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Ingredients to Avoid in Curly Hair Products

It can be so confusing to know which ingredients are healthy for your curly hair, and which ones are harmful. You might feel like you have to become a chemist just to decipher the labels! To save you time and research, you can benefit from my research instead and save this post as you read labels to find the best products for your curls!

Ingredients to Avoid in Curly Hair Products - Toxins, Irritants and Drying Ingredients
Sulfates to Avoid in Curly Hair Products

Avoid Sulfates

Sulfates are harsh detergents that strip oil and dirt out of your hair so well, they actually deplete the naturally produced sebum that moisturizes your hair. While sulfates can be beneficial for hair that gets oily quickly or has looser curls, they’re usually a no-no for drier curly hair. Here are the ones to avoid:

  • Alkylbenzene sulfonates
  • Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate
  • Ammonium Xylenesulfonate
  • Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
  • Sodium cocoyl sarcosinate
  • Sodium laureth sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate
  • Sodium myreth sulfate
  • Sodium Xylenesulfonate
  • TEA-dodecylbenzenesulfonate
  • Ethyl PEG-15 cocamine sulfate
  • Dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate

Check out my Amazon storefront here to know which products I recommend getting, from high end to bargain brands, and accessories like sleeping bonnets and diffusers, I’ve covered it all and make shopping easier for you!

Gentle and safe cleansers for curly hair that won't dry the hair out

Gentle cleansers that are non-drying and safe for curly hair:

  • Cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Coco betaine
  • Cocoamphoacetate
  • Cocoamphodipropionate
  • Disodium cocoamphodiacetate
  • Disodium cocoamphodipropionate
  • Lauroamphoacetate
  • Sodium cocoyl isethionate
  • Behentrimonium methosulfate
  • Disodium lautreth sulfosuccinate
  • Babassuamidopropyl betaine
Silicones to Avoid in Curly Hair Products

Avoid Silicones

Silicones are synthetic resins and are found in many hair products due to their ability to add shine and condition the hair. Sounds good, right? Well, the problem is that they are not water soluble, so they produce build up on the hair and scalp that no-poo shampoos cannot remove. There are many different names for them, but to keep it simple, anything ending in: “cone,” “conol,” “col,” or “xane,” should be avoided. The only exceptions here are those ingredients with the abbreviations “PEG” or “PPG” in front of them. This abbreviation will alert you that they were made to be water-soluble, and won’t produce the build-up other silicones are known to cause.

  • Cetearyl Methicone
  • Cetus Dimethicone
  • Dimethicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Stearyl Dimethicone

These are a little better but still can cause buildup: 

  • Amodimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone/Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Trimethylsilylamodimethicone

Here are some water-soluble ones that do cause buildup over time (just slower):

  • Behenoxy Dimethicone
  • Stearoxy Dimethicone

Avoid Mineral Oils

Minerals oils are a derivative of crude oil (petrolatum) that is refined into a slippery liquid. It is lightweight and inexpensive, which is why so many companies use it. It coats the hair like silicones do, blocking the hair from getting water. So at first it can make the hair shiny and soft, but then actually ends up drying hair out and takes a strong sulfate shampoo to remove.

Can Clog the Pores

It is also considered to be comedogenic, meaning, it clogs the pores. This is NOT good considering we want our scalps to be clean and clear so that our hair can grow healthy and strong! Plus, if it washes down onto your neck, face, shoulders and back, it can contribute to pimples and acne.

Can Contain Many Toxins

There are different grades of mineral oils and there are many chemicals used in the refining process. Some studies have been done that have concluded it does contain toxins, but the result to our health is still undetermined. (Read more here.)

All About Alcohols in Curly Hair Products and which ones to avoid, and which ones are safe and moisturizing

Avoid Drying Alcohols

Not all alcohols are bad, but there are some ones that are too drying for curly hair. The drying alcohols are short-chain ones, and the moisturizing ones are long-chain, fatty alcohols that come from plants, animals and oils.

  • SD Alcohol 40
  • Ethanol Alcohol
  • Ethyl Alcohol
  • Propyl Alcohol
  • SD Alcohol
  • Propanol Alcohol
  • Isopropyl Alcohol

Optional: Artificial Fragrances

Avoiding artificial fragrances is really more of a personal choice as fragrance doesn’t affect the health of your hair (that we know of!). It’s not always possible and I will buy products that have artificial fragrances in them if the scent is isn’t too strong or I just LOVE the product and it what it does for my hair.

