As a curly-haired gal with lots of hair, I have dabbled in various protein treatments to discover my Holy Grails. Over the years, I’ve tested numerous products and have selected the top 10 that have consistently delivered exceptional results for my curls.
Protein treatments for hair are specialized formulations containing proteins that aim to fortify, repair, and support the hair structure, thereby enhancing its overall health and resilience.
Heads up, while a protein treatment may be a game-changer for me, it might not yield the same results for someone else, given the distinctiveness of each person’s hair. After lots of trial and error, I’m confident my list of protein treatments for curly hair can offer transformative results for many in the curly community.
What are Protein Treatments?
Protein treatments for curly hair have carved a niche as one of the essential therapies for maintaining healthy hair. At their core, they are specialized formulations designed to temporarily reintroduce protein into the hair shaft.1
The Need for Protein in Hair
The hair strand is predominantly made up of keratin, a type of protein. Over time, our hair can lose some of its natural protein due to various factors like heat styling, chemical processes, environmental aggressors, and daily wear and tear.
- Strengthen the hair, making it more resilient to damage.
- Restore elasticity, reducing the risk of breakage from stretching.
- Enhance shine and smoothness, promoting healthy hair that appears more vibrant and radiant.
Protein Treatments and Hair Porosity
Different hair types and porosities can have varying responses to protein treatments. For instance, low porosity hair can indeed benefit from protein treatments. The key is selecting the right proteins suitable for this hair type.
However, the hair can absorb the necessary nutrients with the appropriate protein treatment, leading to strengthened strands and reduced breakage.
Choosing the Right Treatment
While the concept is straightforward, it’s vital to understand that not all protein treatments are created equal.
They can range from light protein sprays, ideal for regular maintenance, to deep, intensive treatments for severely damaged hair. Choosing a product that aligns with your hair’s specific needs is essential.
Maintenance and Balance
Protein treatments are not just a “one and done” kind of treatment – if you want to keep up your hair’s health over time, then periodic maintenance treatments can help.
Furthermore, while protein treatments provide a myriad of benefits, striking a balance with conditioning treatments is essential.
A hair care routine that leans too heavily on protein without sufficient moisture can render hair brittle.
Conversely, hair that suffers from a protein deficiency can become weak and limp. Ensuring the hair cuticle is well-nourished with both protein and moisture will lead to healthier, more resilient strands.
Understanding How Protein Treatments Work
Whether your hair is natural, straight, wavy, etc. protein treatments work for all hair types to rejuvenate and shield hair from potential damage by addressing both moisture and protein deficits.
These treatments work by penetrating deep into the hair strands and bonding with them, fortifying them against the detrimental effects of lack of protein. Such protein replenishment plays a crucial role in improving hair health and resilience.1
These therapeutic products are available in three specific formulations:
- Rinse-out treatments are applied and then rinsed out after a short duration.
- Deep treatments are designed to be left in for an extended period, allowing for deeper penetration.
- Leave-in treatments remain in the hair, providing continuous protection and nourishment.
Benefits of Protein Treatment for Hair
Protein treatments serve a pivotal role in hair care by replenishing lost or damaged protein. Their benefits encompass:
- Strengthening: By enhancing resilience, they minimize vulnerability to damage.
- Restoring Elasticity: Effective in preventing breakage by improving the hair’s natural stretch.
- Boosting Appearance: They impart a healthier sheen and smoother texture, enhancing hair’s vibrancy.5
The Science Behind It
Whether your hair is damaged or color-treated, it yearns for the rejuvenating touch of protein treatments. They operate at a molecular level, rebuilding the hair’s inner structure, which in turn bolsters its resistance to breakage, consequently reducing hair fall.
Given that protein forms the bedrock of our hair, restoring any protein deficiency is paramount to reinforcing and retrieving its intrinsic strength.
Without sufficient protein, hair tends to overstretch before snapping. However, introducing a protein treatment can renew its natural elasticity, ensuring it springs back into shape post-stretching. 1,6
Types of Protein Treatments for Hair
Hair health often hinges on the proteins that lend strength and vitality to our hair. A range of protein treatments have been formulated to combat the wear and tear our hair undergoes daily.
Each uniquely designed treatment offers tailored benefits to address specific hair needs. One such essential treatment to delve into is the protein-based conditioner.1
- Variety in Strength: Protein conditioners range from light to heavy concentrations, catering to different hair needs.
- Cuticle Repair: These conditioners work by filling gaps or cracks on the cuticle layer of the hair shaft, temporarily restoring its surface.5
- Strength and Application: The effectiveness of protein conditioners in strengthening hair depends on both the degree of hair damage and the precision of application.
- Surface-Level Action: Proteins primarily coat the outer layer of hair. Due to interactions with water during shampooing, these proteins can be washed away, reducing their long-term effect.1
- Dual Benefits: Protein conditioners provide both nourishment from proteins and hydration. Hence, there’s often no need for a separate deep conditioning treatment.6
- Duration of Effect: The benefits of protein conditioners generally last between one week to ten days or until your next hair wash.1 Their strengthening potency is influenced by your hair’s condition.
