Like everything in life, balance is crucial to maintaining healthy hair. You may be using the most popular or expensive deep treatments with the aim of keeping your curls healthy, but if your regimen does not give your hair a balanced amount of protein, it will be all for nothing. Your hair will be at risk of high amounts of breakage. 

Too much protein

If you have been searching for a remedy for your dry or damaged hair, then you have likely come across recommendations for more protein. Protein can help, no doubt. But it is important not to overload the hair with proteins, because this can be extremely counterproductive.

A protein overload can cause the hair to become harder, less elastic, and extremely fragile.

A protein overload can cause the hair to become harder, less elastic, and extremely fragile. Your hair will start to break off even with minimum handling, things like gently detangling your hair or doing an updo. If your hair has too many proteins, it will break with the simple contact with your clothes.

Proteins can still be wonderful because they fill in the gaps in our cuticles, making our hair stronger. The molecules are big enough to sit on the surface of the hair strand and provide a degree of protection, making the hair appear fuller and more resistant. When there is too much of it, however, the hair becomes saturated with proteins and loses all of the elasticity that allows us to manipulate our hair without breaking.

What to look for

If you are experiencing a protein overload, your hair will feel brittle, dry and frizzy. Your curls will appear less bouncy and you will experience significant breakage with low manipulation of your hair.

How to test

Try to pull a single hair and notice how it breaks: a protein saturated hair will snap with ease and it won't be elastic.

If your deep conditioner or styler proteins listed in the first five ingredients, make sure you are alternating your use of these products with products that have little to no proteins to avoid over saturating the hair.

Note: If you are struggling to differentiate between naturally shed hair and breakage, look for a little white dot on one end of the hair: that is a hair that has completed its normal cycle and it is physiologically shedding. If you don't find a white dot, it is typically a broken hair.

Here are examples of deep treatments that you can alternate between so that you are giving your hair balanced care.

Protein Rich Deep Treatments
Protein-Free Treatments
The bottom line is that you really have to be careful not to lose the natural balance that your hair has naturally by forcing it into only one kind of treatment. Keep in your cabinet a couple of treatments to rotate, making sure a couple of them are loaded with proteins and a couple of them are protein free.

Even the protein sensitive need proteins

If you are one of those women who has found that their hair is protein sensitive, it is possible that you may be overdoing it on the moisturizing front. In this case you may find that your curls are often frizzy and undefined. 

RELATED: How to Test for Protein Sensitivity

If you are in fact protein sensitive, then you have probably been avoiding proteins, but be careful! Your hair may be sensitive but you still need a degree of proteins in your haircare regimen. Typically protein sensitive people are more bothered by the proteins found in styling products like leave-ins, gels, curl creams, than they are by protein rich shampoos and conditioners. This is because the proteins found in shampoos and conditioners are washed out in the shower, while the ingredients of your styling products and leave-in conditioners stay in contact with your hair for much longer periods of time.

The danger in avoiding all kind of proteins is that your hair will lose the outer layer (cortex), may become so elastic that it will be extremely fragile. Especially if you are used to doing long deep treatments, your hair will macerate in the moisture, losing all the structure that makes it resistant to breakage.

What to look for

If you are experiencing moisture overload your hair will feel extremely soft but frizzy, lacking structure, definition and volume.

How to test

Try to pull a single hair and notice how it breaks: moisture-overloaded hair will elongate a lot before breaking, feeling extremely elastic and soft.

If you are protein sensitive, try to incorporating a product with protein in it into your routine once in a while. I would not suggest the Aphogee treatment if you are protein sensitive because it is a strong protein deep treatment, and strong protein treatments will have proteins (hydrolized keratin, hydrolized wheat proteins are commonly found) in their first 3-5 ingredients. The ingredients on the back of a product are listed in order of quantity, with the first being the one with the highest percentage in the formulation, typically this is water. For protein-sensitive people I would suggest using products that do not have proteins in the first 6-8 ingredients, like Briogeo Don't Despair Repair Mask

How to find proteins on your label

Here is a list of protein ingredients as they will likely appear on your hair product labels:

  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed casein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed hair keratin
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed keratin
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed rice protein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed silk
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed soy protein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl silk amino acids
  • Cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • Cocoyl hydrolyzed keratin
  • Hydrolyzed keratin
  • Hydrolyzed oat flour
  • Hydrolyzed silk
  • Hydrolyzed silk protein
  • Hydrolyzed soy protein
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Keratin
  • Potassium cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
  • TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein

Do you use protein treatments as part of your hair care routine?