Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Vegetarian-Friendly Protein Treatments for Hair

The only vegetarian protein recipe treatment I have listed on this blog is for beer, which you can find here along with an explanation of why it works. I like that treatment because it gives you a very noticeable result with one treatment, whether you leave it in or rinse it out - no conditioners. The products in the list below may or may not meet your preferences for natural or organic or any particular ingredients or manufacturing practices you wish to avoid, but the protein sources are plant-based.

How to make a protein-containing product (of any kind) MORE strong/intense:
1) Leave it on for more time (5, 15, or 30 minutes - if your hair really loves protein, maybe 60 minutes). More time allows small, penetrating-size proteins to soak in, medium-size proteins more time to bond with hair.
2) Use heat. Heat causes wet hair to swell slightly - creating more surface for proteins to bond with and allows more "soaking in" of small proteins

How to make a protein-containing product (of any kind) LESS strong/intense:
1) Leave it on for less time
2) Don't use heat

How do I know how strong these are?
  • Protein treatment: Product with a higher concentration of protein, will be more "strong" in any method of application.
  • Protein-containing conditioner: A conditioner which has protein added in a lower concentration than a protein treatment. Includes protein-containing deep conditioners which aren't labeled "protein treatments," "protein packs," or "intensive strengthening."
  • If protein is in the first 5 or 6 ingredients listed, it's a strong treatment.
  • Refer to this post to find out whether the protein is large or small - combinations of several large proteins can be more problematic than combinations of small and medium proteins. I don't have molecular weight for all the vegetable proteins. Corn and soy tend to be medium, hydrating and conditioning. Oat, wheat, and quinoa proteins tend to be large and supportive (there are some smaller wheat proteins out there) - good in styling products. Amino acids are small and hydrating. "Vegetable protein" - anybody's guess!
Now that's all out of the way, the list:

  • Nutress Hair Moisturizing Protein Pack - Vegetable protein (quaternized to make it extra conditioning)
  • Nutress Stop Break (spray) - Wheat or vegetable protein (ingredient lists are difficult to come by)
  • Garnier Fructis Damage Eraser Conditioner - Corn, soy and wheat proteins
  • Garnier Fructis Damage Eraser Shampoo - Corn, soy and wheat proteins
  • Garnier Fructis Damage Eraser Reconstructing Strength Butter - Corn, soy and wheat proteins
  • Hydratherma Naturals Amino Plus Protein Deep Conditioning Treatment - Soy, silk amino acids, rice, corn + 8 individual amino acids
  • Hydratherma Naturals Moisture Boosting Deep Conditioning Treatment - Wheat protein
  • Giovanni Smooth as Silk Xtreme Protein Hair Infusion - Soy protein
  • Giovanni Smooth as Silk Deeper Moisture Conditioner - Soy protein
  • Hugo Naturals Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner, Vanilla and Sweet Orange - Rice protein
  • Mane N Tail Deep Moisturizing Conditioner  - Wheat protein
  • Mill Creek Fantastic Silver Conditioner - Soy protein
  • Nature's Gate Conditioners: 
    • Awapuhi - Soy, Vegetable proteins
    • Lemongrass and Clary Sage Volumizing - Wheat protein
    • Pomegranate Sunflower Hair Defense - Soy, Vegetable proteins
    • Chamomile Repleneshing Conditioner - Soy, Vegetable proteins
  • Nature's Gate Shampoos: 
    • Awapuhi Volumizing Shampoo Soy protein
    • Biotin Strengthening Shampoo - Soy, Vegetable proteins 
    • Lemongrass and Clary Sage Volumizing Shampoo - Wheat protein
  • Ouidad Botanical Boost spray  - Corn, wheat proteins
  • Shea Moisture Noni & Monoi Smoothing and Repair Masque - Vegetable protein


  1. Incredibly insightful post (per usual). Thank you so much for sharing. I have a conditioner-based, two-part question, the first of which pertains to Garnier Fructis Damage Eraser...I have used the Garnier Hair Care Fructis Heal & Seal Treatment (Linked here: http://www.amazon.com/Garnier-Fructis-Treatment-Fluid-Ounce/dp/B00VRAL09W/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_3_s_it?s=beauty&ie=UTF8&qid=1463583392&sr=1-3-fkmr1&keywords=Garnier+Damage+Eraser+Conditioner+Heal+and+Seal) after a fellow "curl friend" of mine recommended it after she claimed it totally transformed her hair. (This one is alo a protein treatment, although not considered "heavy," right?) Anyhow, I tried it...and Oh. My. God. It was insanely wonderfully. The problem was that I didn't even consider looking at the ingredients until about a month after using it: It contains ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL, which is considered a "bad" alcohol, right? Like I said, I LOVED the way it made my hair felt, but feared that, over time, my hair would dry out.

    What are your thoughts?

