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Curly Nikki

Moisture & Protein- Finding the Right Balance

By January 27th, 202123 Comments
Moisture & Protein- Finding the Right Balanceby Shelli of Hairscapades

via The Science of Black Hair

The unique relationship that exists between the protein and moisture balances within the hair strand is not simply a case of balancing opposing forces one over the other to prevent hair breakage. These two components work together synergistically to produce a healthy head of hair, and neither can work well without the other. Keeping the hair balanced between these two entities is very important.

Over the last couple of months, a few of you have expressed concerns about excessive breakage and how to address it. In addition, I myself had begun to experience it and set about diagnosing the root cause. What I realized about two months ago was that my hair might be over-conditioned/over-moisturized. “What did you say?!?! Over-CONDITIONED? Natural hair?? HERESY!!”

Read On!>>>

 LOL! But seriously, about a year ago, I read about the delicate balance between protein and moisture and “filed” it in the tombs. You see, I kept my distance … a very far distance … from protein. However, I was using henna on the regular and, although I couldn’t find an authoritative source that stated it was an effective alternative to protein, it seemed to work just fine for me as a strengthening treatment.

The problem? At the beginning of 2011, I started to perform roots only applications of henna to eliminate the problem I had with henna build-up causing excessive curl loosening. I would do a bit of a henna gloss on the length, but that was it. It never occurred to me that the length of my hair was no longer getting its regular dose of strengthening henna resin due to my regimen adjustment. So, I went about my merry way until about October of this year when I realized that the length of my hair was very soft, shedding like crazy and also breaking far more than normal. That’s when the article that I read about a year ago came out of the memory catacombs and I started to think that my hair might be over-moisturized and in need of protein.

Most of us think of breakage as related to the lack of moisture. But, in fact, it can be the complete opposite and diagnosing the source of the problem is necessary in order to select the correct solution.
What can cause over-moisturized hair?

via The Science of Black Hair

  • overzealous “baggying”
  • back-to-back conditioner washes that don’t allow the hair to ever dry
  • regular lengthy/overnight deep conditionings
  • keeping the hair wet in general (water or oil) for extended periods of time without a break
  • the complete elimination of protein products altogether

Well, I’ve definitely been known to sleep in a DC overnight and to leave a Vatika oil pre-poo in my hair for multiple days … more out of laziness than a desire to get “extra conditioning.” Also, given that I leave these treatments in so long, I find that I don’t need to co-wash at all during the week or re-wet my hair to maintain it in a moisturized state. Rather, I usually only need to apply a little cream moisturizer and an oil to seal a couple of times between weekly wash sessions. Anywho, the potential that my hair was over-moisturized/conditioned seemed strong.
So, what do you do if you are experiencing an excessive amount of breakage and aren’t sure of whether you need moisture or protein? Begin with a wet hair assessment and determine how your hair responds in the normal course of combing or finger-handling.

via The Science of Black Hair

  • (When Wet or Dry) Stretches slightly and returns to its original length without breaking, you are balanced! Stick with maintaining!
  • (When Wet or Dry) Stretches a little more than normal then breaks, you need more protein in your regimen.
  • (When Wet or Dry)Stretches, stretches, stretches with no significant breakage yet, add a bit more protein to your regimen.
  • (Wet)- Feels weak, gummy, mushy, or limp, you need to add more protein to your regimen.
  • (Wet or Dry) Experiences very little to no stretching, and simply snaps or breaks, you need to increase the moisture in your regimen.
  • (Dry) Feels rough, tough, hard, dry, tangly, brittle, or any combination of those, you need more moisture in your regimen.
  • Unsure? Err on the side of caution and give your hair more moisture. So now that you have figured out what type of hair breakage you have, what should you do?

If it turns out that your hair is over-moisturized, a protein treatment is in order. Fortunately, over-conditioned hair is pretty easily corrected with a single protein treatment. The strength of the protein treatment should be determined by the amount of breakage. A heavy duty treatment like the ApHogee 2-Step is recommended for severe breakage, whereas a lighter protein, like the ApHogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor, is recommended for more typical breakage. Heavy duty protein treatments should be followed by a moisturizing conditioner to restore elasticity as protein “hardens” the hair by “patching” gaps in the cuticle. Also, it is usually recommended that they not be performed more than once every six to eight weeks.

