The Science Behind How Protein Treatments Work to Repair Hair

Protein treatments are strand savers that work to repair hair damage. But how do they do this exactly? Let’s talk about the science of it all.

Hair is made of protein chains.

These chains run lengthwise within the hair shaft, the Cortex. The chains provide the tensile or “stretching” strength of each hair strand. The cross links between these chains determine the hair type (Curly, Wavy or  Straight). In an oversimplified picture, the chains are like the rails of a ladder and the rungs. This structure is enclosed in a sheath of protein “plates”, the Cuticle, that protects the hair structure.

Why the need for protein treatments?

Just from daily styling and maintenance (combing, brushing, braiding) we end up breaking the cross links. If you choose to use chemicals like relaxer or hair dye also expect to have some changes to your protein structure. With frequent manipulation (which can sometimes be hard to avoid) and consistent use of chemicals the chains (rails) themselves break, resulting in hair damage. The protein chains don’t re-bond on their own so your hair ends up getting weaker. Each use of chemicals, heat styling or hair color lifts the Cuticle (protective plates). It never really closes back down as tightly afterwards, so the hair becomes more vulnerable (Something to definitely consider before using chemicals or heat on your hair!)

So how do protein treatments come into play? How do they work to strengthen your hair? 

Here’s the breakdown: your hair is made of protein, but through normal wear and tear or use of chemicals and heat your hair strands get holes in them (damaged areas). The hair protein treatment fills in these holes with protein, so essentially it’s a patch job that boosts the strength of your hair!

What kind of protein treatments work best?

Applying unprocessed protein (or DIY Protein Treatments) to the hair may fill some spots in the damaged areas, mainly the outer Cuticle layer, temporarily, but mostly washes off.

In order to do the best job re-bonding the broken protein chains, you need to:

1) Choose the right protein source. One that contains a high percentage of sulfur containing building blocks (Amino Acids) is best.
2) You then “chop” the protein into it’s smaller sections, Polypeptides and smaller Amino Acids. These can penetrate and under the right conditions bond into the hair to re-link the broken protein chains and repair cuticle damage.
Another key for long lasting repair is to apply the protein under acid pH and with few other conditioning agents. This is the best environment for re-bonding broken hair bonds, as the amino acids won’t face other “competing” sites for bonding.

While protein is very good for repair and strengthening and somewhat of a humectant for moisture retention, it is not the best ingredient for smoothing , adding shine or softening brittle hair.

Which is why it is crucial to follow up with deep conditioning the hair thoroughly afterward. Skipping this step is why some naturals may not have the best experience, don’t forget to deep condition and moisturize well afterward!

The most intensive hair protein treatment by ApHogeee, The Two Step Protein Treatment has results that last up to 6 weeks.

The new, easy to use and more suitable for at home use Hair Strengthening Kit both utilize two step processes; protein first, emollients, most moisturizers shine agents and sealers second. You only need to use the treatment for 5 minutes and followup with the conditioner afterward, no dryer of any kind is needed. The results are also long lasting, up to 4 weeks! Not just a few shampooings.

The Hair Strengthening Kit is now available at select Target stores along with the  Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor, the Keratin & Green Tea Restructurizer and shampoo. You can enter in your zip to see if it is offered at your location.

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