this thing's incredible

This £2 Drugstore Hair Treatment Repaired My Hopeless Split Ends

Photo-Illustration: retailers

A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategist U.S.

I’ve had my hair in braids since 2014, but in May, with salons closed, I was suddenly forced to go braidless. Without my protective style in place, I found myself confronting the reality of my hair: While it wasn’t in horrible condition, it was definitely damaged. It frizzed easily and the ends were nothing but splits and knots, even after I gave myself a trim.

While wandering around Target, I came across Palmer’s Coconut Oil Deep Conditioning Protein Pack. I’d heard good things about protein treatments — last year, one Strategist contributor said they help her “maintain a halo of healthy kinks and coils while minimizing breakage and frayed ends” — but I’d never done one myself. At just £2 per pack, I decided Palmer’s was worth a try.

Later, I hopped into the shower, shampooed my hair as usual, then worked the majority of one pack of protein treatment through my hair. I put a shower cap on and went to bed, then rinsed the protein treatment out the next morning. Immediately after styling my hair, I could see the difference. Most of my split ends seemingly disappeared before my eyes, and the frizzing on my twists was minimal. My hair was stronger than it’d been in a very long time and it felt, for once, like a cohesive unit rather than 100,000 strands with separate agendas.

Impressed, I decided to look into how protein treatments work and learn more about what I was smothering my hair with. The basic science is that a damaged strand of hair looks like a Jenga tower after four rounds of play. Using a protein treatment is like adding brand new blocks — in this case, keratin — into the gaps and giving your hair renewed structural integrity.

There are several things to consider when it comes to protein treatments. After using one, your hair will feel strong, but it won’t feel particularly soft, especially at the roots. It’s nothing to worry about — within a day or two, it’ll soften back up. And while it seems like a miracle product, it’s important to know that protein treatments should be an every once in awhile thing, used once a month, at most, if doing overnight treatments. Overuse can lead to stiff hair.

This Palmer treatment now has a permanent spot in my routine, and I’m not alone — hundreds of Amazon reviewers agree, with one calling it a “holy grail.” And at a pound fifty (or £2 at some stores), it’s truly is a steal, especially when compared to the cost of masks with similar claims.

Here’s everything I use with it

In addition to the keratin, this protein pack features coconut oil and monoi oil (made from Tahitian gardenias), which are both sustainably sourced, and help lock in moisture. Remember, oil is a sealant, not a moisturizer, so you’ll still have to use your favorite leave-in conditioner afterward.

When washing my hair, I always divide it into four sections so I can make sure no strand goes untouched by shampoo, conditioner, or co-wash. I love these jaw clips because they can get wet in the shower and their hold is secure, but not painful. Once I’ve worked in the conditioner, making sure my hair is as saturated as possible, I twist each section into a bun and hold them in place with these clips.

If doing an overnight protein treatment, you do not want to leave your hair out. Deep conditioning works best when you lock in the heat that radiates from your scalp and a shower cap is the best way to do that. I like to use disposable shower caps because then I can throw it away afterward. The conditioner will get everywhere, so don’t use your favorite shower cap unless you don’t mind rinsing it out afterward.

My mom bought me an elasticized Hanes bath towel for wrapping my hair after washing and it’s one of my favorite things. If you want to go even deeper with your deep conditioning, wrap a towel over the shower cap to seal in even more heat from your head.

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This £2 Hair Treatment Repaired My Hopeless Split Ends