Now, on the other hand, if you hair has too much protein, a moisturizing regimen will be necessary. A protein overload is not as easily and quickly remedied as over-moisturized hair and may take several weeks to rectify. If this is the source of your breakage, the following steps are recommended by The 

Science of Black Hair:

  • Clarify to remove any excess product buildup.
  • Deep condition for 30-45 minutes (with heat) once or twice a week with a thick, creamy moisturizing deep conditioner.
  • Apply a water-based moisturizer to your hair daily, concentrating on the ends.
  • Avoid excess protein in common products like leave-in conditioners, moisturizers, gels, and instant conditioners.
As to my hairstory, I saw a vast improvement after my first protein treatment (which was followed with a moisturizing deep treatment … ummm, why didn’t they say so?). My hair felt harder than normal, but I’ve come to realize that that feeling also signifies resilience and strength and the softness that I thought of as a good thing, was actually too much of one! So, you know, I’m learning to find the balance.

Do you consider the moisture/protein balance in caring for your hair? How do you incorporate it into your regimen?


  • Isolina Campbell-Cronin says:

    My favorite protein treatment is from Nutress Hair products. They have one great for extremely damaged hair and one for color treated hair. I give my hair protein treatments once every week to every other week when I get ready to flat iron my hair. All of the Nutress products have kept my hair healthy and looking good. Get them at or Walgreens.

  • Anon says:

    Thank you so much for this information! I had previously used protein treatments on my hair when it was shedding/breaking, and it always felt so horrible for days afterward. The post-protein moisturizing treatment REALLY did the trick — my hair is back to normal and not breaking like crazy.
    I had good luck with Bumble & Bumble's Deeeeeep conditioner for the protein treatment (20 mins) followed by John Freida's Hydrating/Sleek conditioner (30 mins), although I may try a different protein treatment next time since B&B is a bit expensive and goes SO fast. :(

  • Paeden says:

    I just used the Aphogee 2-step treatment yesterday after realizing my problem was most likely lack of protein, and though I haven't started styling my hair yet, I could definitely feel the difference in my hair after washing it out. It doesn't feel weird and mushy when it's wet anymore. I didn't use a lot because I just mostly wanted it for my ends, so I put the excess on the length.

    I've always had a problem with the ends of my hair going bad faster than they should, and I've had to cut my hair every time. No matter how much I would moisturize my hair and change my regimen, the cycle would continue because none of my conditioners had an decent ammount of protein. I'm glad I've finally found the problem and learned how to rectify it.

  • BrwnEyez says:

    Hi I'm new to the natural hair community and I've been doing a lot of research. I've a lot about the aphogee and the henna, but has anyone ever tried any products from Carols Daughter. If so, what product did you try and how did you like it? Was it worth the money? Thanks in advance!

  • Anonymous says:

    I do both,for every four deep conditioner that I do for moisture, I do one protein conditioner. I've had a hard time finding a light protein conditioner. So I use a small container of plain yogert mixed with a egg. Cover with a plastic cap wait 30-45 minutes, rinse real good and I'm done.

  • Anonymous says:

    i was crying, i did a aphogee complete treatment: aphogee shampoo/two step protein treament follow by the balancing moisturizer finally ending with the keratine. well , i guess i over did it. my hair was hard after two attempts to correct the balance. i feel better after reading your science on blach hair. i'm sure my hair will rebound back. thanks to all who share their stories to pull the clueless like me through a scary moment. thanks again.

  • Anonymous says:

    i use both. The two step and the two minute conditioner. I have fine hair so I need ptotein in my regimen

  • Anonymous says:

    Tried Apogeee Protien. Exceptional for thin hair. However i would like to know if anyone out there tried it while still using henna. The good bad and ugly (I need to know)

  • hairscapades says:

    Thanks everyone for all the comments!! I'm glad you liked the post I would have replied yesterday, but I passed out when I got home! Anywho, I used the Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor too (not eh 2 Step) and saw immediate results. I know protein is not supposed to be related to stopping shedding, so that's why Id didn't include that in the post, but my hair was shedding like CRAZY and it slowed down drastically after my first time using the 2 Minute Reconstructor. So, I'm on the hunt to find out the reason behind that and why many indicate a similar result (maybe there is another common ingredient in these conditioners that isn't protein that somehow helps halt excessive/abnormal shedding? I don't know).