So the main I avoid fragrance is that it stands for more than 3,000 different chemicals! Some are known to be carcinogenic and irritating, but since the actual chemical isn’t disclosed, we don’t know if it’s a safe one or a toxic one. I know many people who get headaches from strong scents, too.

Brands that contain no artificial fragrances are usually organic ones like InnerSense Organics, and many of Shea Moisture’s products are scented with essential oils.

Toxins to Avoid in Curly Hair and Hair Products - Artificial Fragrances, Preservatives, Parabens and Phthalates

Irritating and Toxic Preservatives

Preservatives are a necessary ingredient to keep hair products shelf-stable, but some are very irritating and considered to be toxic.

  • Formaldhyde – a common preservative (I mean, duh, to embalm the dead (blech!) that is known to be carcinogenic to both animals and humans. No cancer, thank you!
  • These preservatives release formaldehyde: Diazolidinyl urea, DMDM, Hydantoin, Glyoxal, Imidazolidinyl urea, Polyoxymethylene urea, Quaternium-15, Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
  • Methylisothiazolinone – is a common preservative in hair products, linked to lung toxicity, allergic reactions, and possible neurotoxicity. 


Parabens are very effective, cheap preservatives that are naturally found in plants. They also prevent harmful mold and bacteria from growing products. But many also consider them to be xenoestrogens, which can disrupt hormones and even pose a cancer risk. For example, parabens have been found in breast cancer cells, which indicates that parabens may act like estrogen in the body (source).

The most common parabens are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isopropylparaben and isobutylparaben.


Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl. The health effects of exposure to phthalates are not yet fully known but are being studied by several government agencies.

One phthalate, Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), is an endocrine disruptor and can cause cancer. Some phthalates may affect human reproduction or development.

Phthalates had been used to make pacifiers, soft rattles, and teething rings, but have not been allowed in those products since 1999. So I don’t know about you, but I’m not excited to have them in my beauty and hair products, either!

Check out all of my curly hair articles here!

Curly Hair Products - Ingredients to Avoid that are drying, irritating, toxic or harmful to your health and curls!

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How to Heal Damaged Hair with a Bond Repair Treatment

I have been using OlaPlex to help heal and strengthen my once damaged curly hair, and it’s made a world of difference! Learn what these bond repair treatments are and how they work in this post to see if it’s right for your hair. I also talk about a few other things about how to heal damaged hair that have healed my hair like protein treatments, deep conditioning and doing a big chop.

How to Repair Hair that's Been Damaged from Heat, Coloring, Bleaching, Relaxing, Perming, and Straightening with a Bond Repair Treatment like OlaPlex

How does hair become damaged?

  • In the sun – sunlight can break down the proteins in the hair
  • Manipulating from braiding, brushing, styling, adding in a weave or extensions
  • Hair dye
  • Bleach
  • Chemical straightening
  • Blow drying
  • Straightening
  • Curling irons and wands
  • From products that contain harsh ingredients like sulfates, drying alcohols, and silicones
  • Swimming – chlorine and salt water both do a number on hair

Bond Repair

Disulphide Bonds

A little chemistry lesson about hair if you’d like to understand how damage, such as listed above, is done to hair. If this bores you to tears, then skip this section and move onto how to heal damaged hair!

So, hair is made mostly of a protein called keratin. If we look inside keratin, we see copies of the amino acid, cysteine. Cysteine bonds with other cysteine copies forming disulphide bonds. Those tiny bonds are what hold the protein together and give it strength. This is the most important bond in human hair as it accounts for as much as 90% of your hair’s overall strength and toughness. However, it is easily broken when a substance of a pH of 5.5 or greater is applied.

During the perming, coloring, bleaching, and straightening processes, the chemicals break down the disulfide bonds and harden them into a new shape.

For a long time, nothing could be done to restore the broken disulfide bonds except to cut off the damaged hair. Now we have many different products that restore the bonds!

