As I sit here with my Hair One sulfate-free cleanser marinating on my strands, thinking about the protein treatment I'm going to be doing later, I realize I need to share something with you guys (ladies). I remember when I knew nothing about hair, and I thought that washing your hair, putting on some conditioner for 2 minutes, and greasing my scalp with globs of DAX was all I needed. While black haircare doesn't need to be complicated, it's not exactly that cut and dry either. Especially when you are relaxed. One of the biggest contributing factors of breakage in relaxed hair is an imbalance of protein and moisture. You're probably saying "Protein??". Yes, protein. No, not like the protein shake mix you buy at GNC, this type is for your hair. Grab the popcorn and a drink, this one will be a bit lengthy.
Relaxers, Moisture & Protein
When we relax, we actually break the protein bonds in our hair and sort of rearrange them by smoothing it out with a comb or our fingers. Of course it's not that simple, but that's the general gist of a relaxer process. Now that the protein bond has been broken, that leaves our hair a bit weaker than how it was in its original state. We have got to put the protein back to re-strengthen our hair. The role of moisture here is quite obvious. If your hair isn't moisturized, that means it is dry, and what does dry hair do? You got it. Without moisture, your next stop is Breakage City.
Moisture= Elasticity and flexibility
Protein = Strength and structure.
Too much protein = dry, hard, crispy hair
Too much moisture = mushy hair, very stretchy, no structure and cannot hold on to a style (curls, etc)
Lets begin by talking about protein. There are two types of protein treatments:
- Heavy protein
- Light protein
Light Protein: This protein treatment is usually in the form of a conditioner, and may provide a moisturizing effect as well. It is used following a wash. It's not as strong as the heavy protein and can be used on a once weekly basis. Some choose to follow this up with a moisturizing conditioner, I, on the other hand, do not. This is what works for my hair.
Mid-Relaxer Protein: This one is new to me. I've only done it once but I like what it does for me. You apply your light protein after you rinse out the relaxer from your hair, but BEFORE you neutralize. Why does this work so well? Basically, your hair cuticles are very open after applying a relaxer. This makes the hair more susceptible to accepting protein at this time. You let the light protein sit on your hair for about 5 minutes, rinse, then apply your neutralizing shampoo to complete your relaxer process. You'll find more information about it here, as well as more detail regarding how to properly self-relax your hair.
Naturally, African-American/Black hair is drier than most, because of its distinct curl pattern. The curlier, tighter, and kinkier the hair, the dryer it will be---generally speaking. This is because our natural oils (sebum) have a more difficult time making its way down the shaft in this curl pattern. And I know I always struggled with dry hair, and many other black women who still do. How do we apply moisture to black hair? Several ways.
- Deep Conditioning
- Using a water-based moisturizer
- Leave-in conditioners
Water-based moisturizer: This keeps your hair moisturized on a daily basis in between washes. The first ingredient is always water. Most ladies apply it daily, some every other day. This is usually followed by "sealing" the moisture in with an oil.
Leave-in conditioners: We apply these after our final rinse, and it keeps some moisture in our hair. Like a conditioner, just lighter.
What happens if this delicate balance is out of whack? Breakage! And we all know how infuriating that B word can be. How do you know which you need? I stay on a schedule:
- Hard Protein (Aphogee 2 step protein treatment) every 6 weeks,
- Light Protein once a week (Aphogee keratin 2 minute reconstructor).
- Moisturize every day with Garnier Fructis sleek & shine , seal with jojoba oil
- Deep Condition about once a week.
There's several websites that offer suggestions for strand tests and wet assessments. Click here for a pretty good article I found on wet assessments.
It took me a while to really get to know when my hair needed more moisture or more protein. But now that I have my regimen down, and I know my hair pretty well, I can tell when I'm lacking one or the other. I can't even begin to emphasize how important this is when it comes to retaining length in relaxed hair. Anywho, thats all for now. Happy Hair Growing!