Why Fine Hair Needs Protein & How to Strengthen It

Last updated on April 29th, 2023 at 10:58 am

Fine hair needs protein more than any other hair type. In this post, I will convince you why protein is an important element caring for fine hair, types of protein treatment you can use and how to incorporate it into your hair routine.

fine hair needs protein

You may like wearing weaves as a protective style from time to time but wouldn’t it be nice to get your hair to a point where a weave is optional and not just a means to sport long hair?

Let’s face it. Having fine natural hair can make you feel like there’s no hope for growing your own long hair. Hogwash.

Fine natural hair is indeed naturally vulnerable but using protein in your hair regimen can do wonders. As a matter of fact, in order to grow longer strands, using protein is a requirement.

Now, before you either go out and start buying all the protein products you can find or you say something like, “I can’t use protein in my hair because it makes it hard,” let me shed a little light on the subject.

Protein is often misunderstood. Many people think they are “protein sensitive.” What they are actually experiencing is protein overload. We will save that for another post.

I’ve seen people buy the protein sensitivity myth hook, line and sinker – without bothering to do a thorough research on what protein actually is, how to use it, and why your hair needs it.

natural hair protein treatment

Why Use Protein on Fine Hair?

Every head of hair has different requirements but for those of us with fine natural hair, protein treatments are necessary to protect the integrity of the hair strand.

Protein strengthens and protects fine strands from breakage. It also helps to temporarily repair damage and puts an end to breaking hair. Therefore, the end result is length retention.

All of this is what makes protein a good hair habit to have.

Why Protein Sensitivity is a Myth

For one to say that they are protein sensitive is like saying they are allergic to blood or oxygen – each of which makes up a large part of the human anatomy.

Hair is approximately 90% protein. So, it stands to reason that the only substance that can bond to the hair is something of the same…protein.

OK. Enough about why you need protein and how protein sensitivity is a total myth. Let’s take a look at the types of protein that you can use to strengthen fine hair.

Types of Protein

Some protein can cause the hair to feel dry and brittle. That’s why it’s important to know what type of protein to use in your hair.

Using the right type of protein for your hair’s needs, in addition to balancing out any treatments with deep conditioning (moisturizing sans protein) treatments, will ensure your hair is strong AND pliable.

  • Keratin – hair is predominantly made up of this substance and is the strongest of all proteins
  • Collagen – also a natural part of hair, this type of protein helps to improve your hair’s ability to be more elastic
  • Wheat Protein – penetrates the cortex and strengthens the hair shaft from within
  • Silk Protein – derived from silk worms, this serves to strengthen and moisturize the hair leaving it with a silky feel
  • Vegetable Protein – absorbs into the hair shaft and works by binding water molecules to the hair fiber, providing deep moisture
  • Milk Protein – high in amino acids, strengthens and improves the condition of dry hair
  • Soy Protein – strengthens and mends split ends while also smoothing the hair shaft

If you purchase products containing protein, look for the word “hydrolyzed” on the ingredient label. This means that the type of protein in the product has been broken down to be small enough to attach to or penetrate the hair shaft.

Commercial Protein Products for Fine Hair:

fine hair needs protein

I don’t branch out and use many products. That’s because when I find what works, I don’t see a need to change it.

Here are four protein treatments (varying types and strengths) that I’ve used successfully multiple times:

  • Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow & Restore Masque
  • Apogee 2 Step Protein Treatment (for when breakage gets out of control)
  • Aubrey Organics Glycogen Protein Balancing Conditioner – I share 4ways to use the product.
  • Tropic Isle Living Black Castor Oil Protein Conditioner

DIY Protein Treatments

There are a lot of great protein treatments on the market but what I’m here are some DIY protein treatments that I have used to maintain the strength of my fine natural hair:

– Henna Tea Spray (every 3 days)
– Full Strength Henna (quarterly)
Goat’s Milk & Honey Treatment (every other week)

Now, the henna isn’t actually a protein treatment but it does strengthen hair with repeated use. Its said to “mimic” a protein treatment.

If you don’t currently use protein in your hair regimen and find that your hair is breaking or isn’t gaining in length, consider adding protein treatments to it.

My fine natural hair is regularly fortified with protein and strengthening treatments. Hence, it’s made all the difference in the strength of my hair which ultimately aids in length retention.

fine hair needs protein

This post is a part of the series, “Sorting out a Fine Haired Natural’s Wash Day Step by Step.” Here are previous posts:

Why & How to Pre-Poo Fine Natural Hair

Cleansing Fine Natural Hair for Length Retention

Deep Conditioning Fine Natural Hair

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Michelle Smith

Michelle is a Christian natural hair enthusiast. She's been natural for 20+ years and shares natural hair care tips and easy hairstyles for those with low density or thin fine natural hair. It's her joy to inspire you to live by faith in God while caring for your "crown."