Products to Restore the Disulphide Bonds

What I’ve Used

I’ve only ever used OlaPlex No. 3 at home, and have had the steps 1 and 2 done in the salon, so I cannot speak for the other brands. It has done wonders for my hair! Each time I use it (and I’ve used it almost once a week for 6 months), my curls spring back up and my hair is bouncy, shiny and happy. My hair stylist told me about the Redken Bonder and said it was really good and they now carry that in my salon because it’s half the price of OlaPlex! So I think I’ll buy that one next and try it out to see if it’s better.

How I Use It

I’ve always followed the directions on the bottle.

  • Apply to wet, towel dried hair from roots to ends
  • Comb it through
  • Then I put on a shower cap and let it sit from 30 minutes to an hour (the bottle says leave on for 10 minutes)

Other Ways to Heal Damaged Hair

Protein Treatment

Hair is essentially made of protein (keratin), so a temporary fix is to add in more protein to support and strengthen the hair. Protein treatments work temporarily to fill in the gaps of the outer layer of the hair cuticle (bond repair treatments go to work in the inside of the hair, the cortex) and fill in the gaps with protein to strengthen hair. It is recommended to to do them every 4-6 weeks, as everyday wear and tear and products can reduce the protein in our hair.

Don’t Be Afraid of Protein!

I’ve talked to many women who are afraid to use protein at the first sign of wonky, frizzy, uncooperative hair. Protein overload can be an issue when too much protein is used, say, one or twice a week.  I really encourage you to throw that fear aside, yes, even for low porosity curly girls. Even they need protein – not as often or as much as those with high porosity hair, but it is still needed from time to time. And then pay close attention to how your hair responds to the treatments to see when you need to do one again.

There are three different types of protein treatments that I’ve used they have all greatly helped my hair! My recommendation is to do just one treatment and see how your hair responds.

  • DIY Gelatin Treatment – this can be made from the gelatin packets at the grocery store. Super cheap and easy! This post explains how to know when you need a protein treatment.
  • Aphogee Protein Treatment This treatment saved my hair from hygral fatigue! It works really well. It is made mostly from gelatin. (I don’t use the second step because it contains silicones which build up on the hair and prevent moisture from getting in)
  • Rice Water Rinse – you can actually make a protein treatment from the rice water! The protein molecules in rice are larger than gelatin so therefore, they do not penetrate the hair cuticle as easy. So this is less strong and effective than gelatin. If you try a rice water rinse and it doesn’t help much, I highly recommend doing a gelatin rinse and see how your hair responds.

DIY Gelatin Hair Mask Protein Treatment Recipe for Strong, Healthy Hair!

Both Protein and OlaPlex

You can use both in conduction with one another! OlaPlex even recommends it on the bottle. Bond repair treatments and protein perform different functions and have different ingredients, so your hair can benefit from both.

When I first started doing the Curly Girl Method, I did one protein treatment a week for one month and one OlaPlex treatment a week for a month. Then I backed off of the protein because I could tell my hair was strong and needed a break (it was getting a little hard and stiff), and just did OlaPlex twice a month. I do protein on an as-needed basis now. My hair is continually getting much healthier, shinier, bouncier and softer, so I’d say this plan has been working!

We are all different, so I can’t say that my plan will work for you, but it could give you a starting point at least.

Cut off the Damage

For some of us, hair can get so damaged that it’s irreversible. I know, sad day! Chemical straightening can really do an awful number on hair, as can bleaching and coloring. This happened to me – I was coloring my hair at home and because I didn’t really know what I was doing, I kept pulling the color out about four inches inches each time I did it. So I was coloring on top of color each time, and it caused major damage to my hair! After doing the Curly Girl method for four months, I had the damaged ends cut off. It’s called a Big Chop and I wrote about it in this post!

Why I Did the Big Chop for My Curly Hair

Deep Conditioning

Deep Conditioning Routine for Gorgeous Curly Hair

Curly hair especially needs lots of hydration, so deep conditioning (with a heat cap such as this one) is how I heal my hair, along with the protein and OlaPlex treatments. I have seen my hair go from very frizzy, not lasting more than one day after washing, to getting rid of most of the frizz and going for 4-5 days in between washes in just 6 months! In this post, I share why deep conditioning is so helpful and what my routine has been!

