(Last Updated On: September 18, 2020)

One of the reasons why you have excessive breakage in your 4c hair could be linked to a protein deficiency in your hair. Eventhough your hair is made up of 90% protein, regular manipulation can deplete your hair of some proteins. As a result, you may start to notice your hair loosing its elasticity, strength and luster. To tackle this problem, you can add some protein into your hair regimen by slowly introducing hair products with protein in it. 

I know there are hundreds of hair products to choose from, this is why I have made your research easier by putting together a list of ten protein leave-in conditioners you can use to tackle breakage, improve length retention and strengthen your hair.  

However before I get to recommending products, I’d first like to answer frequently asked questions relating to using protein deep conditioning treatments on natural hair. 

How do I know if my hair needs protein?

All hair is made up of  about 90% protein called the Keratin. Overtime, due to frequent manipulation such as washing, heat (both from the environment and hair appliances), and hair styling routine, your hair will start to loose some of its protein structure. As a result, you will start to notice your hair feeling weak, drying out quickly and breaking excessively. When you start to experience more breakage than normal, this is a sign that your hair needs a protein treatment.

Your hair may also need a protein treatment if it feels brittle and dry. Sometimes dry hair might be due to a hair damage that can only be repaired with a protein treatment, and not just with a moisturizing deep conditioning treatment. 

Do you put leave-in conditioner on wet or dry hair?

Since leave-in conditioners are water based, it’s best to apply it on wet hair. However, if you will be using a leave-in conditioner spray such as the ones recommended in this post, then you don’t need to wet your hair before applying. You can just apply the product on your hair while its dry. I just find that wetting my hair with a little bit of water before applying a cream-based leave-in conditioner reduces the amount of product I need to apply in my hair, which also reduces product build-up. 

How often do you use leave-in conditioner?

You can use a leave-in conditioner everyday if your hair needs it, especially if it’s really dry and tangles easily. However, some of the products I will be recommending below have been proven to keep your hair healthy and moisturized for days at a time. Which means that you may not need to apply products in your hair everyday if you don’t need to. 

What does protein do to your hair?

Products with proteins contains hydrolyzed (broken down) proteins that are meant to fill in cracks and holes in your hair cuticles that were caused due to regular manipulation such as washing, brushing and hair styling. They also supplement your hair with any nutrients it may be lacking, so that your hair can feel nicer to the touch and continue to grow healthy. To put it in simple terms, proteins repairs your hair and strengthens it so that it’s less susceptible to breakage, which then allows your hair to stay healthy and continue to grow.  

What happens if hair has too much protein?

If your hair has too much protein, you will start to experience hard hair, lifeless hair and even breakage. This is known as protein overload. There’s nothing you can do at this point but to shampoo your hair frequently in order to get some of the protein out overtime. You can also counter the “toughness” of your hair with regular deep conditioning with a moisturizing deep conditioner such as the ones recommended in this blog post. 

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10 Protein Deep Conditioning Treatments for Breakage and Dull Looking Hair 

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10 Protein-Free Leave-In Conditioners To Try

Ten Protein-Free Styling Products for Low Porosity and Protein Sensitive Hair

Five Natural Hair Mistakes That Causes Consistently Dry Hair

Five Myths About How to Keep Natural Hair Moisturized That’s Not True

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What are the best anti-breakage protein rich natural hair leave-in conditioners?

This post contains affiliate links which means that I make a small commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase with my link. Should you have additional products to add to the list, please let me know in the comments section. 

1. EARTHTONES NATURALS Curl Quench™ Coconut Moisture Milk

SAVE 10% off your first purchase.  Enter EARTHTONES10 at checkout. GO HERE to try it out.

best anti breakage leave-in conditioner natural hair

Key Proteins Found: Hydrolyzed jojoba protein, hydrolyzed rice protein, and hydrolyzed keratin protein

Product Promise: This light moisturizing lotion softens and adds moisture to your hair without feeling oily or heavy.  It increases the manageability of the hair, gives sheen and provides a soft hold and light curl definition.

Customer Review: “The moisture milk has hydrated my curls like no other product in my almost 10 years on the natural journey.”

2. Alikay Naturals Dulce Hydrating Curl Lotionprotein rich leave-in conditioner

Key Protein Found: Silk Amino Protein

Product Promise: Moisture is key to having healthy hair and this powerful lotion is specially formulated to hydrate, soften and define curls while not weighing them down or feeling greasy. Silk Amino Acid is a natural water soluble protein source that penetrates deep into the hair to strengthen, nourish and rebuild damaged hair cuticle. It contains moisture binding properties to repair and protect hair.

Customer Review: “This cream smells great and left my hair feeling soft, silky and easy to manage when I did my twist out. I haven’t yet used it to revitalize my coils so I’m looking forward to trying that.”