    As to the question about protein sensitivity … I too was under the belief that I was protein sensitive … but after reading this post from my friend and fellow blogger, Michelle of Radiant Brown Beauty, which tries to dispel the fear of protein and some misconceptions about it, I decided to give it a try. And, I'm really glad I did. Maybe you'll find the post helpful as well.

    LovelyB, did you have your hair in sections when you applied it? I put my hair in about 6 or 8 twists and I undid them one by one to apply the treatment. I definitely did not comb it through. I just squished it through, focusing especially on the last couple of inches of my hair. I can't personally recommend any protein conditioners, but I can tell you that the same Michelle above really loves the Jamaican Black Castor Oil protein conditioner (I love JBCO!):

    Hope that helps and thanks again all!!


  • Anonymous says:

    What about the Aubrey Organics Glycogen Protein Balancing Conditioner or their Blue Green Algae Hair Mask as alternatives to Aphogee? Has anyone tried these products? I plan to try the AO conditioner to see if it gives my hair the protein balance/boost it needs…

  • April says:

    Are there any other protein treatments besides Aphogee that are more natural that any of you ladies could suggest?

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't do protein treatments because I henna frequently and dc as well.

  • LovelyB says:

    I actually just bought the aphogee 2 minute protein treatment because my hair has been screaming for protein and I had ignored it.
    Anyway. I tried using it last wash. Yuck. It felt weird in my hands and went on weird. didn't spread easily, was really thin and messy etc.

    Maybe it's because I'm used to creamy conditioners but idk how to use this protein treatment and make sure it get to all my hair (no way was I gonna comb it through) help please, or a suggestion for an alternate (relatively cheap) protein treatment

  • Anonymous says:

    I love aphogee products for my hair. Maybe aphogee has too much protein for people who are protein sensitive

  • Carla says:

    I used Aphogee 2-Step last week and it stopped the shedding dead in its tracks. I too though henna was enough, but I guess not! I will keep this up every 5-6 weeks or as needed and alternate it with Aubrey Organics GPB Conditioner and continue to do a DC weekly.

  • K. says:

    I used to use the light Aphoghee protein treatment once a month or so when I was relaxed and it was great. I tried it ONCE after going natural and my hair was so hard and dry that I haven't used anything of the sort since. My hair is thriving just fine without it.

  • Prinie says:

    I love Aphogee and it's the only protein I use now. In the past, I use to use egg but that's way more protein than my hair needs (Besides, I eat a lot of Eggs anyways). If my hair feels harder than I wanted after use, I just use a nice moisture deep conditioner for 5-6 minutes and problem solved.

    Balance is key! lol

  • Anonymous says:

    Yeah aphogee 2 step is never going near my hair again, I just hated the process and the smell. But it was a big factor in helping my relaxed hair grow to BSL (including braids) but it was just…yuck. It was only because of Audrey's articles about moisture-protein balance on LHCF that I knew about relaxed hair needing protein so this kind of takes me back. Yeah, she's so awesome and I'm ecstatic she's natural!

    I don't know why I never thought to do the test on my natural hair. Great article!

  • Anonymous says:

    Should you still use protein if you are protein sensitive?

  • Jay-Jay says:

    I use the Aphogee 2 Minute Reconstructor, instead of the Aphogee 2 step. The 2 step is a strong protein treatment and as stated it'll make your hair hard. The 2 Minute Reconstructor is a mild protein treatment and it doesn't make your hair hard but as with any protein treatment you still have to follow up with a moisturizer.

  • Anonymous says:

    No. I don't know enough about protein and the different types of protein.

  • KB says:

    Protein treatments were a regular part of my regimen when I was relaxed. Every 12 weeks, right before I got a relaxer, I would use Nexxus Emergencee. Since I stopped relaxing (just over two years ago), I nixed heavy-duty protein in favor of henna. I had my hair blown out and flat ironed 3 weeks ago, and I felt like it was more dry and breaking more than usual. So last week, I used the Aphogee 2 Step and my hair feels AMAZING. No more breakage. It was super shiny after I rinsed the protein out and it brought some life back to my hair, especially in the sections where it's curly, not coily. Figuring out that protein-moisture balance is key. Apparently the henna wasn't doing enough! So from now on, I'll use Aphogee every 8 weeks.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great article, thanks Shelli!

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