Protein treatments for curly hair come in “different sizes and shapes”, meaning some will have a more intense action on your hair than others and although many people stay away from them, labelling themselves as ‘protein sensitive’, they are necessary for any hair regimen as they strengthen your curly hair.
Even though much focus is given to what we apply on our curly hair and the beneficial effects a product can have on it, what we ingest – our diet – also has an important impact on our hair. Having a balanced and diverse diet will not only keep you healthy but your hair too (Quick tip: make it as colourful as possible). You can read these post for more on diet and protein:
Protein is the main component of hair and even though it is dead its health (look and feel) deteriorates through the action of free radicals, exposure to the sun, water, manipulation, hair tools, etc. In order to prevent, minimise and even improve hair its condition, the protein in our hair needs to be protected, maintained and strengthened.
Alongside a proper diet, you need to ‘feed’ your hair with products that contain protein. Proteins are large molecules whose smaller constituents parts are amino acids. They can be broken down into smaller sizes, some will bind to the hair shaft to fill in cracks and holes, giving your hair a smooth feel, others will penetrate to bind with the protein bonds inside your hair making it stronger and more elastic and others will have both actions.
The best proteins to look for are hydrolyzed proteins, they have been broken down into small a size that is able to penetrate your hair. If you get into the habit of reading the ingredient’s list of products (and you should!) you will find vegetable and animal proteins like wheat, soy, collagen, amino acids, keratin or silk protein, which can be hydrolyzed or not. Alternatively, you can also find seaweed or algae which lend strengthening properties to your hair.
To assess your protein hair needs you need to consider your hair’s current health and your hair routine habits (use of heat, dyes or bleach, chlorine, etc.). If your hair is really damaged – dyed, bleached or heat damaged – you’ll need more protein in your hair routine than healthy undamaged hair (once every 4 – 8 weeks). And if it’s mildly damaged, you may need to alternate moisture and protein treatments.
However, it is also good to know that fine hair may like or react better to protein than thicker or coarser hair as its fine texture means it gets more easily damaged so protein needs to be restored more frequently. However, a too strong or too frequent treatment can have an adverse effect on fine curly hair. My tip is for you to space your treatments as damage decrease or condition improves. Read Know Your Deep Conditioners & Jump-Start Your Results to know more.
In broad terms, to know how strong your protein treatment is, look at the number of proteins it has, if they’re hydrolysed (stronger) and for their position in the ingredients list. The closer they are to the first ingredients the stronger the treatment is. If they are closest to the bottom ingredients the treatment is light. Though most protein treatments these days are formulated to not leave your hair dry and stiff it may still happen.
If you feel your hair is unusually dry after your treatment, follow it with a moisturising treatment (I always do, just to keep things safe). Still, I advise you not to do overnight deep conditioning to increase moisture, there are some real risks to it.Why?! Well, read here.
Below, you will find a list of protein treatments or deep conditioning treatments that will help ‘feed’, protect and strengthen your curly hair. Please note that none of these treatments is sufficiently strong to address issues of severely damaged hair (bleached or dyed, with extreme breakage or regular use of heat). However, you can still benefit from them, but a treatment like Aphogee 2 Step Protein Treatment would be better.
The treatments in here are more geared for mild (regular breakage, occasional use of heat) or light hair repair (no use of heat, dye or bleach, little breakage).
#1| Aubrey Organics Balancing Protein Conditioner GPB
Though it’s not named as a treatment or deep conditioner, this mighty conditioner has the power to work as one fulfilling your hair’s protein needs. It is filled with glycoprotein and milk protein to restore your hair’s manageability and increase softness. Glycoproteins are said to be helpful in repairing weak and damaged hair fibre. Although it is labelled for normal hair (let’s just say like Shea Moisture, ALL hair is normal), you will see this conditioner if filled with emollients and moisture-infusing ingredients such as aloe vera juice, fatty alcohols, shea butter and glycerin.
Ingredients: Aloe barbadensis leaf juice*, butyrospermum parkii (shea butter) fruit*, cetyl alcohol (from coconut oil), glyceryl stearate (from vegetable oils), cetearyl alcohol (from coconut oil), caprylic/capric triglyceride (from coconut oil), leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate, alcohol denat.* (38b, lavender), glycerin*, milk protein, lactobacillus eriodictyon californicum ferment extract**, phospholipids**, stearic acid, tussilago farfara (coltsfoot) leaf extract, equisetum hiemale (horsetail) extract, urtica dioica (nettle) extract, salvia officinalis (sage) oil*, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil*, sodium cocoyl glutamate (from coconut oil), citrus grandis (grapefruit) extract, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), hydrolyzed wheat protein (gluten-free), stearyl dimonium hydroxypropyl laurylglucosides chloride (biodegradable, from coconut oil), natural fragrance‡‡. *Certified organic **Glycoprotein ‡‡Natural isolate blend sourced from essential oils
Buy here: Amazon
Price from: £12.37
#2| Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair!
