. My relaxed hair is high porosity and tends to be dry so having a protein and moisture balance is really important for my hair. With the regimen I was using I didn’t really have any issues keeping that balance. That is until I had a run in with protein overload. After that run in I started to dig deeper into this whole balancing act.

Why is moisture and protein balance important?

In a nutshell, without having both moisture and protein our hair will break.

Without getting into the science our hair is made up of proteins which give our hair it’s structure and strength.

Additionally, having enough moisture keeps hair elastic and supple.

How do you know the balance is off?

There are some pretty clear signs that hair will give when it's moisture and protein balance is off. This is why it’s important to know your hair. Know how your hair feels when it’s at its best so you can tell the difference when things start to change.

You can tell your hair has too much moisture when it starts to feel limp and weak. It stretches and keeps stretching without bouncing back which means it’s lost elasticity. Additionally, your hair can feel gummy or mushy.

Signs of too much protein include dry, rough, and brittle hair that easily breaks. A lack of shine and overall lifelessness to the hair. Shedding and tangling tend to happen a lot more. Plus, no matter how much moisture you apply to your hair it doesn’t seem like it’s getting enough.

Now on the flip side, the signs of not enough protein or moisture kinda mirror what I described above. When your hair doesn’t have enough protein it breaks, can feel dry, and is also limp. Signs of not enough moisture are dry, rough hair, and breakage.

Balanced hair, which is where we want to be, acts just right. It bounces back when stretched and doesn’t break. It has shine and not only looks good but feels good as well.

What causes the hair to be unbalanced?

There really isn’t one thing that can cause your hair to have too much or too little moisture or protein. It’s usually something that builds up over time and is a result of the products and methods in a hair regimen.

Hair can be over moisturized by

  • Doing long deep conditioning treatments that last hours or overnight
  • Never using any products with protein ingredients
  • Over washing and conditioning your hair
  • Using too many heavy moisturizing products (such as oils and butters) over a period of time

Hair can get too much protein by

  • Using too many products with protein ingredients
  • Doing too many protein treatments too often

When it comes to caring for your hair, it’s best to not just go through the motions. Paying attention to your hair at every step of your regimen gives you the opportunity to notice changes in your hair. I fell into this trap.

I had a regimen that I thought was working for me and it was for a while so I got really comfortable and stopped paying close attention to my hair when it was giving me signs for months that my moisture and protein balance was off.

What’s the best method to maintain the balance?

Here’s the kicker there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all method although it seems like I kinda believed that for several years. Everyone’s hair is different. Some need more protein than others, some need less. The same goes for moisture, some people need more and others less.

To figure out what you need to get that balance may take some trial and error. Hopefully more trial and less error. Unless the hair is exhibiting any of the signs noted above for hair that has a lack of or too much moisture or protein then it probably has the two balanced.

When my relaxed hair is in balanced mode I go the safe route and stick with a moisturizing hair regimen. Because it’s a whole lot easier to correct moisture overload than it is to correct protein overload.

Here are some things that can be done when the hair gets unbalanced

Too much moisture

Usually, a little bit of protein helps with this. My preference is to use a rinse-out product that won’t sit on my hair too long so I don’t add too much protein. So I first grab for a shampoo that has some protein ingredients like SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Shampoo. Or I may use a rinse out conditioner.

Only in extreme situations am does pulling out a hard protein treatment like Aphogee 2 Step Protein Treatment or a hair mask with a moderate level of protein like the SheaMoisture Mongongo & Hemp Seed Oils High Porosity Moisture-Seal Masque.

Too much protein

This is where it can get rough. And not just the hair. Fixing hair with too much protein may take one wash or multiple months. When the hair has too much protein it needs a lot of moisture. I mean a whole lot. Take a look at my post about protein overload to see how I overcame having too much protein in my hair.

When the hair doesn’t have enough moisture or protein it’s a simple fix of using products that can quickly add some.

Once your hair is re-balanced you can look to re-introduce protein or moisture to your hair.

So the moral of the story is, listen to your hair. It will let you know when it needs more or less protein and moisture.