Tag Archives: protein conditioners

Split End Prevention: Pre-Pooing, Protein and Pruning

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split_ends_diagram

Source: Tamullar (Long Hair Community)

Did you know that there were this many kinds of split ends?!? Pretty nasty, right? Well, I can attest to the validity of this chart. Because, about 2 1/2 years ago, I saw just about every split end on it (except the white spots) in my own head of hair. It was bad y’all. I mean, baaaaaddddd! That’s when I took to carrying around purse scissors … so that I could take split ends to task at a moment’s notice, any time, any place (seriously, I was out of control)!!

2011 NYC Curly Nikki Meet-Up: Told ya!

But now, in 2013, the split ends are few and far in between and have been for quite a while. Let’s put it out there. I have fine strands. So, I I’ll probably always get split ends no matter how protective I am of my hair/ends (unlike my compatriots with strong, thick-strands ;)). But, now I generally only see the vanilla variety, single “split” end … and they tend to be far rarer and very small. No more nasty “feathers,” “trees,” “double Ys,” “incomplete splits” (I call those “needle hole splits!”), “ETCETERA, ETCETERA.” (“The King and I?!?” Anyone, anyone? Okay, moving along.)

Anywho, as I was writing Fairytale v. Blunt Ends and discussing whether uneven, thinner ends can be healthy, I thought about my own hair. Although I have “fairytale” ends, when I examine my strands, they are mostly un-split and healthy in appearance. So, I thought about the techniques and products that I’ve incorporated into my regimen that are probably the most responsible for that. I came up with three things that I think help me keep splits under control:

  • Pre-pooing: Applying coconut oil, or a form of it (in my case Vatika Oil), to hair for an hour to overnight prior to washing reduces/prevents hygral fatigue and protein erosion that generally occur when washing hair. (For more on hygral fatigue, see this informative NaturallyCurly.com article).
  • Protein treatments/reconstructors: Protein treatments help to “patch” cracked, chipped or missing cuticle in damaged hair and “gaps” in porous hair. Protein, when used correctly, temporarily shores hair up against environmental and mechanical damage. (For more on protein, check out the great 2 part protein series on Natural Haven, which starts here.)
  • Pruning: Trim split and knotted ends that have already occurred to prevent collateral damage to healthy adjacent strands and as a prophylactic measure to prevent a cycle of breakage. You see, nothing can permanently fix/repair split ends. So, once you have them, you have to cut them off to get rid of them. There is a myth that, if left unchecked, split ends will travel all the way to the root of the hair. Yeah, have you ever seen that? I know that I haven’t (see above about having almost every split on the chart). What does happen is that a weakened, split hair will typically break somewhere around the split and leave a new split (because the hair doesn’t break off cleanly/bluntly). So the new split forms and may spread until it also breaks. Then another split is left behind and so on and so on. Therefore, cutting off split ends periodically, through search and destroys (my method of choice) and/or periodic trims as needed (once every few months, twice a year or yearly, all depends on your hair), helps prevent a cycle of splits and breakage. (Tip: Make certain trimming scissors are created for that purpose, are sharp and are used for hair only or you can cause more harm than good!)

Ultimately, a lot of things contributed to a reduction in damage and split ends: weekly deep conditioning, gentle detangling, protective styling, etc. However, I think that incorporating pre-pooing, protein and pruning into my regimen are largely responsible for the significant reduction I’ve seen in split ends. And, a reduction in split ends and breakage has allowed me to retain length and grow my hair the longest it has ever been in my life. Don’t get me wrong, it ain’t perfect, but it seems to get better and better all of the time:).

1/9/13 length check (back1)

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Is your hair prone to split ends? What do you do to prevent/reduce splits?

Can I Over-Condition?

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Back in the day … like 2 years ago ;), you couldn’t tell me that there was such a thing as over-conditioning. As a 12 year natural, the first thing that I would tell anyone transitioning, newly natural or interested in natural was, “Condition, condition and condition again! There is no such thing as over-conditioning!” Well, to tell you the truth, I still pretty much stand by that statement. Buuuuutttttt, here’s the thing. That’s because I think the term “over-conditioned” is a bit of a misnomer. I think most of us, when we are seeking an answer to that question, want to know whether we can over-moisturize our hair. And the answer to that is yes … a fact that I learned the hard way.

via The Science of Black Hair

Out in the “real world” overconditioning, or “tipping too far” on the moisture side of the protein/moisture balance, is virtually rare …

The problem of overconditioning seems to arise once the individual has been indoctrinated into all things hair. By now, she has figured out which products are protein-based and which are more moisture leaning-and here, the tendency to over moisturize tends to develop. She develops an aversion to protein and throws all of her resources into achieving a perpetual “moisture high.” The proliferation of true “protein overload” stories may have gotten her to this point! She knows that there is a gentle, often tricky balance to maintain but she puts all of her eggs in her moisturizing basket just to be safe. She may even realize that different proteins have different properties, and some actually improve the hair’s elasticity rather than toughen the strands-but she’s not taking any chances with protein period. This aversion causes her to moisturize and overcondition her hair until the cows come home.

