Protein treatments are quite popular amongst women with a variety of hair textures. They are affordable and have many benefits attributed to them. From improving the look and feel of your tresses to adding gloss and shine, protein treatments can be highly beneficial for your mane. And given that they are so trendy as well, chances are you have already gotten one or are thinking about getting one. Regardless of the extent of your existing knowledge, here’s everything you need to know about protein treatments for hair and five ways to do them!


1. Benefits of protein treatment for hair

Benefits of protein treatment for hair

According to Dr. Monisha Aravind, “Protein treatments for hair are very important for your mane. Your hair goes through a lot of damage during everyday activities. Product buildup, environmental damage - like heat and sun exposure - and frequent styling can all lead to damage. This is mainly because of the protein loss from the hair fibre, leading to frizziness, roughness, split ends and dry ends, especially in curly hair. So, protein treatments target this particular protein loss, and help lock in keratin and amino acids in the hair fibre to keep them free from breakage.”


2. 5 signs that indicate you need a protein treatment

5 signs that indicate you need a protein treatment

It is a myth that only curly and wavy-haired girls should get a protein treatment done. The need for protein treatment depends on the hair texture, instead of the hair type. Dr. Aravind recommends going for them if your hair feels dry, rough or weathered. To be more precise, these are the indicative signs that your hair is in need of a protein treatment:

1. Loss of elasticity:

Use this simple trick to check the elasticity of your hair - take a small strand and gently stretch it with your fingers and release it. If the strand doesn’t revert to its original state or breaks apart, your tresses are suffering from a loss in elasticity.

2. Breakage beyond the normal rate:

There is a difference between breakage and hair loss - if you see a white bulb at one end, that means that strand has fallen from the root. But breakage happens when your strands lack protein, and in turn, you notice a lot of shedding on the hairbrush. Just remember, anything more than the normal 100 strands a day should be a cause for concern.

3. Limp and stringy texture:

If your hair tends to fall flat and look droopy very often, you are suffering from protein loss. As such, a revitalising protein treatment will help replenish the strands and make them look and feel healthier.

4. High porosity:

Do this small experiment to figure out the porosity of your hair - drop a small strand in a glass of water and if it sinks right away, you have high porosity hair. Highly porous hair tends to have gaps and tears, which makes them vulnerable to damage. A protein treatment will help fill these gaps and protect them from tangling or frizzing too much.

5. Colour damage:

Colour treatment can also make your hair highly porous, as such, protein treatments can help maintain both - the integrity of the hair and vibrancy of the colour.


3. Best options for protein treatment

Best options for protein treatment

If you check off any or all the pointers above, your hair is indeed in need of a protein treatment. Fortunately, there are many options to choose from, here are the five best ones listed below:


- Hair straightening

Hair straightening

When it comes to hair straightening, there are two types of products to choose from - ley and non-ley formulations. These formulas work by reforming the keratin structure in your hair and giving them a smoother, straighter look. The best way to settle on one is to get your hair technician to test out both the products on small sections of your hair, post which they will be able to recommend the one best suited to your hair fibre. Hair straightening can transform the look of your hair but also leads to breakage. So make sure you consider all the pros and cons before going in with this option, especially when there are other, gentler protein treatments available to choose from.


- Keratin treatment

Keratin treatment

Keratin treatment, also known as 'hair smoothening', helps reform the keratin bond inside your hair fibre and keeps it closed and intact for a smooth texture. Make sure you opt for formaldehyde-free options and choose an experienced hair technician to avoid causing heat damage to your tresses. Keratin treatments also use heat straightening to seal your hair fibres with the solution and avoid protein loss in the future. It does so by resurfacing the protein bonds in your hair and strengthening them from within.

Some of the side effects of keratin treatments include scalp irritation, stinging or itching eyes, runny nose or throat irritation. Some women have also complained of coughing or chest tightness during the procedure. So weigh out your options before going in for one.


- Cysteine treatment

Cysteine treatment

Cysteine treatments work exactly like keratin treatments, but without the added chemicals and formaldehyde, or its substitutes. It uses a cysteine complex, which is a form of non-essential amino acid, to replenish dull hair, rid it of excessive frizziness and treat dryness in your tresses. They result in a more natural-looking mane and do not leave your hair in a curly mess after wearing off. They can also be done more often, without the fear of damaging your tresses too much or affecting your scalp. New hair growth in cysteine treatments also leaves the look of your mane unaffected as the effects of cysteine treatments wear off in less than three months.


- DIY protein treatment at home

DIY protein treatment at home

While there are many ingredients that can be used as a DIY protein treatment, Dr. Aravind recommends the age-old and proven remedy of coconut oil. She explained, “Protein treatments need not be done in parlours only. You can also use DIY masks to nourish your hair fibres. My go-to recommendation is coconut oil, which can be used prior to washing your hair to avoid protein loss during the wash. A quick champi can also help cancel out the drying effects the chemicals in shampoos and conditioners can have on your hair. If your scalp is already very oily but your ends look weathered and dry, you can use coconut oil only at the tips to help prevent protein loss.”


- Protein masks and deep conditioning treatments

Protein masks and deep conditioning treatments

Your in-house protein treatments need not just be DIYs, given that there are multiple options for protein masks and deep conditioning products available in the market. These treatments can be done in under 10 minutes and result in smooth and manageable hair at the end of it. From leave-in treatments to reconstructors that can replace your conditioner post a hair wash, these treatments can be used as often as you like. Look for products that best suit your hair type - since colour treated and virgin hair have different needs when it comes to ingredients and formulations.


4. FAQs about protein treatment for hair

FAQs about protein treatment for hair

1) Can protein treatments cause hair fall?

A. According to Dr. Aravind, it is the lack of post-treatment hair care that can lead to breakage, rather than the protein treatment itself. So make sure you use the right products to take care of treated hair - shampoos, conditioners and serums infused with soy protein, whey protein or even keratin and cysteine itself, can get the job done. These products also make protein treatments last longer and help with uniform wearing off of the same.

2) Can protein treatments hurt my scalp?

A. Yes, most protein treatments out there (salon and products) have some form of chemical in them. Make sure you avoid contact of these products with your scalp as much as possible, as it can lead to burning, sensitizing your scalp, increase dandruff, and cause hair fall.

3) How often can I get a protein treatment done?

A. When it comes to protein treatments done at salons, once every six months, to avoid excessive chemical exposure. When it comes to at-home hair masks, you can do them as and when you feel your tresses are in need of added TLC.

4) Are non-formaldehyde based keratin treatments damage-free?

A. Contrary to popular opinion, non-formaldehyde based keratin treatments can also be damaging to your tresses. This is because running a hot iron rod through your hair can still produce traces of formaldehyde, plus, the heat itself can be very damaging. So, make sure you follow proper post-treatment practices to maintain the integrity of your hair.