Banishing Bad Hair Days since 1997!™

Too Much Hair Protein


hair_flux1_250h Image From Joico - Hair Flux Collection - All Rights Reserved

Dear Karen,

Hi, I have heard that too much protein for hair could do more damage than good.

I have been using a shampoo and conditioner that have both hydrolyzed wheat and soy protein in the bottom third of the ingredients list.

I have fine, straight hair and it has been looking dry, frizzy, fuzzy and yucky lately. I just did a deep conditioning treatment infused with jojoba oil and shea butter. Now my hair looks great.

Do you think the protein shampoo and conditioner could have been contributors?

Should I stop using them or is it a myth that too much protein is bad?

Thank you very much for your time and feedback.



RedkenCat_250h Redken Extreme Cat Protein Reconstructing Treatment Spray, 5 Ounce -

Dear Anna,

Human hair is a tough fibrous protein consisting primarily of keratin. Protein makes our strands strong, enabling them to grow long and be healthy.

Some people believe adding extra protein to hair in the form of treatments will make it even stronger.  Unfortunately,adding too much protein to hair can actually cause more harm than good.

Are You Overdosing Your Hair With Protein?

Consumers make the mistake of thinking protein moisturizes hair. It doesn't. It strengthens it.

Even if you're not specifically applying protein packs you may still be overdosing your hair without even being aware of it.

Products heavily infused with soy protein, silk amino acids, wheat protein and keratin add protein to your tresses, whether you're aware of it or not. The more protein you apply, the more risk you could be overdosing.

There's another problem with too much protein. It can throw off the natural moisture balance making hair more prone to breakage, frizz and damage.

Of course if you over hydrate, you might have the reverse problem of causing an imbalance of the hair's protein level.

JoiciKPak-39_250h Joico K-Pak Deep Penetrating Reconstructor - 5.2 oz -

Over-hydration occurs with overuse of products with humectant ingredients such as Shea butter, vegetable glycerin, jojoba and similar.

Performing too many deep conditioning treatments can also cause as many problems as too many protein treatments.

Do Your Homework - Perform A Traditional Hair Strand Test

How do you determine if your hair is unbalanced on the protein/hydration scale?

A good method is to perform a traditional hair strand test.

1.  Start by capturing a strand of hair which has fallen naturally from the scalp. It should still have a little white bulb attached.

2.  Wet the strand with water.

3.  While holding the wet strand between two fingers, gently stretch it.

When the strand of hair stretches slightly, returning to its original length without breaking, the moisture/protein levels are balanced.

Great Lengths Long Blonde Hair Great Lengths Long Blonde Hair

If the hair stretches more than it should and then breaks, it's likely your hair may need more protein. When the hair has very little stretch and easy breaks, you need more moisture.

Ideally if the wet strand stretches just a little and returns to its normal length without breaking your hair is most likely perfectly balanced between moisture and protein.

When Strand Test Doesn't Provide Clarification

When the strand test doesn't give you clarification of whether your hair has a good protein/moisture balance or not, observe your hair closely for a few weeks.

If your hair feels gooey, gummy, sticky, stringy, limp or doesn't dry easily, it needs more protein. An overabundance of protein in the hair may also cause hair to feel hard, tough and prone to easy breakage.

Conversely, if your hair feels brittle, hard, excessively dry, tangled, weak or all of the above, it needs moisture.

If your hair needs protein, do a protein treatment or a deep moisturizing treatment if your hair is lacking in hydration.

Consult With A Hair Professional

Great Lengths Naturally Curly Red Hair Great Lengths Naturally Curly Red Hair

When appropriate, consult with a hair professional to get advice on how to address the protein/hydration imbalance.

Not only can a professional recommend the best treatments for your hair type, texture and current condition.

They can help you work out a treatment schedule.

Depending upon the results you achieve either with the help of a professional or DIY, you may or may not need to continue with regular protein and/or moisturizing treatments.

Experiment with how often your need to re-apply treatments.

Maximum The Treatment Benefits

If your hair is completely out balance with either protein or hydration, you may wish to alternate between protein and hydration treatments.

You can maximize the benefits of either a protein pack or a deep conditioning treatment by combining it with a hood or bonnet hot dryer and/or a steamer.

Best wishes,


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To AskKaren a question, send an e-mail to: [email protected]

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