Breakage Vs Shedding Part 2 (The Moisture/Protein Balance)

So, I'd been talking about the difference between shedding and breakage and I think I gave shedding it's fair share of attention in Part 1 so it's time for breakage to take center stage! Before I continue though it is important to stress this point:

There is no single product alone that will fight breakage! Breakage is multi faceted - therefore regardless of whatever is being touted as the latest 'anti breakage' serum/lotion/cream/potion; you need to first determine WHAT is causing your breakage before going on a spending spree, donating your money to companies for products that will not address your particular breakage issue!!! 

Okay, seeing as I've gotten that off my chest, let's proceed :)

Breakage could be caused by a number of reasons and I will start with what I think is a major one:

1. Moisture/Protein imbalance:
Our hair strands are made up of Keratin ( a fibrous structure of proteins containing several amino acids), water and lipids. The keratin structure controls the strength of the hair fiber which is why most (if not all) products targeted towards breakage contain some sort of protein. However, not all breakage is due to a lack of protein within the hair's fiber.

Overloading on protein will cause moisture deficiency leading to breakage while over moisturizing can lead to protein deficient breakage. It is about finding the right balance and rotating your moisture and protein based products - whether they are deep conditioners, rinse out conditioners, leave in conditioners or daily moisturizers. ( Protein products generally have the following ingredients: Silk amino acids and/or other amino acids, keratin, hydrolyzed silk protein, hydrolyzed wheat protein, oat protein, cholestrol, collagen, milk protein, soy protein etc)

Moisture (water or water based products) provides the fibers with elasticity enabling them to stretch while protein will bind to the hair's structure - helping to fill weak areas while giving hair strength and structure.

To find out whether your strands are lacking either moisture or protein, a simple strand test while your hair is freshly washed and still wet is all that's needed. Take a strand of hair and stretch it, making a note of what happens when it is stretched:

A. If it stretches and stretches before finally breaking then your hair probably lacks structure to it and you need a protein fix.
B. If it barely stretches and just snaps off then you probably have more protein than moisture and need to infuse moisture into your strands.

Ideally, hair should stretch and then return to its original state. The presence of moisture will enable it to stretch while protein gives it strength preventing it from breaking.

When hair lacks moisture it is hard, dry, crunchy, breaking all over the place and feels rough - you will need to infuse more moisture on a daily or weekly basis - Daily moisturizing with a water based moisturizer and following up with a natural oil to lock in the moisture. Also washing weekly with a moisture based shampoo and following up with a moisturizing deep conditioner will quickly help infuse moisture back into the hair strands.

I have a lot of people who come by and say they're moisturizing daily but their hair is still hard. On further inquiry, it turns out they're using shea butter with oils. OILS AND BUTTERS DO NOT MOISTURIZE they only seal in the moisture you have already put into your hair. If there is no moisture, shea butter will not moisturize your hair. You need to first use a water based moisturizer, then follow up with a butter or an oil to lock in the moisture.

When hair lacks protein it is mushy, limp, looks lifeless and is in desperate need of some structure and strength. A reconstructor or heavy protein is a quick fix for hair in this state as the protein will bind to the hair's shaft, temporary rebuilding the weak areas and reinforcing the strands.

 The Aphogee 2 step treatment is a popular one in this category and helps to stop bad breakage caused by a lack of protein. It should however only be used every 6 weeks otherwise you end up with protein overload - hard, crunchy, stiff hair that is a tangled mess - This is a little harder to recover from as you'd need to clarify your hair first and then begin to gradually infuse moisture over time.

 If your protein deficient breakage is not 'severe' a medium protein like the ORS Hair Mayonnaise could just do the trick. I've also found that the ORS replenishing conditioner is a great aid for hair with breakage that is not too severe because it functions both as a light protein and moisturizing conditioner.

Please note that these are products that have silicones in them so if you are averse to using 'cones, there are alternatives like the Aubrey Organics GPB, Shea Radiance Keratin Mask, Giovanni smooth as silk conditioner or even making your own conditioner with eggs mayonnaise and olive oil.

Ideally (particularly for relaxed and transitioning ladies) after doing a heavy protein like the 2 step treatment, you could use a light protein weekly or every other week - rotating it with your moisturizing deep conditioner, in order to get the right moisture/protein balance.

Apart from deep conditioners, your daily moisturizers could also be protein based and you should also rotate these with your moisture based daily moisturizers. Popular protein based daily moisturizers are the Cantu Shea Butter Leave in Conditioning Cream, Elasta QP Olive Oil and Mango Butter Moisturizer and Wave Nouveau lotion. More natural options include the old formula Giovanni Direct Leave in.

Natural hair does not need protein as often   (except where it's regularly exposed to heat styling tools, coloring and other processes that undermine the hair's structure) and can thrive on a light to medium protein fix every other week or once a month.

Having said that, I will reiterate yet again that NO TWO HEADS OF HAIR ARE THE SAME - you need to be able to 'listen' to your hair and determine what it's responding to and what it pretty much hates. It really starts with you taking responsibility for your hair's health.

Now you see why it is dangerous, buying products just because it worked for your friend or because it is being marketed as 'anti breakage' without first understanding what is causing your breakage.If your breakage is caused by a moisture deficiency and you buy a product that is only going to bind more protein to your hair, all you will end up with is even more moisture deficient breakage.

Part 3 Coming up soon!


  1. Great post!we may not be commenting but we are reading pls keep posting.

  2. Thank you! I definitely will - hope the info helps?

  3. This was very helpful... do you have the products you listed here?

    1. I'm glad it was! I have some of them - the ones I don't are easily accessible in a few stores in Lagos