Has your hair been bleached, permed or just had a lot of color? Is it starting to break further and further up your hair?
You Need Strength!
Any time you chemically alter hair it gets damaged, but some processes are more damaging than others. Bleaching, perming, chemical relaxing, and even layering permanent color over and over are the biggest culprits. That's not to say that damage is exclusive to these (you can also get damage from sun exposure/environmental damage and using hot tools, though these tend to be much less pronounced on virgin hair and are often prevented with protective products and proper use) but they are the most likely to cause a noticeable change in hair condition.
Hair gets damaged when the internal structural bonds in the hair break down and turn into acid, which eats away at the protein that supports hair structure (more on this in Bonds). We can artificially replace this protein with proteinizing/strengthening products, though it should be noted that if the broken bonds are not addressed these products are much less effective since the root issue has not been addressed. Damaged hair is also almost always dry as well, which means you need a moisture product in your treatment plan as well.
Bleach in all its forms (solid, highlights, balayage, corrective color etc) is the most common process that causes noticeable damage. That's not to say bleaching always ruins hair, but generally bleach is used when you want your hair significantly lighter than what it is. The bigger that change, the stronger the bleach has to be. This is why someone with darker hair (natural or artificial) will have much more damage than someone who is naturally very light going to the same color. This damage can be reduced significantly by your stylist if they use bond builders and other additives (usually at an additional cost as they aren't cheap to use) as well as using the appropriate type of bleach for your hair. A color or blonde specialist, like myself, usually has more tools and experience in this. Sometimes damage cannot be avoided (chemical reactions, corrections and extreme lightness)
I recommend having at least 1 protein/strengthening product in your routine if you have any of these processes done to your hair, even if damage isn't visible. That said, it is possible to over use protein products in your hair if you are using a product with keratin protein or other animal based proteins (it's very hard with plant based proteins or non-protein strengtheners). This results in brittleness and breakage, so if you are balanced in your treatments (protein, moisture and bonds) and start having this result, take a break from the strongest protein product from your regime. I personally like to avoid this entirely by relying mostly on strengtheners and bond builders instead.
I offer a couple in-salon treatments that can be added on to any service to jump-start your strengthening journey: the Guy Tang #MyHero Luxury Treatment ($35) which uses collagen protein and helps seal in moisture (I ALWAYS use the powder additive in my bleaching services) and the L'anza Ultimate Healing Treatment for Damaged Hair ($25). These can be done alongside Olaplex treatments.
Below are the proteinizing/strengthening products I carry rated from Intensive Treatment to Maintenance, as well as tips for each one. Keep in mind, almost all styling products are available in a budget friendly travel size! I also do complementary delivery within Calgary for orders over $60.
Intensive Treatment and Maintenance:
Loma Fortifying Repairative Tonic
My FAVOURITE product for damaged hair! Creatine is the featured strengthening ingredient which is 35% more effective at rebuilding hair's tensile strength than any protein on the market. As a bonus it's impossible to overuse! Use 1-3 pumps on wet or dry hair (it lasts a very long time!!!) It's also great to simply maintain and prevent damage on processed hair.
Ultimate combination for very damaged/processed hair:
1 pump Fortifying Repairative Tonic + 1 pump Nourishing Oil Treatment + 2 drops Olaplex #7 + 1/2 pea size Olaplex #6
Mix in your hands and apply to clean, toweldried hair. If your hair is fine, omit Olaplex #6. Increase the amount proportionally for longer/thicker hair. All but Olaplex #6 can be used dry if your hair needs more treatment between washes.
Loma Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner
This luxurious shampoo and conditioner is designed to be extremely gentle on fragile hair. While mostly featuring creatine to strengthen hair, it also has moisturizing ingredients to help easily maintain a strength and moisture balance. Use with the ultimate combination above for most effective results.
It's SUPER concentrated so a little goes a long way, usually the size of a quarter is enough for average hair length and density. Keep in mind, the shampoo is sulfate free and is designed to not be as stripping as regular shampoo, so don't be surprised if it doesn't really lather, just make sure your hair is very wet, rub it in your hands first and then work it through your hair like usual.
Loma Violet Shampoo and Conditioner
This Violet shampoo and conditioner is significantly less drying than other colored shampoos on the market. Having a balance of creatine for strength and moisturizing ingredients, it's ideal for blonde hair with minor damage. The pigment is good for refining yellow and maintaining neutral blondes (it's not quite strong enough for maintaining super ashy tones, though it can be alternated with a stronger pigmented shampoo or conditioner)
As with all Loma shampoos and conditioners, it is very concentrated so a little goes a long way!
Loma Deep Conditioner
This product treats both strength and moisture problems. It's designed to also be a cleansing conditioner (curly girl method friendly!) and can be used as a texture product on dry hair in small amounts.
If you find your hair "gets used to" products easily, this is a good product to alternate with your choice of strengthening conditioner.
Loma Smoothing Crème
This product contains both moisturizing and strengthening components using aloe vera, castor oil and creatine. Despite being a smoothing product, Smoothing Crème isn't overly heavy when used appropriately. When I use it in my hair I use the size of a good pea (I have fine hair) on towel dried hair, comb it and then blow dry. The thicker/dryer your hair is, the more you can use. It also makes a great moisturizier for your skin!