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Moisture vs Protein: Can Anti-Breakage Amplify Breakage?

Trend to trend, year to year, our hair is always changing. Much like our bodies, our hair requires a certain amount of regimented refreshment. And as skincare routines evolve and expand, hair routines have been doing the same. Masks, serums, and overnight treatments all feel so luxurious, but are we going overboard? Are these multi-step processes actually harming our tresses rather than helping? The short answer: not necessarily. But in order to maximize your hair’s health and avoid doing further damage, you get to know your own locks and do some research before grabbing every anti-breakage product off the shelf. Below, we’ll help you determine if moisture vs protein is right for your hair, along with how to combat breakage caused by an excess of both.

Photo of top knot hair style in need of moisture and protein balance
(via Unsplash)

Moisture vs Protein: What Do I Need?

The first step in understanding your hair’s specific needs is to understand the difference between moisture and protein. Hair needs an equal balance, so it is crucial to incorporate both into your routine. Protein is an important part of this balance as hair is mostly made up of keratin, which in itself is a type of protein. A healthy amount of protein will make locks longer, stronger, and thicker. If your hair is feeling brittle and won’t grow past a certain length, you likely aren’t getting enough protein.

Moisture is the yin to protein’s yang. It is the key to keeping hair from getting thin, brittle, and dry. Moisture is the one responsible for that shiny yet soft feeling we all desire. When the two are in balance we get a strong and healthy end result. If you’re experiencing an increase in frizz and static, you likely aren’t getting enough moisture.

A photo of healthy balanced curls that have enough moisture and protein | Mane Addicts
(via Unsplash)

Am I Overloaded on Moisture, Protein, or Both?

Hair can easily go into what we call “overload.” A protein overload will actually cause more breakage. If you’re noticing more split ends, more tangles, and more broken hair in the sink when styling, you might be experiencing a protein overload. Other signs include increased shedding, lack of shine, and a stiff, almost straw-like feel to your lengths.

Alternatively, moisture overload will make hair look flat, limp, and overly greasy. If you’re noticing a stringy, lifeless feel to your hair then moisture overload may be the culprit. Too much moisture can also cause excess breakage and split ends, similar to protein overload. 

A photo showing how to avoid overload in your hair and gain balance | Mane Addicts
(via Unsplash)

Avoiding Overload and Gaining Balance

When choosing products for your hair care routine, keep these facts in the back of your mind. Products boasting the moisture benefit are usually easier to spot as “moisture” is often a part of the name, or written directly into the description. Protein-based products can be harder to spot. Anything labeled “anti-breakage” or “strength and repair” is a protein-based product. You can also check the ingredients on the back of the bottle. If you see keratin, amino acids, soy protein, oat flour, or hydrolyzed collagen, then you are using a protein-based product. 

The key to balance and harmony for your hair is moderation. Remember to alternate! Don’t reach for protein every day, and don’t always reach for moisture. In general, protein-based products should be used one to two times per week. Moisture-based products can be used one to three times per week depending on the season (we all need a boost in the colder months). But don’t think this is limited to scheduling certain shampoos on certain days, you can layer and combine. Try using a moisture routine in the shower and a protein-based product when you style, or vice versa. You can also incorporate masks and overnight treatments depending on how often you wash your hair. It may take some time to find your perfect balance, but the end results are worth it. 

Remember, we don’t want to avoid these ingredients, but to balance them. Hair already contains protein and moisture, and it’s up to us to recognize what we need and when we need it.

The path to truly healthy hair starts internally. HERE are several natural supplements and vitamins to add to your diet for healthy, happy hair!



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