The Key to Healthy Hair: The Perfect Protein + Moisture Balance

Protein and moisture are essential to building stronger, healthier hair—but what exactly do these ingredients do and how do you know which one your hair needs?

What does protein do for your hair?

Protein helps to fortify and strengthen hair. When your strands experience damage, whether from heat styling, color treatments, or other chemical processes, the shaft of your hair develops gaps or pits in its outer layer (the cuticle). These gaps weaken the shaft, leading to increased breakage and loss of elasticity, and can also cause inconsistency in curl pattern. Protein fills in those gaps, fortifying the cuticle and helping to return the resiliency and strength to the hair.

Fortified and Damaged Hair Fibers

But when it comes to protein and your hair, “too much of a good thing” is a real thing. Too much protein in the hair can cause protein overload and the symptoms can often look just like damage: brittle, straw-like, and stiff hair. 

If you find that your hair has too much protein, the treatment is to add moisture to balance it out.

What does moisture do for your hair?

Moisture treats dehydration and can increase smoothness and shine in your hair. Dry, dehydrated hair can look dull or feel rough to the touch and is often difficult to detangle. Adding more moisture to your hair replenishes the fine layer of lipids, called the hydrolipid barrier, that surrounds the hair shaft and helps keep hydration and nutrients locked in.

Hair Fibers: Locking in Protein and The Hydrolipid Barrier

Just like too much protein can have negative side effects, too much moisture is not good for the hair either. Hygral fatigue is a condition of over-moisturized hair and can leave your tresses feeling gummy, mushy, and stretchy. 

Striking the perfect protein + moisture balance is key

Finding the right balance of these two essential ingredients is the foundation for strong, healthy hair. Choosing products with the right balance of protein and moisture can go a long way toward repairing damaged hair and increasing its softness, shine, and manageability. 

So how to know if your hair needs protein or moisture? Take our quick Strand Test to find out: 

Woman with dark curly hair plays with a single strand


To start, take a strand of hair and give a gentle tug. Take note of how that strand reacted:

Did your hair snap and break quickly? Your hair is most likely craving moisture. 

Did your hair stretch and return to its original shape? Your hair has great elasticity and likely a good balance of protein and moisture.

Did your hair immediately snap and didn’t stretch? Your hair is craving protein for structure + strength.

Need a boost of protein? Our award-winning Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask offers the perfect blend in a weekly treatment. 

If you’re really struggling with severe damage - we’re talking multiple color processing or chemical treatments - level up your protein with our ultimate rice repair routine. Once a week, cleanse with our new Rich Rice Shampoo Concentrate, then deep treat strands with our Rice Water Protein + Moisture Strengthening Treatment before finishing with our Super Moisture Conditioner for the ultimate protein/moisture combination. 

Rich Rice Shampoo Concentrate and Rice Strengthening Treatment in front of a pink tiled background


On the other hand, if you’re noticing signs of protein overload, swap out those treatments for a protein-free moisturizing mask, like our Superfoods Avocado + Kiwi Mega Moisture Mask—it’s infused with avocado oil and kiwi extract to nourish and protect thirsty strands. 

Fingers dipping into a green Avocago Mega Moisture Mask

Lastly, understanding your hair’s porosity level can go a long way in ensuring your hair can absorb the right amount of these ingredients. 

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Don't Despair, Repair!™ Rich Rice Water Shampoo Concentrate with Key
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Don't Despair, Repair! MegaStrength+ Rice Water Protein + Moisture Strengthening Treatment
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Superfoods Avocado + Kiwi Mega Moisture Mask
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