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Curly Nikki

The Curl Whisperer on Protein

By January 27th, 202112 Comments

The Curl Whisperer on Protein
The ‘Curl Whisperer’ is back after a summer hiatus to get some business in order. I missed you, ladies!

Continuing our discussion on product ingredients: this week’s article will be on protein and its importance in curly hair care. This information becomes critical when it comes to understanding how to choose products best suited for your particular hair type.

Hair itself is actually a nonliving fiber made from a protein called keratin. Keratin, in turn, is made up of long chains of amino acids created from what are known as the COHNS elements: carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and sulfur. These chains are what form the structure of the hair strand and contribute to its overall strength.

Hair with a fine texture, therefore, does not have the same protein support and structure as does hair with a more substantial texture. Because fine hair is so fragile, it needs the additional support and reinforced structure provided by protein-based products.

Coarse hair, on the other hand, naturally manufactures an overabundance of protein within itself. Since coarse hair carries an excessive protein structure, putting protein-based products on hair that is already protein-heavy will increase the hair structure to the point the hair strand will become just like a broom straw: hard, difficult if not impossible to bend, and very dry. Products that are protein-based should be avoided by those with coarse hair.

Medium-textured hair is somewhere in the middle and is what we consider “normal” hair, meaning it has a mid-range protein content and can generally support products with a wide range of ingredients, as long as care is taken to keep a good balance.

Protein also plays in important role in helping to repair/reconstruct the hair shaft after a chemical service such as lightening, or can assist in strengthening hair that has been over-processed.

As with any product ingredient, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, however! If you are a frequent protein user and your hair starts to feel dry or brittle, you may be suffering from possible protein overload. Switching to a more emollient-based conditioner for a while may be just what you need to get your hair back into balance.

Next week: Surfactants

Other articles on Protein:
Protein Sensitivity Revisited
Hair Tip of the Day

For more of Tiffany the ‘Curl Whisperer’ click HERE.


  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this article…GREAT info. I think my hair is experiencing a protein overload. I think the product that I am using to style my hair is the culprit along with a deep conditon I was using with protein. I have since stopped using the conditioner without seeing much improvement. Which leads me to believe it is my stylying product. My hair is 4 medium. I am using Hair Rules – Curly Whip. Any suggestions on a styling product that is protein free and or better for styling my hair type?

    Oh, I like wash and gos so I guess products that will allow me to do that.

  • Anonymous says:

    Yes, thank u for the information regarding protein. It really helped, I too always was under the impression that it was the worse enemy of a natural…lol…but with that all said I am once again confused with trying to figure out coarse, med or fine…aarrg! I am the mother of a natural beauty, this has been such a learning experience.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks your article was very informative.

  • Tiffany Anderson says:

    One of the biggest myths in curly hair care is that the majority of us have coarse hair, especially among AA women. It's been my experience that 75% of us actually have fine hair…just a lot of it.

    To determine your texture: hold a single strand up to the light.

    Does the hair strand look delicate, a bit insubstantial, somewhat translucent, and seem almost as if it's "barely there"? If any of these characteristics fit, the hair texture is most likely fine.

    Does the hair strand look thick, wiry, and sturdy? Does it seem substantial and strong, with a very definitive presence? If so, the hair texture is most likely coarse.

    Does the hair strand seem somewhat solid, but not overly thick? Does it have some substance to it, but is still fairly supple? If so, the hair texture is most likely medium.

    Please remember it is quite possible to have hair of varying textures all over your head…texture isn't always a "one size fits all" kind of hair property!

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't think coarse/fine texture has any correlation at all to curl size. I'm a definite 4a with fine and medium hair textures. I think Nikki has mentioned she has fine hair strands. I don't think we're anomalies.

  • Ms. Silky Coils says:

    This may explain a lot with the texture feel of my hair. I guess I will reduce the protein ingredients in my products…thanks.

  • Unknown says:

    Coarser hair types usually fall within the 4a/4b/4c range…maybe some 3c's. A tighter curl usually relates to coarser hair. Or, you could do a hair strand test, which would be the best way to go.

  • Anonymous says:

    I was just looking up information on protein last night!! I have been co-washing 1-2 times a week and I have fine hair and I noticed that here recently I have been having ALOT of shedding, I mean long strands just coming out and I thought maybe I need some protein but was unsure if it was good or bad for natural hair since I am new to this, I had used organics hair mayonnaise and didnt seem to have a problem but stopped bc I thought maybe I should use it since so many naturals talk about protein free products. I think my hair likes the protein and I am so glad this was the topic of today, I learn so much on this site (thanks Nikki!) I plan to do a deep condish with my hair mayo today and a twist n curl!
    Tommi (Naturally Happy)

  • Anonymous says:

    Protein hardens my hair!

  • caramelpoof says:

    How do you know whether you have course, medium or fine hair. It hard for me to tell…

  • Anonymous says:

    Good to know. I now know how my fine hair relates to protein use. I always wondered.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this info. I have coarse hair and would load up on the protein conditioners. I'll definitely slow my roll on the protein.

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