Some of my favorite deep conditioners:


How to Repair Damaged Hair (and curly hair) with a Bond Repair Treatment like OlaPlex

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Why I Love Getting DevaCuts for My Curls

Why I Love Getting DevaCuts for My Curly Hair

Curly girls – do you know yet about DevaCuts? This specialized cut for curly hair has changed everything for the better for women with curly hair. Learn all about it in this post and see pictures and videos from my latest DevaCut!

Why I Love Getting DevaCuts for My Curly Hair

We all have Our Horror Stories!

Anytime I talk to another curly girl, we can always swap horror stories of terrible hair cuts we’ve had from stylists who say they know how to cut curly hair, but really have no clue. I’m so thankful for trail blazers like Lorraine Massey who made DevaCuts popular so that my kids can grow up in a world where horror stories become a thing of the past!

I had so many stylists take razors to my hair to thin it out (as if having thick hair is a bad thing) and chop it up in all kinds of weird ways to make it less big. Like a gardener with gardening shears trimming a bush – ackkkkkk! Since embracing my curly hair and learning how to take care of it properly with the Curly Girl Method, I’ve been able to be happy with my big hair and even begin to love it! It’s not about taming our curls, it’s about learning how and why they are curly and working WITH the natural texture and shape.

Getting a DevaCut at Curltopia in Atlanta, GA

I’ve Been Getting DevaCuts for a Long Time! 

When I was in my early twenties, I found a hair stylist in north Atlanta who specialized in curly hair. Back then, this was a rare thing! She had patented the C cut, where she cut the hair dry along the C curve of the curl. A few years later, I started to hear about Lorraine Massey and her Devachaun salon in New York City, and the DevaCut began to become more well-known. I was able to find a DevaStylist when we moved to Pennsylvania in my late twenties and have been getting DevaCuts ever since!

Watch the whole experience here!

What is a DevaCut?

It’s a specialized cut for curly hair (of any ethnicity, doesn’t matter) where the stylist cuts the hair dry, curl by curl, along the C shape of the curl. Stylists are trained either in the Devachan salon in New York City, or trainers travel to salons all over the country to teach the method to salons.

Tip for a successful DevaCut: Come to the salon with your hair styled naturally curly, as you would wear it normally so he or she can see how the hair falls and looks naturally.

These cuts are best for those who wear their hair curly most of the time. Most stylists recommend getting one every 8-12 weeks or as needed to prevent split ends and keep the hair healthy.

Signs you need a trim:

  • Shedding
  • Tangled Knots
  • Split Ends
  • Loss of shape
  • Style not holding

My Latest Devacut

I recently had an accidental big chop done at Curltopia in Atlanta! Read all about that experience here. I filmed it so I could share it with you. My stylist, Brynn, was so attentive, thorough, and gave me some really good tips for taking care of my curls.

Visit my Curly Hair page here on the blog for more curly tips and tutorials!

Why I Love Getting DevaCuts for my Curly Hair

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The Big Chop: Why Not to be Scared

The Curly Girl Method - The Big Chop

We often associate long hair with beauty and femininity. But what if it’s damaged and holding your healthy hair back? Going for The Big Chop can help your natural curls reach their full potential after years of damage from color, bleaching, blow outs, relaxing and straightening. Here’s my story and the epiphany I had while going for a shorter do!

Why I Did the Big Chop for My Curly Hair

The Big Chop is a Big Thing in the Curly Girl World

I started the Curly Girl Method this past summer, June 2018, with pretty long hair. When it was wet, it was down to the middle of my back. Dry, it was several inches past my shoulders. It was heavy, thick and long! I had every intention of keeping it that way until I started to see it was a “thing” in the curly world of Instagram to chop off your damaged hair to get a new start and have healthier hair as many women straighten and color their hair before starting this method and have very, very damaged hair.

I had Split Ends and Knots

It got me thinking about my ends and I noticed how they often got knots in them, and were split and pretty frizzy, even after months of doing regular OlaPlex and protein treatments (read more about those here).

The health of my hair had improved drastically since starting the Curly Girl Method, even the split ends look better. But they were still curling wonky and I hadn’t gotten a cut since May of 2019, so I knew I was due for a good trim and shaping up.

