Sunday, June 1, 2008

Balancing act

If you read this blog, you know that I spend a lot of time on I've learned so much there, I can't begin to recount it all. One thing I did not learn, however, was how to figure out what my hair needed and why that was important.

When you first arrive on that site, the protein-sensitive people are constantly talking about their protein sensitivity. Those who can't tolerate protein really do have some horror stories -- and horror photos! -- to prove what protein does to them.

The problem, though, is that when you're relatively new to the site, you get the distinct impression that protein is inherently bad.

I believed this for several months and kept my protein usage at a minimum. Meanwhile, my hair was getting less curly and flatter by the day. I even blamed the haircut I got in March for all my woes. And then I started using a conditioner that had absolutely no protein at all but was "light" (which I've come to discover means that it's primarily a humectant formula -- it pulls moisture from the air). My hair was frizzy and fairly lifeless. At the same time, another person with hair similar to mine, noticed the same thing when she used it. She then commented that she probably needed more protein.

And that's when it hit me. Protein isn't bad for everybody! And I was suddenly reminded of how often I would use a reconstructor (protein-heavy) back in the 90s and how it always made my hair happier. So, I set about using only conditioners with protein fairly high up on the list of ingredients. (I used Activate Hydrating conditioner but also a couple of Desert Essences types.)

Eureka! That did the trick. Suddenly my curls were back. I used to love Jessicurl Aloeba but now when I use it, I don't see the same kind of bounce and curl that the Activate gives me. I'm not saying I will stop using the Aloeba but I suspect I will use it much less often than I used to.

So my point here is not just to say that protein rocks (for me), but to urge anybody who is struggling with the Curly Girl method to do more than just avoid silicones and sulfates. Find out what balance of humectants, oil, and protein your hair likes.

This is not done quickly or easily because lots of other factors play a role. Climate, water, diet, stress level: these variables can complicate your experiments. But pay attention to ingredients (not just the impossible-to-spell ones) and see whether protein makes your hair happy. Discern whether humectants are always right for you. Learn what oil does to your hair.

You'll save a lot of money and time.

Most of all, though, don't let anybody tell you that protein is bad or that humectants suck or that oils don't do anything. Try them on your hair and come to your own decision.

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