SO FINE: Protein. How a good thing can be too much.
For some of us with fine hair, protein-packed deep conditioners can work MIRACLES. If you’re like me, protein conditioners clump our coils together, strengthen our strands, and give weight to our otherwise lightweight strands. However, for others, protein can wreak havoc their heads by making their strands brittle, stiff, and rough. If you have experienced either end of this spectrum you’re probably wondering one question: WHAT’S UP WITH PROTEIN? And why does it have such an awesome/horrific effect on my hair?
Protein’s affect on your hair has everything to do with the porosity of your hair. To explain this more in full, we’re going to bring back our old friend Mr. Sponge. In today’s little lesson, we’re going to have the part of protein played by Elmer. Yes, as in the glue.
This sponge represents hair with low porosity.
This sponge represents hair with high porosity.
In each of these sponges, the holes represent the hair’s cuticle. (Think of a cuticle like shingles on a roof).
When protein is applied to the lo-po sponge, the holes in the surface of the sponge pull in small amounts of protein relative to the size of the entire sponge.
When you apply protein to this hi-po sponge, the protein seeps into the larger holes on the surface of the sponge. Because the holes are larger, the sponge has more surface to absorb the protein. In fact it absorbs TOO much, leaving it stuffed with protein like a Thanksgiving turkey.
As you can see there is a lot more protein intake in the hi-po sponge than the lo-po sponge.
Now applying this logic to actual hair, low porosity fine hair does well with protein because there are not as many cuticle openings. High porosity hair gets crispy because it takes too much protein in because it has more cuticle openings.
Of course there are exceptions because like glue, proteins come in many different forms and sizes. Some proteins, such as hydrolysed proteins, can actually benefit high porosity hair by working to fill in the cuticle layer. So if you have high-po hair, be sure to take a look at the product label and see if this type of protein is on there before judging it too soon.
Lo-po naturals should try using a heat cap, hooded dryer, or steamer with their deep treatments so that you can raise the cuticle layer get maximum protein benefits.
By using the right technique with and type of protein, you can be sure to find the right type of strengthening conditioner for your So Fine strands! In the next installment of the series, I’ll be going over deep conditioner how to’s and product recommendations.