This is a deep conditioning mask appropriate to hydrate your delicate curly hair and, if you have healthy hair, will maintain its structure and grant resilience from external damage. It has no silicones, parabens or sulphates.
Ingredients: Water, Stearyl Alcohol*, Cetyl Alcohol*, Brassicyl Isoleucinate Esylate*, Propanediol*, Brassica Alcohol*, Isopropyl Myristate*, Panthenol, Biotin, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Algae Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Laurus Nobilis Leaf Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Cetrimonium Chloride*, Cetyl Esters*, Glycerin*, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Oil, Citrus Tangerina (Tangerine) Peel Oil, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Oil, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Isododecane, Fragrance, Benzyl Alcohol, Dehydroacetic Acid. *Coconut, vegetable, or plant derived.
Buy here: Amazon, Beauty By Zara, Beauty Bay
Price from: £22.10
#3| Ouidad Curl Restoration Therapy
This hair product is chock full of strengthening ingredients (especially amino acids) that will rebuild and fortify the cortex of your hair. A true hair therapy for your hair that also promises to improve the shape and definition of your curls. This product has parabens, so heads up to those who avoid this ingredient.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Cetyl Alcohol, Lactamide MEA, Stearyl Alcohol, Sorbitol, Stearalkonium Chloride, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate, Isopropyl Myristate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ribes Nigrum (Black Currant) Seed Oil, Panthenol (Provitamin B5), Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Cystine Bis-PG-Propyl Silanetriol, Sodium PCA, Betaine, Glycine, Alanine, Proline, Serine, Threonine, Arginine, Lysine, Glutamic Acid, Myristamine Oxide, Polyquaternium-11, Butylene Glycol, Polyquaternium-59, Disodium EDTA, Caprylyl Glycol, Propylparaben, Hexylene Glycol, Methylparaben, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance (Parfum).
Buy here: Amazon
Price: £73.20 (Ouch, I know! Share if you find any cheaper.)
#4| Mahogany Naturals Coconut Water Restorative Hair Mask
Named by UK media, The Independent, ‘the best curly hair deep treatment’, this protein hair mask has silk amino acids that will bond with the keratin in your hair to strengthen it. It will also create a protective layer that will add shine and smoothness to your natural hair. Most, if not all, ingredients will be recognisable to you as those to look for in your hair products.
Ingredients: (Aloe Barbadensis) Aloe vera, Coconut water, Organic castor oil, (Ricinus communis) Shea butter, Organic coconut oil (Cocos nucifera). Organic honey (Prunus Dulcis), Sweet almond oil, (Tocopherol,) vitamin E, Vegetable glycerine. (Olea Europaea) Extra Virgin olive oil, silk amino acids, cetearyl alcohol, optiphen.
Buy here: Mahogany Naturals
#5| Curly By Nature Intensive Conditioning Mask
A hair mask from a UK brand made with 100% natural ingredients that promise to nourish, feed and penetrate your hair strands. The phytokeratin in it is a plant-derived hydrolyzed protein from corn, wheat or soy that will help you reach hair health and balance.
Ingredients: Avocado Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Pumpkin Seed Oil, Shea Butter, Phytokeratin, Provitamin B5.
Buy here: Curly By Nature
#6| Tropic Isle Living Black Castor Oil Protein Conditioner
Ingredients in this conditioning mask couldn’t be more known or natural than the ones you find in this jar. Mayonnaise is an ingredient often used in DIY concoctions for its ability to provide strength, softness and shine to the hair. I’ve even shared my own recipe here. However, because the protein in it is not hydrolyzed it will not be able to penetrate the hair strand since it is too big. Instead, it will work on the outer structure of the hair, the cuticle layers, it is, therefore, a light treatment.
Ingredients: Mayonnaise, Jamaican Black Castor Oil, Vitamin E, Avocado Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar, Mustard Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Lavender Oil, Pimento Oil.
Buy here: Amazon, Beauty By Zara
#7| Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow & Restore Treatment Masque
Though my hair is not chemically damaged, I’ve had the pleasure to try this mask and the leave-in conditioner from this line and I can only say good things about it (you can read my review for the leave-in conditioner here). As always Shea moisture delivers on its promises – protein strengthens from the inside while healthy fatty acids from castor oil provide nutrition to restore the hair and ingredients like peppermint and vinegar keep your scalp healthy for hair growth. Marvellous! (Don’t know why, but this mask a chocolaty scent to me… hmmm!)
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Cetyl Alcohol, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Glycerin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Stearyl Alcohol, Fragrance (Essential Oil Blend), Behentrimonium Chloride, Panthenol, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein PG-Propyl Silanetriol, Cetrimonium Chloride, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil*, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Mauritia Flexuosa Fruit Oil, Yeast Extract, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Vinegar, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Acetyl Tetrapeptide-3, Niacin, Dextran, Trifolium Pratense (Clover) Flower Extract, Caramel, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract
Buy here: Amazon, Beauty By Zara, British Curlies, Naturalistic Products, My Luxe Beauty,
Price from: £10.99