Light to Moderate Reconstructors
Unlike standard protein-based conditioners, protein reconstructors are defined by their unique blend – the type, size, and concentration of proteins they contain.
Specifically, Light to Moderate Reconstructors are enriched with a heftier dose of proteins. These powerhouse formulas are ideal for reviving dry, brittle hair, offering enhanced elasticity, and bolstering the internal structure of hair that’s been worn down by chemical treatments.
Heavy protein reconstructors bring to the table the highest concentration of protein. To ensure these protein molecules effectively penetrate or adhere to the hair, these treatments require a more intensive process, often involving the application of heat.
The beauty of protein treatments lies in their transformative capabilities. They dive deep, rejuvenating the hair shaft from the inside out. Their effects are not fleeting; one treatment can leave a lasting impact for about four to six weeks.
However, the true power of these reconstructors depends on two primary factors: the extent of hair damage and the frequency of your hair wash routine.
While these treatments are best suited for highly porous and severely damaged hair, they’re not one-size-fits-all.
Healthy hair, especially low porosity types, already boasts a balanced protein structure. Introducing an overload of protein can result in a build-up on the hair’s surface. This accumulation can stiffen the hair, making it prone to dryness, breakage, and further hair loss.
While heavy protein reconstructors are champions at enhancing hair’s tensile strength and overall structure, they primarily focus on reinforcement rather than conditioning. So, while they fortify, they offer limited conditioning benefits.
You must supplement a protein reconstructor with an intensive moisturizing deep conditioner to bring back elasticity and prevent breakage in your hair. I would highly recommend using a protein-free deep conditioner.
Heavy reconstructor examples:
Discover the Protein Treatment that is Right for You
Now that you know a little more about protein treatments, how do you choose the right one for you?
Well, it depends on what your needs are. Finding the optimal balance of protein and moisture for your hair is essential – no matter its type. Just as in life, it’s key to not overdo either component.
If you have color-treated hair, it needs a nourishing treatment containing powerful ingredients such as keratin and collagen to protect it from further damage.
- If your hair is damaged from bleaching, sun exposure, chlorination (from the pool), or high-heat styling tools, it likely requires a higher protein product for recovery.
- If the deep conditioner or oil you’ve been using is not living up to your expectations – It may be that you need a protein treatment! Your dry hair could be signaling for more of this vital nutrient rather than –or in conjunction with– moisturizers.
- Struggling with hair breakage? Your hair is likely crying out for some protein! Protein is essential in fortifying and moisturizing the strands to prevent further breakage.
Ultimately, you need to find a protein treatment that matches your specific needs because there is no one-size-fits-all product.
It is always essential to check the ingredients list when purchasing so you know how the product will benefit your hair.
Protein Treatments for Curly Hair: My Personal Favorites
Without further delay, I present my top ten favorite protein hair treatments in no particular order. These at-home protein treatments have personally transformed my hair’s texture and health.
For your convenience, we’ve included the ingredient lists for each product. Keep in mind that these lists may be outdated, so it’s advisable to check the product bottle for the most accurate and current details. Also, be sure to verify the size of the product, as it may vary across different sites.
1. Redken Extreme Cat Treatment
- This is one of the best protein treatments for curly hair. Just get it.
- Reconstructs and reconditions without adding any weight to the hair.
- Adds immediate strength to damaged, brittle hair.
- It contains amino acids, arginine, and lysine to strengthen and fortify the hair.
- This is NOT a leave-in treatment or a conditioner; it’s a reconstructing product that’s meant to be rinsed out.
- It comes in an easy-to-spray bottle. Follow the instructions carefully.
- I love this product, and you’ll notice a difference after the first use. It’s worth every penny!
#2 Giovanni Smooth as Silk Xtreme Protein Hair Infusion
- This is for dry, damaged, or over-processed hair.
- It contains shea butter, soy protein, and macadamia nut oil to detangle, moisturize, rejuvenate, and help revive hair’s texture.
- It’s color-safe, paraben-free, cruelty-free, and vegan-friendly.
- What I like about this one is that it has a lot of slip, and it really made my hair feel soft.
3. Green Beauty Real Protein Treatment
- For damaged and/or dry hair.
- It penetrates hair to patch up the damaged areas.
- Safe for color-treated hair.
- It contains one natural ingredient, which is – organic hydrolyzed wheat protein.
- What I love about this product is that you control the amount of protein to use. This is a liquid formula that is to be mixed with a conditioner.
4. GiovaniVitapro Fusion Protective Moisture Leave-in Hair
- This is a leave-in protein treatment that doesn’t contain too much protein.
- Penetrates damaged hair and infuses each strand with organic protein-enriched botanicals.
- It fuses the best parts of vitamins with the essential elements in protein to create soft, manageable, beautiful hair full of moisture.
- Vegan formula and cruelty-free.
