Friday, February 19, 2010

My 2 cents on Protein/Texture/Porosity/Moisture Balance! :-)

So, I've gotten a lot of questions recently about Proteins, Hair porosity, Hair Texture, & Moisture which is great because it makes you think even more about the relationships that exist between things. This also ties into the quest for the "Holy Grail" product and why what works for you one day, doesn't work the next.

First let me say that we all have to remember that there are many factors that go into determining whether or not a product works for you. Here are just some things to consider (assuming you haven't found your perfect combos yet):

1)Outside Weather - including Dew points, temperature, relative humidity, wind, rain, snow, etc...
2)How you treat your hair - Do you use heat regularly? Do you color your hair? Do you sleep on a cotton pillowcase vs. satin vs. whatever... Is it damaged or generally healthy?
3)Inside Environment - Humidity - is it relatively dry or most in your home or office?
4)Hair Texture - Fine through normal through Coarse (For the sake of this article, on a 1-10 scale, I'll say that the very finest of hair is a 1 and the coarsest of hair is a 10). I find that most people who think they have really coarse hair don't. This is mainly due to frame of reference. You'd need to feel truly coarse hair (which is typically given as Asian/Native American, although I have felt variations there as well and have seen the coarsest hair in my life on a Caucasian head...2 actually...and they were both red-heads...humm...). This isn't to say that you aren't right, but it is likely that your hair is in the 6-9 range. Just as with fine hair, you'll be in the 2-4 range. It turns out, when I compare my hair strands with other folks hair, that I fall in the normal to fine range (about a 4)...that was a surprise to me!
5)Hair Porosity - Low-normal-high (which most people will not have unless their hair is damaged/bleached/etc). For the sake of this article, low porosity hair will feel smooth moving your fingers up and down the shaft and also has problems absorbing water/product/chemicals (you may see water beading up on the hair). High porosity hair will feel bumpy or a little rough (due to the cuticle layer not laying very flatly) and absorbs almost too much of everything (and will release it easily too, including moisture!).
6)Hair Density - Do you have a lot of hair on your head or very little (so you see your scalp easily)?
7)Wave/Curl Pattern - I think this a factor, although not the major one. For example, generally speaking, I think that if you have a weaker wave/curl pattern with fine-normal hair you may want to use a hard holding gel with your products to support your pattern.
8)Products you use on your hair - again, the quality, gentleness or harshness of the products you use regularly on your hair. Sometimes you can do damage with a harsh shampoo, sulfate or sulfate-free. Sometimes you need some protein and sometimes not. Sometimes you need a particular type of protein (like say the protein in an ingredient like Lecithin which even coarse heads seem to be OK with...).
9)How many times per week do you wash/condition/style your hair?
10)The temperature of the water you use to wash your hair...think about it, if you shower in hot water (like I do), then you create a great moisture rich environment for your hair to soak up almost turn your conditioners into Deep Treatments! I find that even folks who normally avoid say glycerin in products, could use it in this environment and rinse it out (making sure not to use glycerin in their stylers). The glycerin helps to soak up the moisture in the shower air (this is not scientific, just what I've found! :-P)

I'm sure I'm forgetting other factors, but as I remember them I will come back and update the list (or leave a comment with some other factors). All of these things can come into play when selecting what products to use. For me, each day is different. Worse yet, I test products it seems all the time and have been known to shampoo and condition my hair at least twice a day most days, so my hair can take a beating! Every morning I put my hands in my head and just feel it...then I see what the weather is like and make a choice. Most times I choose well, but not always!

So, do you need protein or moisture and which ones? Ok, so if you use my number scale above (based on hair texture in this case), let's make some generalizations (so exceptions will exist, this is just some advice):

Assuming you have "healthy", undamaged, normal porosity hair:
1)If you range from 1-3, you will want to regularly use products with protein in your hair to help give it body, strength and support. This means your conditioners and stylers and basically, you are free to experiment with them. I have found in general for all the hair textures, if you have normal-high porosity, you can also use products that have oils/butters in them (just not too heavy).
2)If you are in the 4-6 range, you will want to alternate using products with protein and those without protein.
3)If you are in the 7-8 range, you may want to use a conditioner with protein in it about 1 time a week. You can occasionally use stylers with protein in them, but should alternate with protein free options. Also Amino acids are a good choice for proteins since they tend to wash away easily and are less likely to build up on your hair.
4)If you are in the 9-10 range, unless your hair is damaged, use protein free products where possible. You might find you need a protein treatment once in a blue moon, but likely not.

(The hair on the left (mine) is about a 4, the one in the middle is about a 6 and the one on the right is about a 7-8. These are approximations based on my own crazy system and are estimates. As you can see, the differences between the hair strands are really small, but if you could see them live and feel the hair strands, it would be easier to see the real differences in texture. These hairs are also stretched out from their original tightly coiled (mine), curly (center), and wavy(right) patterns for the purposes of this demonstration. I hope this helps with your own comparisons! Not the best pics I know, but I'll keep adding as I get more! :-) )
As promised, above are some more fine hair strands. The one on the left is about a 1, the one in the middle is about a 2 and the one on the right is my hair strand which is about a 4.

Again, these are generalizations and the other factors may contribute to a product working for you or not...

Hope this helps and be sure to visit Curl Junkie to check out some product options! :-)


  1. Once again, you have summarized a lot of complex ideas -- information that has confused me elsewhere -- in a practical way that just makes sense! I love the photo for hair texture! Finally, something concrete to look at. Thanks for your informative (and enjoyable) blog entries!

  2. Wow, this is a great post. I was so pleased to see the coarse hair on the right. While I don't know if mine is quite that coarse, I did like seeing the bends and kinks in the hair strand because that is how my hair strands look - with those visible bends. It is nice to see that this is actually normal.

    I use your 3 routine in warm weather and your 4 routine in the winter - although it took my a lot of trial and error to get to that point, lol.

    This post makes a great all-in-one reference!!

    Interestingly, every natural redhead in my family has coarse hair.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is helping me finally figure out where I am on the texture continuum. :D

  4. Thanks so much guys! I am glad I didn't confuse folks too much and you are finding the information useful! :-)

  5. Marsha you rule the curly world lady!!!This is so enlightening, you helped me realize that even my coarse-ish hair still needs a lot more protein then I've been feeding it. Thanks so much for all your hard work, research & time you give to us!!!

  6. Great post! This really helps me to understand my hair. Plus I love your products and my hair loves them too!

  7. Wow I didn't know alot of this information. Thanx for that!