Hair needs moisture to retain its elasticity. Without it, hair will easily break off. Supple and moist hair is needed to endure manipulation from styling, washing, heat styling, etc. The only true moisturizer is water-nothing else. Make sure that your moisturizing products are water based or they are ineffective at properly moisturizing hair.
Though moisture is needed to retain length, too much of it can cause breakage. Many contributing factors of moisture overload is deep conditioning for long periods of time or too often, excess moisturizing between wash days, and hygral fatigue. Hygral fatigue is when the hair absorbs too much water during swimming, washing, etc. When the hair absorbs too much water, it swells. This swelling overtime can cause hair to crack which causes split ends and sometimes breakage.
When hair is exposed to too much water it can degrade the external cuticle structure, which is the structure that protects the hair from breakage. To give an example, both our nails and hair are made from a protein called keratin. When you expose your nails to water for an extended period of time, they become soft and brittle. This exact thing happens to our hair. Moisture is good for our hair, but too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.
Moisture overload is over moisturizing or exposing hair to too much water. An imbalance of moisture within the hair can make the hair overly soft and weak. To know if you have moisture overload, your hair will either stretch excessively or feel gummy and mushy. Moisture overload can easily be corrected with one use of a protein treatment. The severity of the moisture overload determines if your hair will need a light or intense protein treatment. I would suggest doing the latter if a light protein doesn’t correct it.
Hair is made of 80-90% of a protein called keratin. Though our hair is made of protein, protein treatments are necessary in a healthy hair regimen to reinforce strength back into the hair. Our hair loses strength through styling, washing, and chemical processes. A lot of this loss is endured by the external structure of our hair which is called the cuticle. The cuticle structure helps to protect our hair. The healthier the cuticle is, the more length retention one will have. Normal wear and tear of the cuticle calls for use of light and intense protein treatments.
The proteins in light and intense protein treatments adsorb to the hair cuticle and fill in any gaps to reinforce strength into the hair shaft. These treatments contribute to optimal length retention and aid in preventing breakage. The proteins that are in this treatments are hydrolyzed proteins. Hydrolyzed protein is protein that has been broken down to stick to hair better and longer. It is better to use treatments with hydrolyzed protein for it to effectively adhere and strengthen hair. Homemade concoctions with egg, mayo, and ranch dressing (just kidding) are not beneficial as protein treatments. However, unflavored gelatin can be used as a homemade protein treatment because it is hydrolyzed collagen. Protein treatments are temporary. Depending on the intensity of the treatment, it can last for weeks.
All hair types need protein, some more than others. Especially those that chemically straightened or color their hair because these treatments usually affect the hair’s protein structure. Since hair is made up of 80-90% protein, a good rule of thumb is to use protein products for 10-20% of your hair care practices and moisture for 80-90%.
Protein overload is when too many protein products have been applied to hair. Hair in this condition is stiff, dry, and can easily break. Though protein overload is reversible through moisturizing deep conditioners, it may take a few treatments for hair to return to a balanced state. Make sure to always apply a moisturizing deep conditioner after an intense protein treatment to bring elasticity and a balance of moisture back into the hair. Check out the Hair Regimen Builder for examples of protein and moisture products.