Why I Did the Big Chop for My Curly Hair

When in for Just a Trim

So just last week (the end of October), I scheduled an appointment for a Deva cut at a salon in Atlanta that specializes in curly hair. As I sat down in the chair, my stylist, Brynn, noticed I had a lot of split, frizzy ends and knots so she recommended we cut several inches off. I was all for it and she got to work, the big chop was a go!

Arrive for Your Deva Cut with Freshly Washed Hair

I need to back this story up just a bit – I broke the Deva cut rules because you’re supposed to arrive with hair that’s pretty freshly washed and style since they cut your hair dry. That way the stylist can see the way your hair normal looks and curls, and will cut it based on that.

I came with 3-day old hair that was looking pretty rough! Most of the curl had fallen out, even after refreshing it. So she had a hard time seeing my natural curl pattern and style!

Layering Hair Color Really Damaged my Hair

Despite that, she gave me a nice cut and shape, washed and dried my hair, and then went back in and cleaned it up even more. As she was cutting, she noticed that my hair was damaged up to my ears! I told her I was confused because I haven’t been straightening my hair – in fact, it’s never something I’ve done regularly!

But I have been coloring my hair since I have grey hair coming in. The problem is that I was coloring my hair at home, and had been pulling the color out 3-4 inches every time, instead of just coloring the roots. Yikes! Seems like common sense to not to do that, but I hadn’t figure it out until June. She told me it doesn’t really matter which brand of hair color you use, as long as you only color the roots each time, it should be fine!

So I had only a few months of good, healthy hair growth (about 3-4 inches) and that was it. She asked if I wanted more cut off.

View this post on Instagram

The (accidental) Big Chop pt 2! So I know it’s every curly girl’s nightmare to walk into a salon wanting to keep your long hair, only to walk out with it chopped off! Like they took gardening shears to it. 🤪😱 But that’s what happened to me, and it thankfully wasn’t a nightmare!
⠀ So my stylist, Brynn, carefully cut my hair the first time, making sure to preserve my length as I asked her to do. She gave me a Deva cut, which is a technique created by the #curlygirlmethod founder, Lorraine Massey, where your hair is cut dry, curl by curl. She said I had a lot of split ends and cut those off. Then, she washed it and I sat under the dryer for a while. Then went back to the chair.
⠀ And she looked at my hair to work on the shape a little more. She began to notice that I had damage all the way up to my ears! I honestly had been noticing this for a while as parts of my hair curl all wonky.
⠀ So she asked if I wanted her to cut off more to get rid of the damage – I had a huge epiphany in that moment (which I’ll share with you tomorrow) about hair, and what it means to be a woman, and carrying around dead weight, and beauty and I sat up straight and just said, “ya know, I just want my hair to be healthy! Cut off whatever you need to so it’s healthy.” And she did! 😬😱💇‍♀️ (come back tomorrow for part 3!) #curlybob #shortcurlyhair #deadends ⠀

A post shared by Sara McFall (@mymerrymessycurls) on

My Big Epiphany

At first, I totally hesitated. I’ve worked for a long time to grow my hair out and really liked it long! Except that it took sooo much time to wash, style and dry it.

I was thinking and then locked eyes with myself in the mirror and had a come to Jesus moment. I thought, “Sara! What are you doing! Hanging onto to dead weight – for what?” And I let her go for the big chop. Then later, as I collected my thoughts while driving home, still shocked my hair was a good 6-8 inches shorter, everything became clear.

I’d become afraid of having short hair. I thought it was much more feminine, sexy and beautiful to have long hair and had been avoiding getting the damage cut off for a long time. Hair length has nothing to do with beauty – it’s how we feel about ourselves that radiates beauty and peace or shame and fear.

I have done a ton of spiritual work on myself the past four years – reprogramming my brain to believe the truth about myself and the world, releasing shame and bitterness, forgiving myself and others, and getting to know myself. It’s been the most freeing and miraculous time of my life!

The Curly Girl Method - The Big ChopThe Cut Was an Physical Sign of My Spiritual Freedom

So on the way home, I started crying. Realizing that I dropped so much dead weight mentally and spiritually, and now have an outward sign of what’s happened on the inside. This made me really, really like my new short do! This. Is. Freedom. Walking in the truth of who we are.

What I didn’t expect is that going for the big chop would give courage to so many of my curly haired followers on Instagram (follow me here) who’e been wanting to do the same. ?