- I like to use this if I need a little extra boost of protein between the more intensive protein treatments. It’s a spray-on treatment, and I use it right before applying my styling products.
5. Mielle Babassu & Mint Deep Conditioner
- This is a deep conditioner that contains protein.
- Great for dry, damaged, and/or color-treated hair.
- It contains babassu oil to help strengthen the hair shaft and reduce breakage.
- It contains amino acids that will help to strengthen your hair.
- This is one of my favorite deep conditioners.
- Mint extract to refresh and invigorate the scalp. It has a light, minty smell that’s so refreshing! I love the scent.
- Protein complex to help fortify and rebuild the protein structure of the hair.
- This always leaves my hair feeling strong and super soft. Love this stuff!
6. Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask
- This is my HG protein deep conditioner.
- It is for those with dry, damaged, or color-treated hair.
- It’s been clinically proven to decrease hair breakage after two uses.
- It has also been clinically proven to boost hair strength, shine, and silkiness and improve the long-term health of damaged hair.
- This hydrating, antioxidant-rich formula is formulated with rosehip oil, B vitamins, and algae extract to restore essential moisture to dry, brittle, colored, or over-processed hair.
- The strengthening protein in this formula is keratin.
- Formulated with 97% naturally derived ingredients.
- Safe for color-treated hair.
- It smells like freshness with a floral scent. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it’s a really nice smell.
7. Curl Junkie Repair Me Reconstructive Hair Treatment
- This product is one of the best protein treatments I’ve ever used.
- It contains no silicone (for those who are CG-friendly conscious)7
- Ideal for hair that is chemically damaged, fragile, weak, brittle, breaking, or affected by heat damage and in need of protection against future damage.
- Very moisturizing!
- It has a light scent.
8. SheaMoisture Hair Mask – Manuka Honey & Yogurt, Hydrate + Repair Protein Power Treatment
- What is unique about this formula is that is powered by reparative proteins and butter.
- This nutrient-packed blend of shea butter is enriched with antioxidant manuka honey, protein-rich yogurt powder, and extract for extra nourishment.
- Baobab oil and mafura oil have also been included to condition over-processed hair deeply.
- It’s really great for bleached hair like mine!
9. ApHogee Keratin 2-Minute Reconstructor
- Prevents breakage and split ends.
- Restores the hair’s elasticity.
- It has anti-oxidant green tea to protect hair.
- It contains a blend of keratin amino acids, botanical oils, and vitamins to restore strength and softness to hair.
- It contains silicone and parabens (for those following the CG method).7
- One of my faves. It’s quick and easy to use and only needs to be left on the hair for 2 minutes. I usually use this twice a month.
10. ApHogee Two-Step Protein Treatment
- If your hair is experiencing serious breakage or loss, you need this ASAP!
- If your hair is mushy or you are experiencing hygral fatigue, get this now!
- If your hair is chemically over-processed, you need this.
- This is a heavy and intense protein treatment.
- It is a liquid formula that is quite sticky as it dries and hardens on your hair.
- It’s formulated with activated proteins and magnesium, which fuse into the hair with the application of heat. So, you’ll need a blow dryer or hooded dryer to use with this.
- Rebuilds hair structure for six weeks.
- You will need to follow up with a moisturizing conditioner or deep conditioner right after using this.
- It doesn’t smell so good, so be forewarned.
How do I know if my hair needs protein?
All hair consists of approximately 65% to 95% proteins; thus, protein is essential for hair growth and maintenance.2
The protein structure in your hair can be affected over time due to chemical treatments, environmental factors, and rough mechanical styling. If your hair is experiencing dryness or breakage or feels dry and brittle, it may need a protein treatment.
To determine if your hair needs protein, you can do a strand test;
– Take a small section of hair from the roots to the ends and gently tug on it.
– If the hair breaks easily, then it likely needs a protein treatment.
How often should I use a protein treatment?
The frequency with which you need a protein treatment will depend on your hair type and the condition of your hair.
Some people only need a protein treatment every few months, but those with very dry or damaged hair may need one more often.
Light hair protein treatments should be used once a week for the first month to restore the hair’s strength and elasticity. After the first month, protein treatments can be reduced to every six weeks.
For heavy protein treatments, it should be used once every 4-6 weeks.
As always let your hair be your guide, and use protein treatments as needed.
It’s critical to follow the directions that come with the product as well as seek expert advice from your hairstylist if you’re not sure.
Can I use protein treatments every day?
No, overusing protein treatments (especially for low-porosity hair) may make your hair brittle, so finding a happy medium that works for you is essential. If you’re not sure how often to use protein treatments, ask your stylist for advice.
Should you use heat with protein treatments?
It depends on the formula of the protein treatment. Some protein treatments should not be used with heat, while others can be used with a little bit of heat.
Always adhere to the directions of whatever protein treatment you plan on utilizing for the best results.
Should I wash my hair before a protein treatment?
Yes! For best results, protein treatments should be used after shampooing your hair.