Talk Protein to me: A Protein Guide for Natural Hair

Talk Protein to me: A Protein Guide for Natural Hair

If you’re well on your way in your natural hair journey, chances are protein has come up more than a few times. But if you’re a newbie to this natural hair thing, allow us to explain why protein is so important for your hair, before we get into the different types of protein.

Your hair is comprised almost entirely (88-89%) of a protein called keratin so it makes sense that protein helps strengthen your locks. But additionally, protein in general is essential for many of our bodily functions and if you don’t consume enough of it, your body will start to pick and choose which functions need protein the most. This means your body will prioritize hormone production and other important functions over more “frivolous” things like hair growth.

So basically, making sure your body and your hair is well supplied with protein should definitely be a priority on your hair journey, but chances are, you probably knew that already. What you probably didn’t know is that there are different types of protein that will affect your hair differently. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled this super quick, super easy protein guide so you can get a better understanding of what your hair needs.

Two of the major categories of proteins are animal-derived and plant-based, and this is similar to how we look at protein in our food. Animal proteins are those that come from animals and include milk-based proteins since these come from animals as well, while plant –based proteins are exactly that—those which you get from beans, legumes etc.

Generally speaking, animal proteins strengthen and coat your hair shaft, but they can also leave some build-up on your hair and leave your hair hard, while plant-based proteins tend to absorb into your hair more easily, while hydrating your hair and improving damaged or split ends without much of the build-up.


Besides those types there are other smaller sub-categories of proteins that we will outline below:

Milk-based proteins

These are awesome for your hair. They are derived from milk (obviously) and are high in lactic acid and amino acids, which help to moisturize and strengthen your hair.

Hydrolyzed Proteins

Hydrolyzed wheat proteins can increase your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. Additionally, silk which is one of the strongest natural fibers on earth, has a derivative called hydrolyzed silk protein which improve your hair’s elasticity and shine. Finally, hydrolyzed soy proteins (plant-based), can also really strengthen your hair and since it is a water soluble protein, it also increases your hair’s ability to retain moisture (which we all know is absolutely critical to hair growth)

Hair Proteins

This group of proteins mimic our hair’s natural proteins, and are usually key ingredients in many hair products. They are powerful ingredients which can truly improve your hair’s health. Collagen protein is one which is good for your hair and your skin, as it improves elasticity.

Keratin protein is another powerhouse ingredient that can work wonders on your hair. As we mentioned, your hair is predominantly made up of keratin and when included into your hair regimen, it can strengthen your hair shaft, and smooth your hair cuticle, reducing frizz. It’s no wonder why keratin treatments have been a mainstay in the beauty industry for so long!

According to natural hair expert, Aleka Pooe, of Natural Curl Designs,  "After consulting with many of my clients, I believe that protein has gotten a bad rep. Many not knowing that the product they may have used in the past was more than likely comprised of an animal based protein, which can be quite harsh on the hair.  Animal-based protein products can possibly cause  shedding and sometimes extreme breakage. I always recommend a plant based protein product to be used (as needed) for all my NaturCurl Girls and Color clients.  Establishing a protein regimen will help keep their hair healthy and  resilient, or help to revitalize their hair back to good health.” 

Do you do protein treatments in your hair? Let us know in the comments. 

Back to blog


Protein treatments are HAIL MARYs for stylists when you hair is failing and they need to send you out of the salon with some hair on your head. I use Curl Junkie and Keratin/Silk proteins exclusively. What I feel is missing from this article is that plant based plasters the hair. According to L’anza which makes Keratin based products, ‘The difference between keratin and vegetable ingredients in hair care, is that keratin fills up the broken wall with new bricks, where vegetable ingredients only plaster the surface. The latter obviously looks alright, but is less stable.’ That is what we should be discussing in this article……


I use to ,but I stopped because I heard low porosity hair was sensitive to protein.

Belinda Cobb

This info is great, thanks! I didn’t know there were different proteins for hair and that they affect the hair in different ways. I just knew that hair needs protein. I use a keratin based shampoo and conditioner on wash day, which I love. I also added Aphogee protein treatment to my hair regimen. I heard it’s really good. I plan to use it every 3 months. Although protein is good for hair, I try not to overdo it because too much protein may actually damage to the hair. How often should one use a protein deep treatment? Curious? Any thoughts?

J. Santos

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.