My Encouragement to You

My encouragement to you is – know you are beautiful because you believe yourself to be so from within. ? Whatever you do with your hair on the outside will reflect your inner beauty (peace) – long, short, medium, thick, long, curly, wavy, kinky, transitioning, damaged. It doesn’t matter.

Let the dead weight go – forgive yourself and others, get to know yourself and release shame, know that you’re an amazing, worthy, special and important woman and nothing about your body changes that. What you do with your hair from there will reflect your truth, your being, your true beauty! ?

What I’m Loving About The Big Chop and Having Short Hair

? It’s bouncy & fun
? I use way less shampoo & especially conditioner
? I use less styling products
? Styling is much faster
? Drying time is about 15 mins shorter!
? It doesn’t fall down in my face and get in the way
? Change is fun!
? My hair is curlier and healthier

Check out my post on How I Found Emotional Freedom (Top 10 Tips) to learn more about how to forgive and release shame.

Visit my Curly Hair Page Hub to become a curly hair insider with me! You’ll get tips and tricks delivered straight to your inbox to help you have the curly hair you’ve always dreamed of!

Why I Did the Big Chop for My Curly Hair (and why I LOVE it!)

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DIY Gelatin Hair Protein Treatment

DIY Gelatin Hair Protein Treatment

This is a homemade protein treatment that you can make in under five minutes to bring your hair back to life especially after coloring, bleaching, relaxing, straightening, swimming, excessive styling, etc. All of those things cause damage and protein can help revive and heal your hair. This mask can be used for any hair type from straight, to wavy, curly, kinky, coily, bleached, colored, and relaxed!

DIY Gelatin Hair Mask Protein Treatment Recipe for Strong, Healthy Hair!

Our Hair is Mostly Protein

Our hair is made up of a tough protein called keratin, which is also found in animal feathers, hoofs, claws and human fingernails. Hair also contains melanin, a pigment that gives hair its color, and trace amounts of vitamins, zinc and other metals. About 10 to 13 percent of hair is made up of water.

So needless to say, our hair is pretty much all protein and, therefore, it needs protein to be healthy and strong. You can get protein through your diet by eating protein-rich foods, and many products contain protein in them so you’re always getting doses of it.

But we like to do all kinds of things to manipulate and damage our hair from coloring, straightening, relaxing, styling, bleaching, swimming… and then need a boost of extra protein to keep it healthy!

For Curly Girls

When I first started doing the curly girl method in June of 2018, I did three different protein treatments over about four weeks that I bought from Aphogee on Amazon. They worked amazingly well and brought my hair back to life after many years of damage from silicones in my styling products. If you’re not a DIY person, the Aphogee one is really effective and I can personally recommend it!

Can you believe the difference in this picture? Wowzahs!

Protein Treatments brought my hair back to life!

If you’d like to make your own, then this recipe uses the same main ingredient as the Aphogee one – gelatin.

The difference some protein treatments and the curly girl method can make!
My hair was in terrible shape! No longer had any curl, was super frizzy and dry and needed serious help. Look at the amazing after!

How do you know if your hair needs protein?

Protein overload is a problem that can take weeks to resolve, so it’s important to know if your hair needs protein at all. In general, if you are happy with your hair, then in my opinion, keep doing what you’re doing. Wait until you’re unhappy with your hair or have some of the symptoms below before doing a protein treatment.

  • Breaks easily – if your hair is breaking easily, that’s a sign that the hair fiber is weak and needs to be strengthened
  • Frizzy, limp, dry
  • (If your hair is curly) – Limp, won’t hold curl anymore, has lost curl pattern, is frizzy and dry even after using conditioner or deep conditioning, split ends (also need a hair trim)
  • If you’ve done any of the following recently – straightened, relaxed, had excessive manipulation (like braids, twist outs, adding extensions), chemical processing, bleach, or hair color – your hair will need protein and I also suggest an OlaPlex treatment no. 3 (or do it in a salon).
  • It’s had excessive moisture – like from sleeping with wet hair or sleeping with a deep conditioner in your wet hair. This breaks down the proteins in your hair and was how I got my hair into such bad shape!

What does a protein treatment do?

