As I’m often asked questions regarding my hair and questions in general about hair care etc, I thought I would do a Q & A section to address these specific questions rather than limiting my response to the emails exclusively. That way we can all learn together and I can get feedback.
The question I was asked below, is in response to my Ten Commandment post where I said that I do not use regular conditioner as a leave-in. The reasons ‘I’ do not use a regular conditioner as a leave-in are as follows:
‘WHY NOT USE CONDITIONER AS A LEAVE IN’
Firstly we need to look at what a conditioner is and what role it plays. The basic answer is a conditioner is formulated to restore moisture and improve the hairs manageability. They tend to work on the ‘surface’ of the hair by adsorption, not to be confused by absorption (adsorption means the molecules accumulate on the surface of your hair, It’s different from absorption in that it doesn’t penetrate, but rather sits on top of the hair fibre). A conditioning agent (i.e. BTMS-Behentrimonium Methosulfate ) is a cationic quaternary compound that i’s positively charged. It is attracted to your negatively charged hair fibre and clings on to the surface. A cationic quatenary is also what’s known as hydrophobic (scared of water) which means It’s resistant to removal by water alone. Doesn’t mean it won’t come clean and cause build up, but rather It won’t rinse off when you rinse your hair after applying the conditioner. It will rinse off once you wash your hair with shampoo.
This is my case in point: Regular conditioners are formulated with ingredients in larger percentages that would not be used in a leave-in conditioners. For instance, if I’m making a regular conditioner, I will add something like Panthenol in a larger percentage then I would in a leave-in conditioner. If I was to add the same percentage in my leave-in that I do in the regular conditioner, it would dry my hair out!! Also most commercial conditioners contain a small amount of detergent. The fact that detergent along with things like silicones, protein, cosmetic fragrances etc will remain on the hair (until it’s shampooed out) in larger doses then would have been used in a leave-in product, doesn’t excite me to be leaving it on my hair for upwards of 2 wks before I wash my hair again. Also, If you have sensitive skin, the ingredients used in a regular conditioner may cause irritation if left on too long as a leave-in. This may be conveyed as drier hair. As I always say, these are just my views, many people use regular conditioner as a leave-in without any obvious detrimental effect. I feel if the same product was suppose to be used for 2 purposes then there would be just that 1 product for those 2 purposes….
Additionally, although our hair is drier in nature, we have to be careful not to over moisturise. Regular conditioners contain a considerable amount of cationic ingredients whereas leave-ins contains more water and less conditioning agent. Using regular conditioner as intended, will deposit enough conditioning agent to support our hair until the next wash/conditioning session.
I hope this answered your question. It’s not as concise as I would’ve liked, but it’s hard to explain everything in a small sentence.
02/03/2012 at 22:28
So, my question is how do you know if your doesn’t like protein, my hair feels a bit fragile and I’m thinking it needs moisture and protein but I’m not sure if my hair actually likes protein.
If after using protein, your hair becomes drier, feels straw like, breaks easily, mats and tangles, then I think its safe to say that your hair doesn’t like protein. At least not that ‘type’ of protein. But isn’t all proteins the same you may ask? and why do we need protein? Well lets look at the different types of proteins and what they do.
So why do we need protein? Well, hair is protein, a couple of layers of intertwined keratin that “grows” from hair follicles.
Externally, protein helps coat the hair, filling in your hair shaft, adding strength to your tresses. Think of your hair like shingles on a roof. After years of heavy rain, snow, damaging sunlight, those shingles become brittle, they break, they lift and they tear. As a result, maintenance and upkeep is required. Likewise hair, with all that we do to it (blow drying, hot plates, relaxers, washing) does the same thing. Think of it as external protein being the replacement shingles for your old roof.
Lets look at some of the more popular proteins:
Oat protein tends to be a higher molecular weight, meaning it is better for film forming and conditioning. Being higher molecular means it’s not going to be as penetrative as something like silk, which is a lower molecular weight.
The molecular weight is important because the lower the molecular weight, the more likely the protein will actually penetrate the hair and act as a humectant in the stratum corneum or cortex.
Silk Protein as we’ve just previously mentioned tends to be low molecular.This means it is good for drawing water internally for dry hair.
Wheat Protein is also low molecular weight so it easily penetrates the hair shaft, thereby increasing the hair’s ability to retain moisture and impart shine and gloss to damaged and dull hair. Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein builds body, reduces porosity, improves hair manageability, improves luster and smoothness.
So you need to look at what your hair likes, high molecular or low molecular?, penetrative or film forming?. Bear in mind that lower molecular penetrates and draws water internally so this may not be ideal for your hair if you already have frizzy hair, for obvious reasons. You may require something that coats rather than penetrates, like Oat protein.
The good thing is, so called ‘protein damage’ isnt really damage, it’s just a symptom of protein overload or sensitivity. Initially you may want to return to a non protein regime, just adding in more moisture until your hairs back to its soft self. This most likely won’t be immediate but rather may take a few washes to correct the problem. Start with a clarifying wash to help rid the hair of any excess product buildup. Deep condition for 30-45 minutes with heat once or twice a week with a thick, creamy moisturizing deep conditioner. But remember the unique relationship that exists between the protein and moisture balance within the hair strand and that neither can work well without the other. Keeping the hair balanced between these two is very important to the overall health of your hair.
I suggest you try two separate products which contain two different types of protein and see how your hair responds to the product. I also think it’s a good idea to use a light protein followed by a deep conditioner every time you wash your hair. You can try adding coconut milk in your conditioner or mayonaise for a dose of light protein. If your hair requires something a bit more hard core, then maybe try a heavy duty treatment like the ApHogee 2-Step which is recommended for severe breakage. I find that using henna monthly, ensures that I don’t require hard core protein treatments. Although henna isn’t a protein, I personally feel its acts like a protein in the strength it affords my strands so this might be something you may want to try.
I hope this helps.
- Protein & Moisture – A Balancing Act (fortheloveofkinks.wordpress.com)