3. TRUE by Made Beautiful Nourishing Leave-in Conditioner

protein leave-in conditioner 4c hair

Key Protein Found: Hydrolyzed Keratin

Product Promise: This leave-in conditioner is the essential step between cleansing and styling, it provides ultimate slip, leaving hair detangled and moisturized. Free of sulfates and parabens, shea butter and coconut penetrates hair to nourish. A unique blend of honey and mango provides ultimate moisture.

Customer Review: “I love that it really has great slip to aid at detangling my hair”

4. Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave-In Conditioner

protein leave-in conditioners for 4c hair

Key Protein Found: Silk Amino Acids

Product Promise: Repair, restore, and condition your overworked curls with this uber softening leave in conditioner. Formulated certified organic blueberry extract, coconut oil, grapeseed oil and mango butter. Clinically proven to repair damaged hair, encourage hair growth, and prevent breakage.

Customer Review: “I absolutely LOVE this leave in conditioner! It leaves my hair so soft and it smells AMAZING! I’ve been using this for a couple of months and it is the best.”

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5. Cantu Shea Butter Leave-in Conditioning Repair Creambest anti breakage leave-in conditioner

Key Proteins Found: Hydrolyzed Collagen, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein and Silk Amino Acids

Product Promise:  This intensive leave-in treatment helps reverse the effects of chemical processing and regular styling, formulated to provide intense moisture, leaving hair soft and manageable.

Cantu leave in conditioning repair cream is rich in pure shea butter and other natural oils to help stop and mend breakage, repair split ends, tame frizzies, nourish parched strands and add manageability and shine. It’s specially formulated for damaged, dry or coarse hair. When used daily, the shea butter hair cream helps promote stronger, healthier hair.

Customer Review: “My hair was dry and breaking at every touch, I used this one time and my hair was so soft, strong and had no breakage, I didn’t even see a split end. I HIGHLY recommend this product.”

protein leave in conditioner for 4c hair
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6. Creme of Nature Argan Oil Strength & Shine Leave-in Conditioner

protein leave-in conditioner for natural hair

Key Proteins Found: Hydrolyzed Keratin and Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein 

Product Promise: A unique two-phase formula that combines Argan oil liquid shine and a strengthening protein complex that improves hair strength, protects against damage, adds moisture and Exotic Shine
Customer Review: “Love this product, truly detangles and adds great moisture and shine.”

7. EDEN BodyWorks Coconut Shea Natural Leave-In Conditionerprotein leave-in conditioner 4c hair

Key Protein Found: Hydrolyzed Keratin

Product Promise: Silky smooth conditioning treatment that adds hydration and seals in moisture.
Customer Review: “It is very moisturizing and does a good job at defining your curls.”

8. TGIN Butter Cream Daily Moisturizer curly.girl method products with protein

Key Protein Found: Hydrolyzed Soy Protein

Product Promise: The #1 complaint of most naturalistas is “dryness.” In response to this we have formulated our tgin Butter Cream Daily Moisturizer for natural hair. Now you will never have to worry about frizz or dryness again.

We intentionally use ingredients like Shea butter, Cocoa butter, and Vitamin E oil both to target dryness at its source by moisturizing from the roots to the tips and to prevent dryness. This everyday moisturizer aims to give you consistently soft, shiny, manageable curls while nourishing your scalp. 

Customer Review:This product was the 1st TGIN product I ever used and it made me a believer! I had never felt my natural 4b hair feel so soft and manageable before, and it happened instantly after one simple application. A little goes a long way, and will last a day or two.”

9. Uniqurl Aloe Daily Moisturizing Leave-In Spray

protein leave-in conditioner natural hair

Key Protein Found: Hydrolyzed (Oat) Protein

Product Promise: The Daily Moisturizing Leave-in Spray is a perfect on the go refresher for any style. The Spray will leave your hair feeling lightweight, hydrated and nourished!

Customer Review:This is amazing for detangling my 4c hair. I spray my roots to ends, let it sit for a few minutes and bam! My wide toothed comb can run through my hair even if it was nearly matted before application.”

10. ApHogee Curlific! Moisture Rich Leave-in curly.girl method products with protein

Key Proteins Found: Keratin Amino Acid and Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein

Product Promise: Snarls and tangles can be a challenge on any head, but textured hair can be the toughest! The oval shape of curly strands can interlock like no other and may also be more prone to dryness. Curlific! Moisture Rich Leave-In solves both problems.
Customer Review: “The product moisturized my hair quite well and i was able to sleep overnight with it- the next day my hair was moisturized, soft, and easy to style.”

Which protein leave-in conditioner have you tried? Which one will you be trying? Let me know in the comments section.