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The art of balancing Protein and Moisture

by Curl Up Team |

Hello Curlies! You must have heard time and again that moisture is your curly hair’s best friend. While it’s true that you need ample moisture to quench your curls, one must remember that hair is also made up of 80-90% of a protein called Keratin. And, it’s this protein that gives the hair its strength and structure. Thus, striking a balance between moisture and protein is essential to having bouncy, defined curls. Too much moisture can leave your hair limp, mushy and lifeless while too much protein can cause it to be brittle and straw-like. But how exactly do you figure out whether your hair needs more protein, moisture or is in a sweet spot as it is? Read on to find out!

Here's a simple, DIY test to figure out what your curls need:

Take a strand of your hair and try stretching it.

  • If it stretches quite far, feels a tad mushy and then snaps, it is indicative of the hair being over-moisturised. You may need more protein to reinforce your hair cuticle.
  • If it feels dry and brittle and snaps almost immediately, it is indicative of a protein overload. Your hair probably needs more moisture.
  • If it feels fairly smooth and stretches to a fair point without breaking and finally snaps only with extra pressure, it indicates that your hair has an optimum balance of protein and moisture.

Now that you have a fair idea on what your curls need, let’s get down to business and work on fixing it!

If your curls have too much moisture – Besides feeling limp and heavy, too much moisture on your tresses from heavy oil-based creams, balms and products makes hair lifeless and even fragile in the long-run. Don’t let this bring you down, there are many ways to bring life and shine back to your hair. If you feel like the scales are tipping towards moisture, start by clarifying regularly and go longer between washes, because more washes entails more products being used and more hydration as well. Avoid using heavy conditioners and leave-in creams and go for protein treatments to balance out the moisture levels and add strength and vitality to your curls. Now, while there are many DIY protein fixes out there including masks with eggs, yogurt and so on, the protein molecules in these treatments are often too big to penetrate the hair shaft and repair and add protein to the existing keratin structure. Your best bet would be to invest in products containing hydrolysed protein to reinforce your curls. A short sabbatical from moisture containing products will also help in this regard. Go easy on the extra styling products post-wash for a few weeks and slowly reintroduce them into your routine to keep curls healthy and balanced.

Another not-so-pleasant consequence of too much moisture is a condition known as Hygral Fatigue.

This is an extreme form of moisture overload. The cuticle of your hair shaft swells when moisture enters and shrinks to its original volume once dry. Hygral fatigue happens when your cuticle is damaged due to excess moisture entering and leaving the hair shaft too frequently. High porosity hair is more likely to experience this as moisture enters easily. Hair with hygral fatigue will not have optimum elasticity and feel mushy. To combat this, reduce moisture containing leave-ins and restore protein to repair the cuticle. Avoid leaving your curls wet for too long and either air-dry or diffuse them to keep hygral fatigue at bay.

If your curls are overloaded on protein – Your hair will feel brittle and extra dry and that causes more complications such as breakage and loss of curl pattern. To enthuse more moisture and quench your dry curls, add more moisturizing products and don’t forget to deep condition regularly. You can also opt for co-washes rather than using shampoos to ensure that your curls stay healthy and bouncy. Moisture brings back not just shine but also elasticity and visible good health to tresses.

If you hair has optimal moisture but low protein - There are chances of curls having the right amount of moisture but lacking in protein. If your hair feels weak and is prone to excessive hair fall, it probably needs a dose of protein. Opt for products with descriptions such as ‘restrengthening’ and ‘restoring’ as they usually contain elevated protein levels to balance and repair the hair shaft. Some simple DIYS include rice water cleanses, or a gelatin and ACV mask post shampoo and pre-conditioning. These simple methods go a long way in infusing life and strength back into your curls. Don’t skimp on the moisture though. Continue with your regular moisture routine as well to keep your curls holistically healthy.

If you think your hair has an optimal protein-moisture balance – Simply keep at your CG routine! Indulge in regular DCs and refresh with a moisturising solution for added bounce.

Here are some additional tips to achieve this balance:

  • Follow up protein treatments with a moisturizing leave-in.
  • Make sure that all products in your routine have moisturizing ingredients while trying to add moisture to your curls.
  • Look for conditioners that pack in both moisture and protein to balance the scale and keep your curls rocking.

It’s that simple! Your CG journey comes with its own experiences and lessons, so keep track of your curls and experiment until you’re happy inside and out.

Got any tips on this integral protein-moisture balance? Do share them with us in the comments below!

Reach out to us at, +91 9945373597 or @letscurlupdotcom on
Instagram to answer your questions or even just be a part of our #letscurlup community!
Here’s to #CurlPride!

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