How to Balance Moisture and Protein in Black Hair

Keep your hair strong yet soft with moisture and protein.
iconogenic/E+/Getty Images

You know that your hair needs both moisture and protein, but when it comes to how much or how often you need them, you might be at a loss. Unfortunately, there's no magic formula that can determine how much moisture and protein your tresses need. Add factors like chemical processes, daily styling routines and even porosity, and you can see why it's not that simple. Here's how to determine general guidelines on how to create a good moisture/protein balance for you.

How Much Moisture Does Black Hair Need?

Black hair needs moisture, and usually lots of it. The tendency for black hair to be dry by nature means that you should be proactive in adding and retaining moisture for optimal health. You add moisture several ways:

  • Cleansing
  • Conditioning
  • Deep conditioning

Regular exposure to water maintains softness, which is why regular cleansing is key. Add conditioning after each shampoo, and deep conditioning at least twice per month, and you have a good start at well-moisturized tresses.

However, you'll probably find moisturizing treats throughout the week helpful as well. Creams, oils and lotions help seal in moisture, which is why it's best to apply these products to damp hair. Water or water-based products are the best foundation for that. Depending on your hair's unique makeup, you might find daily moisturizing necessary, or once-a-week applications more than enough.

You may also find your moisture needs changing throughout the year, so be prepared to tweak your routine as required.

When it comes to moisture, everyone needs it.

Does Your Hair Need Protein?

Hair is made up of protein, so yes, you need it, but maybe not as much as you think. Protein strengthens the hair, but treatments are often drying, so you don't want to overdo them.

You need more protein if your tresses are:

  • Relaxed
  • Heat styled frequently
  • Colored
  • Damaged

Just because you need more protein doesn't mean you need a lot of it. Light protein in the form of a leave-in conditioner may be enough. For most women, the only time an intense product like ApHogee Two-Step Protein Treatment is required is due to severe damage and breakage (i.e., a relaxer gone wrong). Otherwise, any of these products should suffice with providing enough protein on an occasional basis, about once or twice per week or less. You can find them at major retailers like Target or Walmart, beauty supply stores or chains like Sally, and the links below will take you to Amazon.

What if you don't color, chemically process or heat style your hair at all? Your protein needs are much less than someone who does. You may find you never need to apply additional protein to your hair, and that's fine. If you do feel your mane needs a boost of strengthening, try a gentle product like the Aubrey Organics GPB cleanser and conditioner on occasion.

Follow Protein With Moisture

Anytime you apply an intense protein treatment, you must follow up with a deeply moisturizing conditioner. If you don't, you run the risk of brittle, damaged hair, which is exactly what you're trying to fix or prevent in the first place.

As a general guideline, start by making sure your hair gets twice as many moisturizing treatments as protein. Women who do a lot to their hair probably need weekly protein, but not intense ones. This means you have to deep condition your hair frequently, as well.

It's not always easy finding a good moisture-protein balance, but when you're familiar with your hair and its needs, you'll know when to add or cut back on the various components required for healthy tresses.