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10 Protein Leave-In Conditioners For Natural Hair – Stop Breakage & Brittle Hair

(Last Updated On: November 15, 2022)

One of the reasons why you have excessive breakage in your 4c hair could be linked to a protein deficiency in your hair. Even though 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 losing 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 Keratin. Over time, due to frequent manipulation such as washing, heat (both from the environment and hair appliances), and hairstyling routine, your hair will start to lose 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 hair damage that can only be repaired with a protein treatment, and not just with a moisturizing deep conditioning treatment.

Do you put a 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 to your hair while it’s 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 to my hair, which also reduces product build-up.

How often do you use a leave-in conditioner?

You can use a leave-in conditioner every day 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.

This means that you may not need to apply products to your hair every day if you don’t need to.

What does protein do to your hair?

Products with proteins contain 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 hairstyling.

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 repair 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 my 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 over time.

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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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. 

It’s also worth noting that brands sometimes change their product formula for reasons best known to them. This means that the product formula might have changed by the time you decide to make a purchase. If such happens, please let me know so I can keep the post updated.

Many of these products have varying amounts of proteins in them, which means that some may have a larger amount of protein than others. Oftentimes, an ingredient is listed in the order of the amounts they appear in the product. Meaning that if a protein is listed towards the end of the ingredients list, it means there’s a small amount of protein in the product.

Knowing this will help you choose the best product for your current hair needs and routine.

1. Pattern by Tracee Ellis Ross Leave-In Conditioner

Pattern by Tracee Ellis Ross - Leave-In Conditioner

Key Protein Found: Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein

Product Promise: Prevent dry, unnecessarily frizzy and damaged hair. The holy grail of hair care products, our Leave-In Conditioner treats your curls with a refreshing & restorative hair pick-me-up. When you’re done washing and want to seal in moisture or do further detangling, our lightweight formula is perfect to caress curls & add extra hydration while giving soft curl pattern definition.

Customer Review: “This stuff is heavenly. It’s super lightweight and my curls love it! It’s hydrating and nourishing without weighing your hair down.” 

2. Alikay Naturals Dulce Hydrating Curl LotionAlikay Naturals - protein 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

TRUE - 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 a great slip to aid at detangling my hair”

4. Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave-In Conditioner

Curls - 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.”

5. Cantu Shea Butter Leave-in Conditioning Repair CreamCantu - best 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

Creme of Nature - protein leave-in conditioner

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 ConditionerEden Bodyworks - protein 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 TGIN - 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 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

Uniqurl - 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 Aphogee 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’s 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.

protein leave-in conditioners for natural hair

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