Protein Moisture Balance: A Complete Curly Girl Guide

Protein moisture balance is easy to achieve with a few simple steps. This post will teach you everything you need to know about protein moisture balance and how to fix it. Your curly hair will be back to its normal health with a few easy tips.

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protein moisture balance

What Is Protein Moisture Balance?

Let’s start with the basics. Protein moisture balance is the relationship between the amount of protein and moisture in your hair. This delicate balance can be affected by your hair porosity (determined by genetics), products, and hair care routine. When this balance is disturbed, the appearance and underlying health of your hair deteriorates.

One of the biggest myths is that protein treatments aren’t necessary because hair is made up of protein. Your hair needs balance to maintain its health and appearance.

Factors That Affect Protein Moisture Balance

First, you need to know your hair’s porosity. High porosity hair absorbs moisture easily because the cuticles are not so tightly intertwined. Low porosity hair doesn’t absorb products very easily. According to Healthline, low porosity hair “cuticles tend to overlap each other and are tightly packed together.”

High Porosity Hair Tips:

If you have high porosity hair, it is likely that your products absorb extremely quickly, even thick oils disappear within hours. As a curly girl with high porosity hair in a dry climate, I usually need to apply more protein to balance out the moisture my hair absorbs.

Low Porosity Hair Tips:

If your hair does not absorb products easily, consider using a heat cap to open the hair cuticle (or apply your deep conditioner in a steamy shower). This will allow your hair to absorb products more easily. Remember to rinse with cold water at the end of the shower to seal the cuticle and prevent frizz.

How to Tell if Your Curls Are Out of Balance

hygral fatigue and protein overload chart

The easiest way to tell if your hair is out of balance is by watching for changes in appearance and texture. Use the tips below as a guide for a DIY protein moisture balance test and don’t forget to download the healthy curls checklist to help you build the perfect hair routine.


Protein overload can be corrected with conditioning treatments that can be purchased at the store or natural DIY treatments. Protein overload results from having too much protein in the hair. This is usually due to genetics and hair porosity or product use. Signs the hair contains too much protein is hair that is brittle, split ends, breakage, or hair or difficult to manipulate and style.


You have protein overload and need a conditioning treatment if….

  • Your hair is stiff or brittle even after applying
  • Your experience breakage often
  • You struggle with split ends

How do you know if your hair has too much protein?
If your hair has too much protein, it will appear dull, extremely course, and will break often. It is important to apply a conditioning treatment to soften the hair and counteract the amount of protein in your strands.

Can too much protein make hair dry?
No, protein imbalance is not the same as having chronically dry hair. Protein overload will make hair brittle and it may break often. This can be corrected with moisture.


You have moisture overload and need a protein treatment if….

  • There is little definition in your curls even after applying styling products
  • Your hair feels very soft to the touch and does not hold definition, known as mushy hair


According to Healthline, ingredients to look for in a protein treatment include:

  • Keratin
  • Collagen
  • Creatine
  • Yogurt
  • Vitamin B-5 (pantothenic acid)

Moisture overload, or hygral fatigue, occurs when your hair has too much moisture. This can result from applying too many moisturizers, conditioning hair too often, or having high porosity hair that is genetically predisposed to absorbing more moisture.

Signs your hair is “out of balance” from moisture overload is soft hair that can no longer be defined with curling creams or gels, also known as mushy hair.

Healthy Curls Checklist
If you feel like you’ve tried a million products and you still can’t get the curl definition you want, download this free guide. This simple checklist will help you build a routine that actually works even if you have no idea where to start. You’ll also get updates with my best hair care secrets and beauty tips.
What else interests you?
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How to Restore Your Protein Moisture Balance

restore protein moisture balance
© Anna_ok/ Adobe Stock

According to Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey, Michele Bender, and Deborah Chiel, you should incorporate protein into your diet or apply a protein treatment directly to the hair.

Massey, Bender, and Chiel cite Esther Blum’s advice as a Registered Dietitian. According Blum’s Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous: A Nutritionist’s Guide to Living Well While Living It Up, “the diet for healthy hair is the diet for longevity.” Massey, Bender, and Chiel refer to her professional advice in the handbook and recommend using a healthy diet to heal hair from the inside out.

Hair treatments will resolve protein moisture balance, but the type of treatment you need will depend on your hair type and whether you have moisture overload or protein overload. Diet and a healthy lifestyle is key to healthy hair.

Protein Treatments

There are so many protein treatments available for curly girls. Many products are “curly girl approved” for the safety and effectiveness of the product. For a truly curly girl approved DIY treatment from the creator of the Curly Girl Method, see the Curly Girl: The Handbook for a DIY protein recipe. (The Innersense Moisturizing Hair mask mixed with 2-3 egg yolks is very effective).

Types of Protein Treatments

protein moisture balance products

There are several different types of protein treatments. When you are looking for products with protein, it is important to be aware of the different ingredients to find a protein that suits your needs.

Hydrolyzed proteins are processed and broken down to speed up the absorption process. If your cosmetic label says your product contains hydrolyzed protein, this beneficial for your curls. Silk protein is a type of hydrolyzed protein that bonds to the hair and creates smooth, shiny strands. This is an ideal vegan treatment for shiny hair.

Although collagen can be consumed, there have not been may studies about how it affects the hair when applied directly. However, it can provide protection from pollution.

Keratin is a popular smoothing treatment for curly hair. It is known to straighten the curls and reduce frizz. However, if you are not looking to straighten your naturally curly hair, there are plenty of other options to apply protein that will not affect your curl pattern.

