I’ve received several requests to revisit the idea of ‘protein sensitivity’ and the tell-tale signs. So, I turned to an expert, Jillipoo of Naturallycurly.com.

Jillipoo says:

A reaction to protein usually manifests itself through dry, brittle hair that tends to look like it might have been electrocuted. People sometimes mistake it for overconditioned hair, but the key difference is that overconditioned hair is very soft — over-proteined hair feels (and looks) like straw. Protein sensitivity afflicts thicker hair more often than thinner hair, mostly because thinner hair (and blonde hair) lacks a medulla, which is the “core” of a hair strand and the place where protein lives. So, because thinner (and blonde) hair doesn’t have protein, it responds well to it in products. Thicker hair can easily overdose on protein because it doesn’t need much.

For more advice, visit her blog at http://www.jillipoo.blogspot.com/.

I’ve read several times (from several sources) that finer hair should love protein. However, my hair detests keratin, wheat, soy, or anything hydrolized- it becomes stiff, brittle and prone to breakage. At the same time, the tannins in henna ‘act’ like a protein treatment, and I definitely didn’t maintain much length until I started henna’ing (my pre-henna’ed hair hated protein too). So it appears that my hair craves pseudo-protein treatments- it makes it stronger, restores elasticity, and makes it much less likely to break and snap.

I’ve also read that healthier hair needs fewer protein treatments, since the purpose of the protein is to fill in gaps in the cortex (and raised cuticle), caused by heat and chemical damage. Thus, healthy hair may display signs of protein sensitivity if exposed to too much. Although the majority of my hair is much healthier now (except for the last few highlighted ends), when I discovered my protein sensitivity, my fine strands were fryed, dyed and laid to the side. So for my head, that theory doesn’t stand up either.

Each and every head is different, and you’ll never know if you have a protein sensitivity until you do some snooping around. If you’re experiencing dry, brittle hair, no matter how much you attempt to moisturize- inspect your shampoo, conditioner and styler for hidden protein. According to RedCelticCurls, protein can come in the form of the following ingredients:

  • Anything that says hydrolized will be a protein on your hair.
  • Anything that says protein or amino acid.
  • Grain extracts (like oat flour). Grains contain protein. Oils from grains should be all fat, thus protein free.
  • Some extracts can act up for some. Brewer’s yeast extract in EMBC dried me out.
  • Coconut oil isn’t a protein, but it helps with protein retention, so it bothers some people.
  • Jojoba oil is actually a wax and has some protein. I can’t stand it alone, but I don’t mind it in something else.

If you’re displaying the symptoms, cease and desist use of protein containing products for the next few weeks. During that time, up your moisture by doing Deep Treatments, and only using moisturizing conditioners. After some time passes, judge your situation. If your hair is softer, less brittle, and more elastic, the protein may have been the culprit.

What have your experiences been with protein? Be sure to state whether you have thin or thick strands.