Do I really need to put protein on my hair?

Doppleganger says: I’ve been told that hair needs protein and moisturization to stay healthy. So, for protein I use Mane n Tail and for moisturization I use hair cholesterol products (like Le Kair, Queen Helene) and coconut oil. Is this good for my hair or can I be causing any kind of long term damage?

The Left Brain Replies:

Relax, Dop. These conditioners won`t damage your hair. You might find that your hair is weighed down if you`re using them all at once, but other than that they won`t do anything bad to your hair. So if you like the way these conditioners make your hair feel, then keep using them anyway you like. The real question here is, does hair really need protein and moisturization? The answer is yes and no.

YES, hair needs moisturization

That just means you need to keep your hair from drying out. That’s the whole idea behind conditioners. You can moisturize by adding water (which doesn’t really stay in your hair very long) or you can moisturize by fighting the effects of dryness. That’s what any good conditioner does. Conditioners, like Le Kair and Queen Helene, work by smoothing the outer layers of your hair, the part called the cuticle. Cuticles are like shingles on top of a roof. If you don’t keep them “glued down” they tend to come loose and fall off. When ever you’re doing anything to your hair (including washing, drying, styling, or coloring), your causing some degree of damage to those cuticles. What a good conditioner does is smooth the cuticles, forming a protective layer over them so they don’t become as damaged.

NO, hair doesn’t need more protein

Although, hair is made of protein, it’s dead. So putting protein on top of the protein in your hair doesn’t really make it “healthy.” But the right kind of proteins used at the right levels can act as a conditioning agent that can form a protective film on the hair. So it’s not that your hair needs protein, it’s that it needs SOMETHING to form that protective layer. Proteins will do it to some extent, but there are other ingredients (like fatty quaternium compounds or silicones, that will work even better. So protein conditioners like Mane ‘n Tail are good for your hair, but not necessarily BECAUSE they contain protein. We’ve written other posts about protein if you’d like to read more.

The Beauty Brains Bottom line:

There are many, many great hair conditioners on the market that will moisturize your hair. Mane n’ Tail, Le Kair, and Queen Helene won’t do anything bad to you. The important thing is to find the ones that feel right for your hair and that you can afford. But don’t worry too much about special ingredients like proteins. Oh, and by the way, the coconut oil you’re using has an added benefit. It penetrates through the cuticle to strengthen the inside side part of the hair called the cortex. But that’s a topic for another post like this one about the Ojon treatment.