Hair is made up of long chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Our hair can become damaged if it is over-processed with chemicals such as relaxers and bleach or if too much heat is used. This leaves gaps along the length of the hair shaft, making the overall structure weak and easily broken. Unfortunately if your hair is damaged the best treatment is to grow out the damaged hair, but in the meantime protein treatments can help to support the hair and take it through its rough patch.
How they work
Protein treatments work by filling in the gaps in the hair shaft to make it stronger until the damaged hair has grown out, basically acting like part of the hair. Remember that protein treatments are only temporary and some or all of it will come out of your hair when you wash it, so you will need to do a protein treatment after each wash. You should moisturise your hair in between with a moisturising spray, lotion or cream to keep it hydrated. Treatments can be carried out either once a week or once every two weeks and should be used until the breakage has reduced.
How they are applied
Most treatments are applied to the hair in a concentrated form and then left to dry under a hooded dryer without a plastic cap. The treatment is then rinsed off and a moisturiser from the same brand is applied to the hair to rehydrate it. You can also get treatments which are applied to the hair daily and left on, a bit like a leave-in conditioner. These are much lighter and designed to be used throughout the week as part of your hair care regime.
If overused, protein treatments can have the opposite effect to the one intended, making the hair hard and stiff, resulting in more breakage. For this reason I don't recommend using a protein treatment unless your hair is damaged.
If you want to have stronger hair moving forward, you can strengthen your hair from within by eating foods containing protein. The proteins in food will help to strengthen your hair and keep it in the growing phase of the hair growth cycle for much longer. You can get protein from eggs, nuts and seeds, yoghurt and milk, fish such as tuna, salmon and halibut, cheese, beans, tofu, white meats such as turkey and chicken breast, and red meats such as pork and beef.