It is made of protein itself, so it binds to the hair cuticle layer and strengthens it. I have found after I do a gelatin hair treatment, my hair is curlier, bouncier, stronger, shinier, and way less frizzy.

From everything I’ve read on many different websites, it is generally suggested to do a treatment once every 4-6 weeks unless your hair is protein sensitive and also not damaged. If you are happy with your hair, then I say, wait until you aren’t and do it then!

About Gelatin

Gelatin is collagen derived from animal bones. It’s an amazing supplement for us that helps to build up collagen and keep our bones and joints strong and healthy. I highly recommend Great Lakes Gelatin and use it for making healthy desserts for my kids, like homemade jello or gummy candies. To help heal my eczema, which is often a leaky gut issue, where the lining of your intestines is compromised and undigested food particles leak out and get into the blood stream. The white blood cells sees the particles of food as foreign invaders and attacks them, causing all sorts of different autoimmune diseases.

So, anyway, I would drink herbal tea and add a teaspoon or so of gelatin to it to help heal the lining of my gut and found that it did ease my symptoms and really helped my skin!

About Apple Cider Vinegar

I use this magic liquid all of the time! Not only to make salad dressing, but also to clarify my hair. See my recipe here. ACV has many, many health benefits and I have a whole article on what it does and how to use it, here. I also have used it to soothe skin irritations like bug bites and rashes (see that article here), and as a very cheap and healthy face toner!

My DIY Gelatin Hair Protein Treatment Recipe

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of gelatin – the cheap kind at the grocery store will do or get Great Lakes Gelatin
  • Optional – 1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar (gently clarifies the hair and removes product buildup)
  • Optional – 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oils for fragrance and to soothe the scalp and provide therapeutic benefits to the hair. I suggest lavender (soothing), cedarwood (helps to grow hair), rosemary (cleansing). I highly recommend Young Living essential oils.
  • Squirt bottle – keep an old lotion, shampoo or conditioner bottle or get one like this from Amazon.


  • Heat water in the microwave for 2 minutes, or on the stovetop until almost boiling.
  • Remove from microwave or stove, and add the gelatin. Stir well to mix compeltely.
  • Pour into the empty squirt bottle and put in the fridge to allow to cool. Or throw it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes or so
  • While it’s cooling, shampoo your hair. I highly recommend using sulfate-only shampoos as sulfates are detergents that strip the hair of it’s natural oils that it needs to protect your hair and keep it healthy.
  • Separate your hair into 4 sections and squirt the protein treatment onto each section and then brush to distribute the product evenly.

Other words for protein in hair products

Nearly all good gelatin hair products do contain protein since it is an essential building block of healthy hair. If you find that your hair gets stiff or hard easily when using products that contain protein, you likely have protein-sensitive hair and should probably use some products that are protein-free, like Shea Moisture’s Low-Porosity hair line. Look for names like:

    • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
    • Hydrolyzed keratin
    • Hydrolyzed silk protein
    • Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
    • Keratin
    • Variations of hydrolyzed collagen
  • Variations of hydrolyzed soy protein

Follow my account on Instagram for tons of helpful curly hair tips and tutorials! Also, check out my Curly Hair page hub here on the blog for all of my curly hair tips and articles!

DIY Gelatin Hair Protein Treatment Mask Recipe

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Deep Conditioning Hair for Gorgeous Curls

Deep conditioning hair is so important for beautiful, frizz-free curls! Curly hair by nature lacks moisture because of how it curls and coils around – the oils from the scalp have a hard time making it down the strands of hair. So we need very gentle washing, water-soluable hair products (no sulfates), and lots of moisture! Here’s a quick rundown of my deep-conditioning routine.

Deep Conditioning Hair headshot

Before Deep Conditioning Hair

First, if my hair is super dry, which it pretty much always is, I start with a scalp massage using oils. My favorite combo is one I buy from Young Living Essential Oils – it’s called V-6 oil. I add essential oils to it that are great for hair and hair growth – cedarwood, lavender, geranium, frankincense, Joy essential oil blend – any of these will do!

To do the scalp massage, I put the oil on my fingertips and massage my scalp. I take about 3-5 minutes to do this part. It’s so relaxing!

Then, I put a tiny amount of this oil in my hands and smooth over my hair (this is called pre-pooing!).

