Bond Treatments vs. Protein Treatments On Relaxed Hair

When I started my relaxed hair journey, protein treatments were the it treatment for hair. If you had any type of hair damage the primary recommended fix was a protein treatment. For any hair breakage, do a protein treatment.

Things have changed over the years. Such as we’ve learned protein treatments aren’t always the answer and bond treatments have gained popularity.

I decided to do some research and read several articles from beauty magazines, listened to interviews with some hair stylists, and read up on products from several hair brands all to see if I could answer this question: When it comes to relaxed hair, which is the better treatment option - bond treatments or protein treatments?
relaxed hair that has had bond and protein hair treatments.
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What is a hair protein treatment?

It’s a treatment designed to replace or add protein to the hair since hair strands are mostly made of the protein keratin. Protein treatments coat the hair strands with protein, but they typically don’t penetrate them.

When protein treatments are used over time they help weak and damaged hair to regain its strength and elasticity. For hair with little to no damage, they can help the hair maintain strength and elasticity preventing damage.

What is a bond-building treatment?

On the surface, bond treatments seem similar to protein treatments but there is one key difference - they don’t coat the hair, instead, they treat the hair strands from the inside out. Hair bond treatments help to repair the disulfide bonds or polypeptide chains inside the hair strands that have been broken from chemical treatments like coloring, relaxing, and overdoing it with heat styling.

When should these hair treatments be used?

Neither hair treatment is needed if the hair is healthy or strong. They are meant to be used on damaged hair.

Protein treatments can be used regularly in a relaxed hair routine such as every week or monthly. The frequency should be determined based on the damaged state of the hair and the strength of the protein. If too much protein is used on the hair it can result in protein overload which damages and dries out hair.

Protein treatments don’t just have to be used to repair damage, they can be used to help prevent damage by adding strength to the hair before a relaxer touch-up or protective style. I used to do a protein treatment the week before and the week after my relaxer touch-ups.

Bond-building treatments pretty much follow the same timing as protein treatments depending on the hair professional you ask or the article you read. One of the things I’ve seen is that bond treatments can be used weekly if the hair is really damaged. If there isn’t any hair damage it can be used whenever you get a relaxer touch-up.

The reason is the chemicals in the relaxer weaken the hair’s structure because they break what’s called the disulfide bonds in the hair fiber. Bond treatments help to repair and reconnect those disulfide bonds.

Which hair types can use these treatments?

Pretty much all hair types can use either treatment though there are some hair types that will respond better to them than others.

For bonding-building treatments damaged, dry, fragile hair can benefit the most. Those with colored and relaxed hair can also find these types of treatments beneficial. If you have coarse hair you may need a more intense treatment so it actually penetrates.

The same hair types can benefit from protein treatments as well but if your hair has a good amount of protein already a protein treatment isn’t needed. Also, there are some whose hair is protein sensitive, meaning if they use any protein-based products on their hair it has a negative effect.

Protein treatment options

Bond-building treatment options

Which treatment is better?

This is a loaded question because whether a bond or protein treatment is better to use will vary by person. For my own hair, I prefer protein treatments. The main reason is that I’ve had better results from them because they replenish the proteins in my hair. They also help to provide my hair some protection from heat damage and chemicals by the protein coating the hair strands.