Believe or not, the month of March seems to be the month when most articles are written about hair breakage as well as protein and moisture balance. I noticed that last March (2010), I was revisiting this same topic in this blog as well. So here is the 2011 version!
Let's talk weather first! So everything has been going well with your hair until about March? More than likely, the weather is changing from dry and cold to dry and warm? There are some low humidity days then some rainy days(high humidity days)? Extra care and attention to your hair is required when the weather is changing. If you live in a city with constant weather changes all year round . . . then you have to make sure that you stay on top of your hair needs! Observing the dryness of your overall body skin is another true sign of what your hair is going through. If you are layering lotions and creams on your overall body trying to tame dryness, then that is a sign that your hair needs just as much attention. The climate may require changes in your regimen. That leads to the question of what to use?
Finding your regimen for your own hair is sometimes "trial and error." Through my research and experience, here are some guidelines:
1)Does your hair feel dry? hard? straw-like? Go for a moisturizing conditioner such as Mizani Moisturfuse (add medium dryer heat), Uans crema (room temperature, no heat), AlterEgo Garlic Treatment (add medium dryer heat) or any other brand that is more focus on moisture versus strength. If you do not have time to shampoo and condition, then go for a moisture leave-in conditioner as an overnight treatment. Giovanni Direct Leave-in Weightless Moisture Conditioner is perfect. It will dampen the hair a little; but it will dry soft.
Pictured Mizani Moisturfuse and Uans conditioner in the old and new packaging. The sample size reflects the new logo and packaging.
2)When the hair is wet, does it feel mushy and limp? Go for a reconstructor or a protein treatment. If you going into a salon, please do not ask for a "deep conditioner" -- that is such a vague term. Specifically suggest "reconstructor" or protein treatment service. The stylist should know to follow the reconstructor up with a moisturizing conditioner. You should receive two treatments within the same visit and each component has to be rinsed out thoroughly. Adding heat to the treatment depends on the treatment used. Some product lines are designed to work without heat. Actually, heat can break down the treatment and make it less beneficial if the brand does not require heat. Read the directions on the product, if it does not suggest "heat cap" or add heat -- then assume that you do NOT need to add heat.
3)Are you worried about too much protein in the hair (i.e. overproteinized)? Try the protein conditioner. If the hair does not receive it meaning it just sits on the hair and will not absorb, then the hair has all the protein that it needs. Rinse it out thoroughly! Then go for a moisturizing treatment to balance the protein out. Too much protein will cause breakage in dry, low humidity weather. Some great moisture treatments were listed in question one above. If it appears that you have gotten too much protein in the hair, then go for the moisturizing conditioner that you can add heat. The heat should raise the cuticles slightly for more intense softening.
4)Do you have transitional hair (i.e. growing out a chemical, two different textures)? Your natural, unprocessed hair has different protein/moisture balance needs versus your straighter, relaxed hair. Prepare for breakage. Use moisture leave-in conditioners such as Giovanni Direct Leave-in Weightless Moisture Conditioner for an overnight moisture boost. Caution: Moisture leave-in conditioners go on a little wet for those worried about reversion from a press service.
5)What if you are flat ironing? Typically, you should be using thermal/heat protectant leave-in sprays for additional protein and moisture support to protect the hair from the infrared heat damage. On the flipside, the extra protein support that is added to protect the hair can still result in breakage in low humidity/dry weather. Why? Extra protein plus hot tools plus dry weather . . . a recipe for breakage for chemically treated hair (i.e. highlighted or relaxed hair). In my experience, trying to balance protein support and moisture in the hair for flat-ironing purposes is a thin line. Add weather changes to the mix and hair breakage is likely to follow. I strongly suggest returning to the curling irons and older model flat irons that we had before all of the keratin treatments, thermal protection sprays, and flat iron serums. I have a separate article on "Infrared heat and flat irons" on this blog site.
6)What is overconditioning? This term is used loosely. If the hair is too soft from moisturizing treatments or steamers/hydration therapy, then it will not hold a curl. A protein boost may be needed to hold a curl. Please note that soft hair can be healthy hair; however, healthy hair may not always hold a curl or a style. Healthy hair will be dependent on a haircut for style and some products for styling control.
7) Which proteins to look for? Wheat protein seems to be neutral in smell, absorbs easily and works great! Animal protein usually has an musky odor, but works great too! Silk protein is used mostly in leave-in products and usually are accompanied by silicones which are sealants. I strongly suggest that your hair is in great condition before sealing it. Everything has its place and time to use.
8) What is the deal with oils? Coconut oil used an hour before shampooing is a great moisturizing treatment. Using it as an overnight treatment is even better if shampooing the following morning. Carefully about the Moccocan oils, argan oils, etc. Some of the ingredients may show dimethicone which is a silicone which is a sealant. Sealants make the hair look great but may block needed moisture and may be harder to shampoo back out. This could possibly result in breakage down the road.
9) What is the deal with weighless styling for movement? This look is glam and fabulous, but save it for the red carpet and special events! Treat your hair everyday like you treat your skin. Products like Keracare Overnight Moisture Treatment are lightweight and seem to protect the hair on a daily basis just by using a pea-size emulsified into hands prior to applying to the hair (not scalp). You may not look like "Hollywood" all the time from the daily moisturizing; but your hair will be ready when events arise when you need to impress!
In conclusion, hair breakage has everything to do with how naturally curly (or overcurly) your hair is, if it has been chemically altered, and how much heat is applied starting at the wet phase. I hope this article gets you thinking!