Clarify or Wash

Then, depending on what state my hair is in, I either use a clarifying wash, a sulfate-free shampoo wash, or a cowash. How do I know which one to use?

If your hair feels limp and heavy, it probably needs clarifying. Or if it’s been several weeks since you’ve clarified, this might be a good choice.

If your hair is feeling dirty, or you’ve been outside, or sweating and want it to be clean but aren’t worried about needing to remove product buildup, then just wash it with your favorite sulfate and silicone free shampoo.

If your hair has been dry and you’ve been using silicone free styling products, a cowash might be in order. My favorite cowash right now is the As I Am Naturally Coconut Cleansing Conditioner.

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Don’t mess with a woman and her hair tools! 🤣 Deep conditioning and protein treatments have been game changers for me in transitioning to healthy curls.
⠀ Here are my favorite tools to make deep conditioning the shizaam💥! A thermal heat cap from @thermalhaircare and a hair steamer from @qredew. My current favorite deep conditioners are Melt Into Moisture from @devacurl, Deep Condtioner from @rizoscurls, and Hydrating Shea Butter Mask from @mauimoisture.
⠀ I’m working on a post and video to show you my whole routine, but the jist is that I: 🌟 wash 🌟 separate my hair into 4 sections 🌟 apply the DC to each section 🌟 then use the QRedew to steam each section to open up the cuticle so the conditioner can penetrate the hair cuticle. 🌟 twist each section and put on a shower cap, then microwave my thermal heat cap and put it on. 🌟 Let sit for 30 minutes (sometimes I’ll do housework, yoga, lift weights or Netflix), then rinse out and style. 🌟 Takes about 45 mins start to finish!
⠀ I learned all of this from curly hair rockstar @hif3licia who did posts on the QRedew and twisting hair to DC! #deepconditioning #maskmonday #hydrationtreatment #hif3liciahelped

A post shared by Sara McFall (@mymerrymessycurls) on

How to Apply the Deep Conditioner

When deep conditioning hair, I suggest separating your hair into four sections. Apply the conditioner evenly to each section. Then, twist the strands together. This encourages the curl pattern and helps the conditioner to penetrate the hair follicle even more.

My favorite deep conditioners right now are:


Use Heat

The cheap way – put on a shower cap and go about your business for 15-30 minutes. The heat from your hair will help the hair cuticle to open up so the conditioner can penetrate more effectively.

Ways to Use Heat:

  • Thermal heat cap – throw it in the microwave to warm it up and leave on for about 30 minutes
  • Portable hood dryer – this is cheap and folds down to the size of a wallet. Use low heat for 10 mins or so.
  • Q-Redew hair steamer – I love this gadget! It also works to detangle the hair and to refresh it in between wash days.

I do not suggest deep conditioning hair for more than an hour. Otherwise, your hair can get too much water (like an over-watered plant, or how your skin gets pruny in the bathtub) and you get hygral fatigue. I slept with my hair wet with deep conditioner for several months in and my hair got in VERY bad shape! Mushy, dry, frizzy and wouldn’t hold a curl at all! It was awful and it took me 3 protein treatments and several OlaPlex treatments to fix it (and more than a month!). There needs to be a balance between protein and moisture when deep conditioning hair.

Rinse and Apply Conditioner

If your hair has been dry, apply your favorite conditioner after completely rinsing out the deep conditioner. If your hair gets weighed down easily (high porosity, wavy hair tends to), then skip the extra conditioner. But ultimately, feel your hair and determine what it needs. If it’s slippery and completely detangled, or looks like seaweed, then your hair is super hydrated!

Squish to Condish Method

I like to do the “squish to condish” method with my conditioner because it helps the moisture penetrate the hair follicle and leaves some conditioner on your hair to act as a leave in.

Instead of putting your head under the spout and letting water run over it, hang your head upside down, cup your hands, and and let the water pour into your hands. Then scrunch it up over your hair in sections and pulse as you scrunch. Do this until you feel like most of the conditioner is out or to your liking. All of us have different hair and different climates, so experiment with this and use your own intuition!

That’s it! Now all you have to do is style and either air dry or diffuse, your choice!

Check out my curly hair page to see more articles on caring for your curls!

My Deep Conditioning Routine for Hydrated Curls