    My second part, kind of going off topic refers to the red-headed step-child of the curly community, silicone: Is it possible for a conditioner to truly deep condition (or provide any conditioning benefits at all) if it contains silicone? I pray that it is. I just caved and picked up to two conditioners that have been revered as awesome: Aussie Moist (which I tried yesterday) and had my best co-wash EVER. I also bought the 3 Minute Miracle Deeeeep Conditioner which I haven't tried. Both contain silicone.

    of course, I plan to clarify with clay and the non-sulfate shampoo that contains Cocamidopropyl betaine and Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate, but I'm just checking.

    I think I may have found a new Holy Grail...for now; lol

    1. These are the ingredients from Garnier Hair Care Fructis Heal & Seal Treatment:
      Isopropyl alcohol in this product is way down at the "around 1%" end of the ingredient list. That means there's not really enough in there to worry about because ingredients are listed in order of concentration (high to low). It's probably being used to dissolve another ingredient - some ingredients will not dissolve in water, but will dissolve in alcohol.

      This has a fairly small amount of protein - a light protein "treatment" but good for hydration. The PEG-40/PPG-8 Methylaminopropyl/Hydroxypropyl dimethicone copolymer appears to be water-soluble (easy to remove).

      Second question: Can a deep conditioner deep condition if it contains silicone. Yes. Absolutely. Silicones in an emulsion like a conditioner are not super-occlusive like bathtub caulk. They are spread out and suspended. If there are any ingredients at all in a deep conditioner that penetrate the hair rapidly (such as panthenol, hydrolyzed proteins, amino acids, Cetrimonium bromide) - only those things with small enough molecules can penetrate into the hair from the conditioner. Everything else is happening on the surface *only* - other than water getting trapped in the hair shaft. Heat helps the hair swell with water and allows more small molecules under the cuticles. That also provides more surfaces for conditioners to bond with.

      Having the silicone in the deep conditioner increases lubrication in wet hair and dry hair. Some conditioners and oils are better for wet-hair detangling or dry-hair detangling, but silicones tend to improve both.

      Aussie Moist has Bis-Aminopropyl Dimethicone, which is like Amodimethicone. It is less likely to create build-up. Those ingredients do "selective conditioning" - to bond to the damaged areas, then spread out to form a film over your hair that doesn't "wear off" right away. So it basically "seals" your hair between the damaged places, which I think it pretty neat. And why I use a conditioner with Amocimethicone every week to keep my hair from getting tangly or shedding due to friction. I still use oils - but this has helped so much with lubrication! This used to be my favorite conditioner way back in the early 2000s before they changed the fragrance.

      Aussie 3-Minute Miracle can go either way. For some people, a product like that is extra good for detangling. Cyclopentasiloxane is an "evaporating" silicone - meant to help ingredients spread, then evaporate. For some people, ends up feeling extra "silicone-y" though. It really depends on how sensitive you are to the feel of the product.

      If you notice your hair feeling too "waterproof" or "siliconed" - you can shampoo it out.

    2. WOW! I've found each and every one of your replies even more insightful than the one which preceded it, but, man, you've outdone yourself this time. THANK YOU.

      I have two thoughts. One: I am jumping with joy right now. And second, I no longer feel like a guilty so-and-so for cheating on my "all natural" products with ones that contain silicone.

      Your reply above was a straight up game-changer.

      Now, the only thing left for me to ponder is whether I resume using damage eraser. To this day, no conditioner ever felt as good on my hair as that one...(sigh).

    3. It's all about balance, to me. In hair, in diet, there are so many "absolutes" out there. Regimens with rigid rules (and guilt trips). And for some people, that's perfectly okay and it works very well with their hair or bodies and lifestyle. But hair is a biological material, it does not read those rule books. Whatever works is what is right, as long as it doesn't do anything you don't want it to do.
      For silicones, my feeling is that as long as I'm not using them in place of using oils or proteins or whatever my hair needs to stay hydrated and strong, and as long as I'm using a (gentle shampoo) occasionally to start with a clean slate, it's okay to use them.
      The silicones in the Heal and Seal treatment (Garnier) are water-soluble. That means they're more likely to rinse off next time you cleanse your hair. They'll come off with a clay treatment or a co-wash. I don't see any problems with that product. If it contains 1% isopropyl alcohol, that's like 2/3 teaspoons per cup. There are enough humectants and conditioners and emollients that the alcohol shouldn't have any drying effects.

  2. I just started reading your post and you are amazing!!!! I hope you can help me because no one has been able to. I have forever had long, straight, and shiny hair and hardly ever used heat on my hair. In 2012, I was injured really bad, near death. I was given daily doses of IVs, antibiotics, etc and two months after the meds my hair started falling out. No bald spots just thin. The bottom of the hair was thin and you could see gaps at the bottom, about 5 inches at the bottom really thin.
    Now, it's "low porosity hair". Fly-away, super dry and brittle and the ends. I've tried everything!!
    Before the change in my hair, my hair never responded well to any product with keratin and still does not. I know there is something I can do differently to get my hair back to normal.
    Can you please help me with this?