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Gen

    WoW ! ! I’m 75 years old and my hair is thinning at the crown. Just stubble across your website. Please help.

    1. Fine Hair and Faith

      God bless you. Thinning at the crown could be caused by many reasons including hormonal changes, traction in that area (pulling the hair too tight), medication, and more. I recommend you see a dermatologist first to get to the root cause of why this is happening.

  2. Daiva

    Hello. I am sorry, but I don’t think that you have fine hair. I have only quarter of your hair, my scalp is see trough my spiderweb like hair. It gets tangled all the time, I can ever have them loose at all. I lose my hair all the time: when I wash them, when I comb them or use any spray what makes them hard, it’s impossible to comb them after. I am really on the edge at this point as nothing helps at all! 🙁 I am afraid to touch them… They are oily in roots and dry in the ends. I do not use anything to destroy them more, I do not color my hair at least for ten years now, I let them dry naturally, use antibreakage shampoo and conditioner from Kerastase, it makes my roots more oily and it does nothing for my hair. What protein product would you recommend for that kind of hair? Thank you!

    1. Fine Hair and Faith

      Hi Daiva,

      What you are describing is thin hair. Thin hair and fine hair are not the same. I do have fine hair, I just have more of them.
      Fine hair is when the individual circumference of an INDIVIDUAL strand is very small. So, if you isolate the hair by itself, it’s so “thin” in appearance that it is very difficult to see.

      Thin hair (overall head of hair) is when your don’t have many strands of hair on your head.

      There’s many reasons you can be losing hair…hormones, diet, nutrition, products. It would be very difficult for me to tell you what to do to remedy without having all the answers.

      What I can offer is this:

      Don’t comb your hair. Use your fingers to detangle in the shower and ONLY with conditioner in your hair. Use protein no more than once a month. You need a balance of moisture and protein.

      This anti-breakage shampoo may be cause strength overload. Especially if you use it too often.

      If the Kerastase isn’t working for you, why are you using it? I think you may need to try very basic products. Perhaps a shea butter shampoo. Pre-poo with coconut or olive oil. For protein, you want to use this if your hair is breaking, not shedding. Shedding is coming from the root. Breakage occurs along the hair shaft.

      Protein treatments you can use include: TGIN Miracle RepairX (in store) OR Ominira Naturals Silk Herbal Infusion – Ultimate Strength Intense Deep Conditioning Mask (this is only available to order at http://www.ominiranaturals.com but it’s my favorite).

      I hope this helps but also, I suggest you see a dermatologist and an internist

  3. Sara

    Hello Michelle,
    I’ve learned a lot from you over the years, thank you! I have fine, porous, very weak 4c hair – its genetic. I use henna for volume and greys, but henna makes my hair soft not strong. Adding amla and herbs helps but doesnt strengthen enough. I crochet every 6 weeks. Im thinking to use both henna and protein before the next crochet. Im not sure if to protein first and then color with henna or vice versa to strengthen? Or should I try something else? Thanks for any input.

    1. Michelle

      hi Sara, have you tried Fenugreek? It’s also a strengthening herb. Regarding henna, it makes my hair soft too! I wouldn’t use both henna and protein. You don’t want to get strength overload.

      Also, you probably don’t want to hear this but I’d lay off on the crochet braids every 6 weeks. Adding hair to your hair can really stress your strands. Especially, when you are doing it so often. How about take a break between styles? For example, crochet and then 6 weeks later, let your hair breathe and rest. Do the treatments etc but you can protective style with your own hair for a bit. It’s good to take breaks between protective styles.

  4. May

    This post was really helpful. I have fine 3c/4a hair. The back of my hair is prone to breakage and split ends. I usually use light protein treatments, but I think I need to use a strong protein treatment every now and then. I’ve ordered the Aphogee Two-step. I hear that the application is messy, but if I’m using it once in awhile, then I can put up with the messy application.

    1. Michelle

      hi there, yes it can be a little messy but its not that bad really. You won’t need to use it that often either.

      1. Dede

        how often should I use it? Once every two months? because that’s how long I keep my braids in.

