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The Best Protein Hair Treatments

If your hair is damaged and your hair care routine doesn’t include protein, you’ll never get your strands back in shape. Protein is the predominant structure of hair. So once it becomes protein deficient, (AKA damaged) protein is the only thing that can repair it. A protein hair treatment, also known as a keratin treatment, is a game-changer in the fight against split-ends and breakage. Protein reinforces your hair strands making them shiny and strong. If you’ve got damage, or you’re just wondering how to strengthen your hair, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about keratin protein hair treatments.

Understanding the structure of hair

In order to understand how protein treatments work, you first need to understand a little about the structure of your hair. Hair is 95% protein, specifically keratin. Keratin is made up of a chain of 18 different amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Keratin protein is what keeps your hair strands structured and strong, encouraging hair growth and maintaining its health and elasticity. But exposure to harsh chemicals, hot tools, pollution, and even everyday styling can weaken these chains of keratin protein, leading to damage in the form of dry hair, frizz, split ends, breakage, even hair loss. This is where protein treatments come in.

How do protein hair treatments work?

A protein hair treatment works to repair damaged strands by reinforcing them with more protein. This type of treatment uses wheat proteins that have gone through hydrolysis. This means that they are broken down into particles that have a low molecular weight and are small enough to pass through the cuticle and bind with hair keratin.It also fills in any protein gaps and forms a barrier around the hair shaft, protecting the hair cuticle from future damage. 

Benefits of protein for your hair

Besides repairing your severely damaged strands, a keratin protein treatment has several other benefits, no matter what your hair type. They include the following

  • It makes your hair smooth and shiny. Keratin smooths the cells that form hair strands. This reduces frizz for shiny hair. Keratin also reduces the look of split ends by temporarily bonding the hair back together.
  • It makes your hair more manageable. Because they smooth the cuticle, keratin treatments make hair more manageable, and easier to style. This is especially true if you have particularly frizzy or thick hair.
  • It encourages hair growth. Protein is necessary for the growth of all cells, including hair cells. Plus, keratin strengthens and fortifies hair strands so that they don't split or snap as easily. This encourages hair growth and long locks as the ends aren’t constantly breaking off.
  • It helps restore your overall hair structure. Protein hair treatments repair your hair strands by attaching hydrolyzed proteins to the hair cuticle and hardening it. This helps to restore your overall hair structure and prevents further damage, keeping the hair cuticle smooth.

How to tell if you need a hair protein treatment

Here are 5 signs that your hair needs a protein intervention, immediately!

  1. Your hair is color-treated. Hair that’s been color-treated is highly porous and even more susceptible to damage than hair that hasn’t been treated. A protein treatment will help you maintain healthy hair.
  2. Your hair has lost its elasticity. If you take a strand of your hair, and gently stretch it, does it return to its natural state after being stretched? If not, you need a hair protein treatment.
  3. You have breakage and shedding. Losing up to 100 strands a day is completely normal. But excessive shedding is a sign that your hair is in need of protein. Especially if the hair that’s shedding isn’t from the root. This means that your hair is breaking.
  4. Your hair is flatter and limper than usual. If your hair feels flatter than usual, and looks limp and stringy, you likely need a protein boost. A protein treatment will help bring your strands back to life, adding texture and volume.
  5. Your hair is porous. Porous hair refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. Not sure if your hair is porous? Place a strand in a shallow bowl of water. If the hair sinks, it’s porous and could benefit from a protein hair treatment.

Davines Liquid Spell treatment

Types of protein hair treatments

These are the most common types of protein treatments for hair:

Professional keratin treatment

Also referred to as a "Brazilian blowout" or a smoothing treatment, a professional keratin treatment is an in-salon chemical process that reforms the keratin bond inside your hair fibre to keep it closed for a smooth texture. Professional keratin treatments use heat straightening to resurface the protein bonds in your hair and strengthening them from within. The result is straighter, smoother, easier-to-manage hair that lasts around three months. 

