Regimen Building: Adding Strength

Why Add Strength?
You want to add strength, or more specifically protein, to your hair because it adds structure to the hair shaft making it more resistant to breakage and more capable of retaining moisture.  Our hair is made up of proteins but chemical treatments and heat tools can deplete it of some of it's structural components.  Protein treatments and/or other hair products containing proteins allow us to reinforce our hair strands adding strength where those structural components may be missing.  But be careful about adding too much protein because that results in hair that is too stiff which leads to brittle/breakage-prone hair.  

How to Find
The most popular method for adding strength to your hair regimen is to do a protein treatment.  These products will typically be labeled as such or they'll include buzz words like Protein, Strength, (Re)Structure, Keratin, or Amino Acids.  Protein treatments are recommended for those who use chemical treatments, heat tools and/or have fine hair strands (i.e. "damaged" hair).  But every head of hair doesn't need a protein treatment.  That's where protein based hair products come in handy.  A lot of times products not labeled as a protein treatment will also have proteins in them.  Using these types of hair products can be an easy way for someone who may not need a super serious protein treatment to add strength to their hair regimen.  Check the ingredients lists on your hair products for these popular proteins*: 
Animal Protein 
Human Hair Keratin
Keratin Protein
Vegetable Protein
Collagen Protein
Silk Protein
Soy Protein
Wheat Protein

*These ingredients may be modified by the words "hydrolyzed" or "amino acids" signifying that it can get deep into the hair shaft (i.e. "deep conditioning").

Rules of Thumb:
  1. The stronger the protein treatment the less frequently you should use it.  
  2. Strong protein treatments should be followed up with a moisturizing deep conditioning treatment (these strong protein treatments will inform you of this on their instructions: follow them).
Depending upon what protein your protein treatment contains and it's location on the ingredients list will guide you on the strength of your protein treatment.  As you check your labels at home you will find that some hair products labeled as moisturizing contain proteins as well.  These types of hair products also count as ways to add protein to your hair regimen.  For More Guidance on discerning the different strengths of your protein based hair products: Check Out This Post.

When To Add Strength
The wash day before Chemical Treatments (i.e. Relaxers) - adds structure and reinforces the hair shaft in preparation for your harsh chemical treatments, which can deplete the hair of it's protein.

When you plan to use Heat Tools (i.e. blow dryers, flat irons, etc) - adds structure to the hair shaft to prevent permanent damage (don't be like this poor girl).  It also helps to ensure smoother/silkier results (which is why hair companies like to label their protein based hair products as "smoothing," "smooth," "silk," or "sleek").

What about adding protein more regularly?  The finer your hair strand the more frequently you will find that you can get away with incorporating protein based products into your hair regimen.  Similarly if you use heat and/or perform chemical treatments on your hair you may find that your hair benefits from adding some protein based products to your hair regimen.  Just remember that you know your hair better than anyone else so only you will be able to tell how much protein you should/can use in your hair.  For all of us who have figured it out it's just been trial and error. 

How I Add Strength
Protein Treatments: I do a moderate protein treatment every other month and the week before my relaxer application.
Protein Based Hair Products: I incorporate these when I use heat.

Currently In My Hair Product Stash
Yup, these all contain at least one protein.

How do you incorporate protein into your hair regimen?

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