        1. Michelle

          I would definitely do it before redoing your braids each time. Two months is a long time between wash days

  5. Rho

    Wow this article is really helpful. I have fine 4a/b/c hair with a mixture of low & high porosity. My problem area with breakage is my crown and the top sides of my head. Those areas just don’t seem to retain length. I had protein overload years ago using It’s 10 keratin Leave-in. I stopped using protein products for years and my hair started to grow but then it started to thin and break badly. I tried Aghogee 2-step treatment and thought something was wrong becuz my hair felt really hard until I washed my hair 2 weeks later. I will try this again but with a protein free deep moisturizing conditioner and moisturize my hair a couple days later and see how that works. Wish me luck! 🤞🏾

    1. Michelle

      Glad you found the article helpful! It’s really a balance game… making sure you have adequate protein but also adequate moisture. Too much of one or the other and the hair just doesn’t act or look right

  6. Jennifer

    I have really fine 2c 3/a caucasian hair. I was not doing a regular protein treatment and my hair is now over moisturized (curls have flattened to 2a and hair udduort soft. I think I need to do a protein treatment (and start doing them regularly) I was just foini am still figuring out how to wear my natural curls.

    I have just ordered aphogee 2 min repair (or restore). I have the two step coming just in case I need it in the future)

    If I use the 2 min repair/restore to balance out my over moisturized curls, I should NOT follow with a protein free deep conditioner, right? I should wait until my hair gets its curls back and I’d nolonger super soft?

    I have no oriteing I am Hydration Elation and a mixed hairfinity that has protein but also oils and conditioners.

    Is that too much for my moisture for my hair as a regular treatment (a good mix of protein And moisture?

    My find hair seems really dycemptibke to deep conditioning (I was using curl junky repaired every few weeks. It ihas proteins but also a lot of moisturizing.. I am very confused

    1. Michelle

      Hi, if you have a problem with excess moisture (hair feels mushy), definitely do a protein treatment. However, you still need to balance it out with moisture. The Aphogee 2 step treatment accomplishes both. If using something else, after the protein treatment just use a moisturizing conditioner that you put in for a couple minutes and rinse out.

      Lastly, try using products from the same line. Manufacturers tend to formulate their products to work together

  7. Linda

    How can I get the product……and how much is it

    1. Michelle Smith

      what product are you referring to? if Goat’s milk, you can buy that at the supermarket

  8. Courtney

    Thank you, Michelle! I have super fine, straight (Caucasian) hair that’s been having a breakage problem for a few years. The ends of my hair are often dry and splitting, no matter what I do. I want to try a natural shampoo & conditioner with protien, but I was worried my hair might turn out to be “protien sensitive” as I haven’t really tried protien in it before. Now I know protien should be good for my fine hair. 🙂

    1. Michelle Smith

      hi Courtney-

      Yes protein is good for your hair. You just need to balance out the protein with deep conditioning so your hair is left pliable. A great way to get the strength and moisture you need is with herbs like amla and henna. You can do a pre-poo with an Amla mask and follow up with a henna gloss. I’ll be sharing more about that soon.

  9. Anthea van Rooyen

    Thank God I found you today, I was loosing all hope and didnt know why my hair has been limp and very brittel for the past month, even a trimm didnt stop the breakage. Am living in Germany for the past 23 years (45 now) and went into town to look for product, but discovered that they dont really do protein. In the biggest “Wallmart, they only had one “starch mask”, with hardly any protein. I was wondering, seeing that most of them have fine hair, why dont their hair suffer like mine did and I have only been natural for 8 months.. For some reason I thought most curly girls are protein sensitive, cause a lot of hair gurus seem to be promoting that. Am so glad I finally understand this whole thing and actually ordered Aphogee 2 step via Amozon. Once again thank you so much for saving my hair journey.
    Much Love and God Bless
    Anthea

    1. Michelle Smith

      Hi Anthea-

      That’s very interesting that protein isn’t something readily available in Germany for hair care. Don’t overuse the Aphogee. You still have to balance with plenty of moisture. One treatment that’s exceptionally good for maintaining protein and moisture balance levels is a DIY goat’s milk treatment I use. You can use it every 2 weeks. It works wonderfully. Plus saves you money because it’s a DIY. Here’s a link: http://finenaturalhairandfaith.com/staple-diy-goats-milk-honey-oils-conditioner-recipe/

  10. Brittnie Lamb

    How often should we use protein on fine hair. You say once a month but than say people with fine hair should use it on a regular basis. What is that basis please?

    1. Michelle Smith

      Hi Brittnie, Once a month is a guideline for minimal protein treating. It depends on your hair’s needs. For those with fine hair, light protein treatments or other fortifying treatments like henna and cassia can be used more often. For example, A henna gloss is a light strengthening treatment that performs much like protein treatments. In the case of the henna gloss, it can be used weekly.
      I also use a DIY goat’s milk conditioner which is protein/moisture balanced: http://finenaturalhairandfaith.com/staple-diy-goats-milk-honey-oils-conditioner-recipe/

      I’ve used that recipe weekly

  11. Edna Huntley

    How to use the goat milk honey and it supposed to be organic honey

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