Protein hair mask

A protein hair mask can produce similar results to a professional keratin treatment. But unlike their in-salon counterparts, hair masks work in minutes with less intense and shorter-lasting results. Use a protein hair mask once a week as the middle step between shampooing and conditioning. If your roots get oily, apply the mask from your hair’s mid shaft down to the ends. But if the hair closest to your scalp is dry, damaged, or has broken off, apply the mask to your roots as well. Be sure to follow the hair mask leave-in time instructions on the label. You don’t want to leave protein in your hair longer than what’s recommended, otherwise you run the risk of over-proteinized hair, which makes it more prone to breakage or worse- falling out. Rinse the protein hair mask hair out thoroughly with warm water, and finish with a protein-free conditioner to seal in hydration.

Amino acid leave-in treatment 

This type of protein hair treatment infuses hair strands with amino acids, the building blocks of protein. These work to strengthen the keratin bonds within the hair with each use. Amino acids add body, softness and shine to the hair and are ideal to use as a heat protectant before using hot tools. Apply an amino acid hair treatmentto your damp hair from base to ends, then comb it through. Use it after scalp serums and before other hair treatments or styling products.

DIY protein treatment 

Egg, yogurt, mayonnaise, avocado, and coconut milk are rich sources of proteins. Here’s how you can use them to create these DIY protein hair masks. Rotate these deep conditioning treatments weekly, or choose a favorite! 

Egg-yogurt mask: Eggs are power-packed with proteins and collagen, making your hair feel smooth and shiny. They also help promote hair growth. Yogurt is rich in probiotics that can enhance hair health.

  • Beat an egg and 2 tablespoons of yogurt in a bowl until you get a smooth paste. 
  • Apply the mixture to your scalp and hair. Leave it for 30 minutes.
  • Rinse out the hair pack with cool water.
  • Shampoo and condition your hair.

Avocado-coconut milk hair mask: Coconut milk is a rich source of protein, while avocados contain vitamins A, B, and E, all of which are vital for hair health. This mask also hydrates and boosts the production of collagen, which promotes hair growth. 

  • Mash an avocado until there are no lumps. 
  • Add 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and 1 teaspoon of olive or coconut oil. 
  • Mix until you get a smooth consistency.
  • Apply the mixture to your scalp and hair.
  • Leave it for 30 minutes.
  • Wash off with shampoo and condition.

Banana-avocado hair mask: Bananas contain potassium, natural oils, vitamins, and carbohydrates that nourish and soften your hair and strengthen it. Avocados are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and essential amino acids.

  • Mash an avocado and a banana until there are no lumps. 
  • Add a teaspoon of oil to this mixture and mix well.
  • Apply this mixture to your hair and leave it in for an hour.
  • Rinse the mask out with cool water.
  • Shampoo and condition.

Mayonnaise-egg hair mask: Both mayonnaise and egg are rich in protein. This is the perfect DIY hair mask for taming frizz.

  • Combine an egg and 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise until they form a smooth paste.
  • Apply this mixture to your hair and leave it for 30-45 minutes.
  • Wash off with shampoo and condition.

Yogurt-cream-egg hair mask: Any hair mask that contains yogurt is excellent for cleaning your scalp and hair shafts. Yogurt removes build-up while moisturizing and nourishing your strands.

  • Mix an egg, 1 tablespoon of cream and 2 tablespoons of yogurt until you get a smooth paste.
  • Apply the mask to your scalp and hair.
  • Leave it on for 45 minutes.
  • Rinse the pack out with cool water.
  • Shampoo and condition your hair.

Summing up keratin protein hair treatments

Your hair needs protein, especially damaged hair care routine doesn’t include protein treatments, it’s time to step up your game. Hair is almost entirely composed of protein, and once it’s compromised, the only way to repair it is with more protein. Adding a protein hair treatment into your regular rotation is essential for hair growth and your best defense against split-ends and breakage from everyday styling and wear-and-tear; especially if you have chemically treated hair. If you’re wondering how to repair damaged hair a protein treatment reinforces your hair strands, giving you healthy hair that’s shiny and strong.

by Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor

Photos by @goldandglowco

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