    1. Hello Rhonda,
      On the right side of the blog there are "popular posts" with photo-icons. The low-porosity post is one of the most popular! There are a lot of tips there for getting hair hydrated when it seems to repel water and conditioner etc. You'll probably want to emphasize humectants in conditioners and leave-on products that are extra-hydrating like aloe, panthenol, flax, amino acids, honey (add it to your conditioner or mix with warm water and leave on for a few minutes). Low porosity hair may not soak up lots of oil and conditioner - but humectants work well. If you use deep conditioning, use heat to help it "work" in your hair. The ends may need oil, left on for several hours before washing - preferably a hair-penetrating oil like coconut or sunflower - and just a light application.

      When you are very ill, your body releases lots of "stress hormones" and those absolutely can change your hair. Any hormonal change can dramatically change hair - thyroid, cortisol, estrogen, testosterone to name a few. When our bodies are under extreme stress, hair loss is common. Antibiotics can kill off bacteria in our intestines that help us get nutrients from our food and manufacture nutrients for us. So make sure you have adequate vitamin D, and ferritin (closely related to hair loss). It's not hard to develop a deficiency in these nutrients if you don't get a lot of sun and after you've lost a lot of blood: http://science-yhairblog.blogspot.com/2015/11/ferritin-iron-vitamin-d-and-hair.html (copy and paste the link). To make sure your diet provides everything you need for hair growth - eat a nutrient-dense diet with as many vegetables (and fruit) as possible, keep your diet diverse (eat different things to feed different bacteria in the intestinal ecosystem and get different nutrients) drink plenty of water, get enough protein, have regular exercise and enough sleep. A daily dose of relaxation and calm is important too - exercise and relaxation reduce stress hormones and promote good circulation.

      If your hair does not respond well to keratin - it might be somewhat coarse. It depends on how you were using the keratin. If it was hydrolyzed keratin in a conditioner and listed near the end of the ingredient list, then your hair may dislike protein. But if it was a keratin protein treatment (highly concentrated protein) or keratin straightener - then it may be that you need to avoid hydrolyzed proteins *most of the time* but you might be able to use products that contain protein occasionally.
      I hope that helps!

  3. What are your thoughts on silk amino acids? I have been adding small amounts to homemade conditioner and semi homemade conditioner for a few years. I have heard it is one of few proteins that penetrate the hair shaft. Is this true? Is it worth the high price I pay? Is there such a thing as using too much? I have three daughtets who swim on year around swim team, so damage to thier course, curly hair is a given, but I try to balance the effects of lots of chlorine by using good products. I am so glad to have stumbled across your blog. Thank you for putting this kind of information out here. :)

    1. Hello Michelle,
      Amino acids from any source should be small enough to penetrate the hair shaft and help retain hydration. Silk is a great amino acid source. Corn and soy have some components that silk doesn't and would be a great compliment (like VegeKeratin from Lotioncrafter). You can use too much amino acids - then hair might begin to act strangely. Very fluffy, overly soft, feeling kind of slick. For example, "a whole lot" of amino acids would be adding 1/2 teaspoon to a tablespoon of conditioner. Protein-loving hair might like that, but coarse hair might not. A conservative amount of protein/amino acids to add to a conditioner would be more like 4-6 drops per tablespoon of conditioner. Best wishes to you and your swimmers! W

  4. I was wondering if coconut milk is a protein and why I do not see much mention of coconut milk in your blog (yours is SUCH an amaaaaazing blog, BTW). If it is indeed a protein, then I was wondering what analysis or opinion you might have to offer about it? I have a pre-poo recipe for coconut milk, honey, and oil and wanted to see if it is worthwhile to spend my few between washes on it. If you think this recipe has good ingredients, do you think it could be used as a deep treatment not just pre-poo?

    1. Hello Anonymous,

      Coconut milk is not protein like we'd usually talk about in hair products. There is a little bit of protein in coconut milk, but it's not small enough to penetrate the hair shaft, and probably can't bond with it or form a film either.

      I think the idea that coconut = protein comes from a published study that found when treating hair (before washing) with coconut oil and giving it plenty of time to soak in, the hair lost less protein when it was put in water. The background for that is really important: When you put porous hair in water, it tends to swell with water rather quickly. Under the cuticles there are amino acids - little protein fragments that are water-attracting and help hair stay hydrated and flexible. If hair swells in water, that water can now wash away those important amino acids and hair is more likely to become dehydrated.
      Coconut oil applied before washing (or coconut milk, which contains some oil) can make hair act less porous - not swell so rapidly in water so it doesn't lose those amino acids and can stay hydrated. It will still soak up some water - just not so much that it becomes a problem.
      A coconut milk, honey and oil pre-treatment sounds well-balanced to me. Oils, humectants (honey) and coconut milk . If you want to try it, it might have some benefits over just oils and honey. Good luck! W