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DIY Protein Hair Mask

Given that once the hair pops out of the hair follicle it’s actually dead, our strands are forever dependent on manual nourishment. For natural hair the disulphide bonds are still intact, which means the strand is much stronger compared to chemically straightened hair. That said, natural hair is not invincible to damage caused by mechanical manipulation, the elements of weather as well as natural wear and tear that comes with aging. To counter structural and mechanical damage as well as protect the hair shaft, protein treatments are extremely useful.

Protein treatments are classified as hard or soft. Hard protein is the kind that needs strong heat (usually direct heat under a dryer) to bond to the strand and will usually harden around the hair strand. Aphogee two step is a prime example of a hard protein treatment. ORS Hair Mayonnaise is an example of a soft protein treatment. Soft protein treatments are effective with or without direct heat. You can use body heat (keeping the treatment on for a few hours or overnight works) with soft protein treatments. Soft protein treatments do not dry to a hard shell around the hair strand.  Proteins are structurally too large to penetrate into the hair cortex. In stead, proteins work by adding a protective coat around the keratin fibers, which protects strand from damage. On a microscopic level, some proteins will seep into the tiny crevices cause by natural wear and tear along the cuticles to reinforce the overall strength of the hair strand. Whether hard or soft, the protein coat deposited by these treatments wears off over time, hence the need to continuously replenish with more protein treatments.

Homemade hair protein treatment

Homemade hair protein treatment

For my hair, I tend to use soft protein treatments more often than the hard ones. And of course, I DIY a protein hair mask using the holy grails of yogurt and coconut milk as the base.  Aside from being already pH optimized, yogurt and coconut milk contain protein, minerals and fats that are great for nourishing my hair. These two products really pack a punch and are sufficient on their own but I like to add other hydrolyzed proteins like silk, keratin and soy proteins as well as liquid aminos in to the mixture.

Recipe:

  • A dollop of yogurt (amount would depend on the length of your hair)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (check ingredients to make sure there are no harmful additives. Cheap coconut milk/cream brands are notorious for additives. Most companies use guar gum as a thickener. It’s a natural plant and should not be cause for concern)
  • 2 tablespoons of oil ( olive, coconut or avocado are highly recommended because there is scientific evidence that they do penetrate into the cortex). Or you can check out herbal oils from my store here.
  • 1 table spoon of hydrolyzed keratin*
  • 1/2 tablespoon of soy protein*
  • 1/2 tablespoon of silk protein*
  • 1 tablespoon liquid aminos*
  • Essential oils of your choice

** The proteins enhance the mask but are not really mandatory. You can alternatively use just one of the hydrolyzed proteins instead of all three. Your personal values might influence your choice of protein. Keep in mind silk and keratin protein are animal by-products while soy and wheat are plant-based.


A variation of this recipe that I use a lot combines yogurt, coconut milk/cream and an egg yolk. It’s a simple, quick and affordable protein treatment. You can also opt for mayonnaise as your base and go from there.

Given my light density texture, products with a thin consistency work much better on my hair than thick ones. If you prefer a thicker consistency, you might be better off starting with a super thick conditioner as the base because the viscosity of the proteins will thin everything out.

natural 4c hair

Hair primed overnight with garlic oil

I prep my hair with garlic oil overnight then apply the protein treatment the next day. As with most of my DIY treatments, I do not sit under the dryer. Instead I use a plastic bag and a turban to keep the mask moist and use my body as a heat source. I rinse the mask then co-wash with a moisturizing conditioner to ensure all product is removed from my hair.  I use a co-wash conditioner that has a small amount of surfactants (fancy way of saying detergent) in it because I want to ensure all the milk is removed from my hair without using a shampoo.

Afterwards I will usually do a quick 15 minute moisture deep conditioner under a dryer just to rebalance any moisture loss. I use this treatment  or alternate with a hard protein whenever I feel my hair needs a protein boost, which is not very often.

See also: How to make and use garlic oil for natural hair

natural 4c hair

4c texture definition after diy protein mask application

Notes on Liquid Aminos

Intended for human consumption, liquid aminos comprises of 16 essential amino acids. Basically humans require amino acids as they are the building blocks for proteins (proteins are essentially what the human body is made up of) but we do not produce all the amino acids and therefore they have to be supplemented in our diets…..hence the term essential amino acids. Key amino acids when it comes to keratin production are methionine, arginine, cysteine and glutamine.

After digging up some information on aminos acids, I’m convinced internal consumption of liquid aminos would be a better way to encourage hair growth. The only downside to this is liquid aminos is derived from soy, which has a high sodium content making the aminos impractical (and dangerous) to consume in large quantities on a daily basis. Bragg recommends diluting the product with distilled water to tone down the sodium aspect. I’m not sure if that dilutes the essential aminos as well. I’m going to do more (science-based) research on essential aminos and do a follow up video updating any new information I uncover.

Video Tutorial

Homemade hair protein treatment

protein treatment for natural hair