One of the most natural treatments for hair is an egg hair mask. The best, clean protein treatment is an egg yolk. Mix an egg yolk with any clean conditioner for best results. Consider using a protein moisture hair mask as part of your daily routine if your hair is deeply in need of protein. 

Moisture Treatments

There are several ways to deep condition your hair to adjust your protein moisture balance. Methods include oil treatments, hair masks, and moisturizing leave-in products. 

You will need to find a hair mask that your hair responds well to and that is easy for the strands to absorb. You can consider using the greenhouse method for curly hair. Applying light heat to the hair will soften the cuticle and enhance the absorption process. If you’re not comfortable using heat, you can apply a hair mask in the shower and use the steam as part of the treatment, or you can try the greenhouse method without heat.

{Related Post: The Greenhouse Method for Curly Hair}

Styling Routine and Manipulation

prevention and hair care

© Prostock-studio/Adobe Stock

Hair styling techniques and manipulation can affect hair porosity. Leaving wet hair in tight styles that don’t allow the hair cuticle to dry can contribute to moisture overload. Products are also an important factor to consider. A wash routine with moisturizing products followed with moisturizing leave-ins can result in overly moisturized hair.

Investing in the proper hair tools is also important to prevent tearing the curls, ripping out hair, and causing split ends. A soft brush for edges, a detangling brush, and a denman brush are important additions to your hair care routine for healthy hair.

Healthy Curls Checklist
If you feel like you’ve tried a million products and you still can’t get the curl definition you want, download this free guide. This simple checklist will help you build a routine that actually works even if you have no idea where to start. You’ll also get updates with my best hair care secrets and beauty tips.
What else interests you?
Thank you for subscribing!

Prevention and Hair Care

Hair care methods will prevent damage and help you maintain protein moisture balance. Your styling method and your hair porosity are important aspects of your routine.

Clarify Your Hair

Clarifying your hair on a regular basis will prevent product buildup which acts as a barrier between the hair cuticle and your products. Removing this barrier will help your hair absorb products more effectively and will help correct any imbalances.

Know Your Hair Type and Porosity

Taking a hair quiz will reveal your curly hair type and porosity as well as the kinds of products to use for best results.

Extra tips for low-porosity hair

If you have low porosity hair:

  • Treat your hair with a heating cap
  • Pay attention to the number of protein and moisturizing products you use
  • Spend time working products into your hair to help with absorption
  • Allow your hair more time to absorb hair masks and treatments.
Extra tips for high-porosity hair

If you have high porosity hair:

  • Pay attention to the number of protein and moisturizing products you use. If you only use moisturizing products, there is no protein for your hair to absorb, and this can easily result in an imbalance.
  • Seal in the treatments with oil to prevent your hair from losing moisture and experiencing a protein moisture imbalance.

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Properly Moisturize Your Hair

The best way to properly moisturize your hair is to stick to a routine. Deep condition once or twice a week and see how your hair responds.

First, spot treat your hair instead of applying conditioner to areas that are already moisturized. If you see that the top if your hair is dryer apply more conditioner to the top and leave the other areas alone. This will decrease the chance of over moisturizing your hair.

Once you discover the key to your routine- this process will be so much easier- comment below with any other tips you may have.

Cotton pillowcases absorb the moisture from your hair, undoing all of the time you spent treating your hair for protein moisture balance. Using a satin or silk pillow case, wrapping your curls, or using a bonnet will prevent frizz and make your curls last. I used a satin pillow case for years before investing in a silk one. You just need one with plenty of slip to prevent frizz.

It doesn’t work for everyone though, so think carefully before you invest. This was life changing for me, but everyone is different.
I’ve been using this silk pillow case for over a year and I save so much time in the morning because I don’t have to worry about frizz. This is the exact pillow case I use to prevent frizz overnight. (Remember to wash on gentle with cold water and air dry.)

Advice for 3C/4A Hair

For those of you with like myself with courser, coily patterns I recommend rinsing your hair with cold water after applying a treatment.

Protein Moisture Balance Q & A

The answer is a resounding yes. With protein treatments, a styling habit overhaul, and a change of products this can be corrected.

Hydration implies that the hair is dehydrated, while moisturizer implies the hair needs a quick fix. Hydration usually requires penetrating oils and deep conditioning to get to the root of the deep dehydration. Moisturizer usually fixes surface level dryness. This will depend on how dry your hair is.


hair care recap
© White bear studio/Adobe Stock

You will achieve smooth curls and protein moisture balance with a few simple steps. Learn the signs of imbalance, know your porosity, and treat the symptoms. With masks, mindful styling routines, and knowledge about your porosity you will achieve protein moisture balance in no time. Remember to investigate your hair’s porosity before starting treatments.

Protein moisture balance is not a mystery, but it is one often a cause of unhealthy hair that goes unnoticed. I hope this article helped you. For more life-changing hair tips see 11 Hair Wash Day Essentials for 3C Curly Hair|4A Curly Hair. You can also click below to download the curly hair care checklist so you never miss a step!

To learn about your hair texture and porosity, a hair porosity quiz before changing your hair routine. You can sign up here for curly girl tips, updates about my favorite products, discount codes for brands you’ll love, and your free guide to help you understand more about ingredient standards for popular cosmetics.

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Protein Moisture Balance Deep Conditioner


Curly Girl: The Handbook (p. 29). Workman Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.
Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous: A Nutritionist’s Guide to Living Well While Living It Up.

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