I Tried the Aphogee Protein Treatment on My Damaged Hair

In 2017, I jumped feet-first into the silver hair trend. For a few months, I was a silver-haired mermaid, but at a certain point, my poor bleached hair became a tattered mess of uneven split ends. That year, I decided to grow out my hair, and grow it out I did. For four years, I let my natural ash brown hair make a full comeback—until the recent copper hair trend caught my wandering eye.

Two photos of Amelia McBride with red hair and blonde hair.

Don’t let the curls on the right fool you—this hair has seen some things.

My red hair phase was a fun one, but after a while, I grew tired of the maintenance. I asked my stylist to give me a blonde balayage, one that would allow my roots to grow out without having to get a monthly touch-up. While she fully delivered and gave me absolutely gorgeous color, I noticed my hair didn’t *quite* feel the same as it had before. After all, our strands can only take so much pressure from us before it starts to snap.

It had been six years since my silver hair era, and this time, I was determined to take care of my color-treated hair. While searching for ways to give my hair some of its integrity back, I discovered (and tried) the beloved-by-stylists Aphogee Two-Step Protein Treatment.

What is a protein treatment?

Protein treatments are chemical hair treatments that replace the essential protein that’s missing from damaged hair. Without necessary protein, hair is more prone to breakage and frizz. These treatments help reconstruct compromised hair strands by replacing the protein that was lost through trauma.

According to Caitlin Townsend, a vivid hair colorist and balayage specialist at Tried and True Salon in Texas,  chemical protein treatments aren’t just for color-treated strands like mine. Hair that’s been relaxed, permed, or damaged by heating tools could also benefit from an occasional protein boost.

“Swimming a lot or even just stress can cause the keratin in the hair to break down and cause it to be fragile,” says Townsend. “Even if you have never colored your hair, but you’re in the sun every day, protein treatments will help it feel healthy again.”

While protein treatments can help your hair get its mojo back, stylists (including Townsend) recommend using them no more than once a month. Add too much protein into your hair routine, and you can wind up with hair that’s even more brittle and dull than before.

“Too much protein in the hair can actually cause the hair to break more,” warns Townsend. “It overwhelms the hair and makes it angrier instead of helping it!”

How To Use the Aphogee 2-Step Protein Treatment

In my quest to find a cheap-yet-effective protein treatment, I stopped by my local Sally’s Beauty Supply to see what their shelves had in stock. Amongst their offerings, I found a few stray single-use packs of the Aphogee Two-Step Protein Treatment and Balancing Moisturizer. In the past, I’d tried the brand’s in-shower Keratin 2-Minute Reconstructor and really loved the way my hair felt afterwards. Before buying, I grabbed my phone to see what reviewers were saying: 2,000 5-star reviews on Amazon were enough to persuade me to give it a go.

For what it’s worth, Townsend agrees that this mini-but-mighty protein treatment is well worth the hype. “It’s the main protein treatment we use in the salon,” she says, “and it makes hair feel so much better and helps it in the long run.”

The single-use packet is divided into two compartments. The first contains the Aphogee Two-Step Protein Treatment (which, despite the name, is actually a single formula), and the second holds the Aphogee balancing moisturizer. The brand recommends applying the treatment from root to tip on wet, freshly-shampooed hair, then blowdrying it on medium heat. After the hair is fully dried, you’re meant to hop back in the shower and completely rinse it out, then follow it up with the moisturizer.

What happened when I tried the Aphogee 2-Step Protein Treatment

Step 1: Two-Step Protein Treatment

After shampooing my hair (I’m currently using the Malin + Goetz Peppermint Shampoo—it’s amazing), I hopped out of the shower and lightly towel-dried my strands, per the instructions. After my hair was damp, not wet, I poured the chemical protein solution into my hands and began working it throughout my hair.

Be warned, dear reader—this step smells a lil’ bit funky. The solution itself is pretty watery, so I found it tricky to apply. With the aid of a wide-toothed comb, though, I was able to distribute it evenly throughout my strands.

Next, I grabbed my hair dryer and went to work. The directions warn that your hair will harden during this step, as the protein will begin to bind to your strands, so they recommend keeping your hair in one place to avoid movement (which means no dividing into sections or flipping your head over). They weren’t wrong: after drying for a bit, my hair got super crunchy and stiff, and looked like I had attempted the 100 Layers of Hairspray Challenge. My hands got super sticky during this process, too, since I kept having to gently adjust my hair to avoid the usual whip-around motion I use during drying.

Once my hair was officially rock-hard and gross, I hopped back in the shower and rinsed it all out.

Step 2: Balancing Moisturizer

The Balancing Moisturizer basically operates like a deep conditioner: apply when hair is wet, massage into hair, and rinse after 2 minutes.

The smooth, creamy texture of the formula was a welcome change from the sticky protein treatment. It felt amazing on my hair, and after a few minutes in the shower, I could already tell that my hair was becoming silky-smooth. After rinsing, I decided to slather on some of my usual conditioner (I’m using the Malin + Goetz Cilantro Conditioner) for good measure. This step isn’t necessary per the instructions, but in my experience, a little extra conditioner can’t hurt.

The results

After the last bit of the Balancing Moisturizer was rinsed out, my hair felt slick and supple in the shower, and I was able to run my hands through its full lengths without hitting a snag. That night, I let it air dry so I could get a better sense of how my strands felt without the silkening aid of my blow dryer.

Huzzah—my compromised hair finally felt like hair again!

This was a huge turnaround from the straw-like texture it had before. It was softer, more manageable, and seemed to have regained some structural integrity.

The Aphogee Two-Step Protein Treatment process was a little messy (and smelly), but for the final result, I would definitely do it all over again. Next time, though, I’ll be investing in the full-sized bottles that ApHogee offers. While $5 per treatment packet is nothing to sneeze at, keeping a bigger quantity on hand that will last me several sessions versus one seems like a smart move.

If your hair has been a little lackluster lately, consider giving this treatment a go. I’m glad I did!

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