“Protein-Sensitivity”
In 2010, I discovered the term, “protein sensitivity” and thought that I’d finally diagnosed the problem that I had with many products formulated for black/”ethnic” hair. These products, especially the conditioners, most often made my hair hard when wet and brittle and hay-like once dry. So, when I discovered that this was because they contained protein, I started to avoid anything with protein like the plague. Instead, I began using henna as my strengthening treatment. However, an over-zealous henna routine (i.e. multiple full-length treatments in a short period of time) resulted in significant curl-loosening.

Therefore, in 2011, I started doing roots only treatments of henna, for color and strength without the resultant curl-loosening. But, I didn’t incorporate anything else to strengthen the length of my strands. By October 2011, my hair felt incredibly soft, but it was also flyaway, snagged at the slightest touch and was shedding (and probably breaking) like crazy. Every time I touched my hair, strands were littering my hands. At this point, I realized that I had omitted an important part of my regimen: strength. I began researching protein and revisited it after learning how to use it the right way (see this post for deets).

Revisiting Protein – ApHogee
After my first ApHogee 2 Minute Keratin Reconstructor, I saw an IMMEDIATE difference in the feel of my hair … it was harder, but hard-strong, not dry or brittle … and my shedding/breakage drastically decreased. So, I was a convert and began to incorporate protein into my regimen more regularly, typically every 3-4 weeks.

Then, in February, I tried my first (and thus far, only) heavy-duty ApHogee Two Step Protein Treatment. It went well and I would have done more, except that I didn’t have the proper bonnet dryer to safely and efficiently dry the first step.

Enter Aubrey Organics GPB
Back in May, I decided to try Aubrey GPB (Glycogen Protein Balancing) Conditioner for the first time. Something happened that I haven’t seen in a long, long, looooooong time … my shed hair was curly!!! That’s right. I’m a natural with curly/wavy hair who is telling you that I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d seen curly shed hair … maybe a year or two? My strands just seemed wavy and some were essentailly straight. But, after my first GPB treatment, I looked at my shower stall and, to my surprise, saw curly strands for the first time in ages! And, I got excited!! Every wash session with Aubrey GPB, the amount of curly strands seem to increase! This past Saturday, after my haircut, I had a shed hair that was a complete, collapsed coil and I ran into the living room to show Wei! I told him, “I know that this seems silly, but I’m so excited because my curls are back!! It’s a coil!!”

Towards the middle/bottom left, you see those straightish
strands that I was used to seeing.

Now, this isn’t an entirely fair comparison, but I had to show you a pic of my “curls” (i.e. waves) in February and my curls (i.e. CURLS! *lol*) now. The reason the comparison isn’t really fair is because I got a haircut last week to get rid of my henna-loosened ends and my hair is freshly washed after being straight for 2 weeks in the pic on the left whereas, in the pic on the right, it is 7 days old and shrunken.

“Over-Conditioning”
So, what’s my point in all of this? First, I wanted to clarify the term over-conditioned, because I think that most of us call both moisturizing and protein-based post-wash treatments “conditioners.” Therefore, when I say that “over-conditioned” is somewhat of a misnomer, it is because I think that most of us are really referring to over-moisturizing the hair and not using too much protein. We tend to refer to the latter as “protein overload.” Second, we can dip too far to either side and the key is to give our hair what it needs when it needs it. Sometimes it’s moisture, sometimes it’s strength/protein. So, how do you know what your hair needs? It’s all about elasticity.

  • Take a few strands of shed hair and hold one set of ends in the fingertips of one hand. Then lightly tug and release the other ends with your other fingers.
  • Does your hair stretch and stay there (i.e. it doesn’t shrink back like a spring)? Then you probably need protein.
  • Does your normally curly hair appear limp and curl-less? Then you probably need protein.
  • Does your hair snap/break immediately or quickly? Then you probably need moisture.
  • Does your hair stretch, then spring back? Sounds like you have the perfect balance of protein and moisture!

The above is nothing new and you’ve probably read it before. So, what I hope to add to the conversation is what I think that I’ve learned.

  • One, the fact that my shed hair no longer had any curl was an indicator that something was off. Though a variety of factors can contribute to this, over-moisturizing should have been one of the “Usual Suspects.”
  • Second, Aubrey GPB restored the curl that I thought had somehow been lost. That says to me that not all proteins are created equal for all people. Though my shedding/breakage decreased drastically with the ApHogee 2 Minute Reconstructor and the 2 Step Treatment, my shed hair still had little to no curl. However, with the introduction of Aubrey GPB, my curls are springing back to life and elasticity is returning in leaps and bounds.

So, all this to say, if you have avoided protein and your strands have become limp and lifeless and your curls have seemed to all but disappear, you may want to try experimenting with different types of protein. However, remember, just as “over-moisturizing/conditioning” is a real thing, so is protein-overload. And, it’s easier to correct over-moisturized hair than hair with too much protein. So, do your research, proceed with caution and always listen to your hair!

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How do you know when you need moisture or protein? Have you experimented with protein treatments/conditioners/reconstructors? Which one(s) have you found work(s) the best for you?