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Curly Nikki

So Fine: Natural Hair Part 5

By January 27th, 202113 Comments
So FINE: Protein. How a Good Thing Can Be Too Much
by Cassidy of Natural Selection Blog

For some of us with fine hair, protein-packed deep conditioners can work MIRACLES. If you’re like me, protein conditioners clump our coils together, strengthen our strands, and give weight to our otherwise lightweight hair. However, for others, protein can wreak havoc on their heads by making their strands brittle, stiff, and rough. If you have experienced either end of this spectrum, you’re probably wondering one question: WHAT’S UP WITH PROTEIN? And why does it have such an awesome/horrific effect on my hair?

Protein’s affect on your hair has everything to do with the porosity of your hair. To explain this more in full, we’re going to bring back our old friend Mr. Sponge. In today’s little lesson, we’re going to have the part of protein played by Elmer. Yes, as in the glue.

So Fine: Natural Hair Part 5

This sponge represents hair with low porosity.

So Fine: Natural Hair Part 5

This sponge represents hair with high porosity.

So Fine: Natural Hair Part 5

In each of these sponges, the holes represent the hair’s cuticle. (Think of a cuticle like shingles on a roof).

When protein is applied to the lo-po sponge, the holes in the surface of the sponge pull in small amounts of protein relative to the size of the entire sponge.

So Fine: Natural Hair Part 5
When you apply protein to this hi-po sponge, the protein seeps into the larger holes on the surface of the sponge. Because the holes are larger, the sponge has more surface to absorb the protein. In fact it absorbs TOO much, leaving it stuffed with protein like a Thanksgiving turkey.

So Fine: Natural Hair Part 5
As you can see there is a lot more protein intake in the hi-po sponge than the lo-po sponge.

So Fine: Natural Hair Part 5
Now applying this logic to actual hair, low porosity fine hair does well with protein because there are not as many cuticle openings. High porosity hair gets crispy because it takes too much protein in because it has more cuticle openings.

Of course there are exceptions because like glue, proteins come in many different forms and sizes. Some proteins, such as hydrolysed proteins, can actually benefit high porosity hair by working to fill in the cuticle layer. So if you have high-po hair, be sure to take a look at the product label and see if this type of protein is on there before judging it too soon.

Lo-po naturals should try using a heat cap, hooded dryer, or steamer with their deep treatments so that you can raise the cuticle layer get maximum protein benefits.

By using the right technique and type of protein, you can be sure to find the right type of strengthening conditioner for your So Fine strands! Stay tuned for the the next installment of the series when I’ll be going over deep conditioner how to’s and product recommendations!


  • Anonymous says:

    Wow i need this. I just judged my hair and i have high porosity hair. What conditioner should i be using. Thank you

  • Annie L. says:

    Follow up to my post: I've only done a few protein 'treatments' in my life (egg, mayo, coconut milk recipe and John Masters). My hair is healthy and not in need of anything so I've never concerned myself with added protein, I was just seeking more information about my lo-po hair that contradicts hair advice I've seen on various boards. The only time protein was effective for me was after a bad dye job but none of my products contained noticeable amounts before that nor after.

    I think there is a space to question the correlation between healthy lo-po hair and adverse reactions to protein as it contradicts general protein hypotheses about hair. I love to learn about hair.

  • momo7 says:

    I agree @Keisha. I did 'my own' porosity strand(s) test(s) before and found out that my hair has low porosity. My hair can't tolerate henna or products with protein so, high porosity hair doesn't stand alone in that area. However, I do find that (instead of protein treatments) my hair does take well to occasional protein (except hydrolyzed wheat protein).

  • keisha says:

    Great article!

    @ TMS…did you agree with your hair analysis? I had the analysis done too and found out that I'm low po. however it did say occassional protein treatments would be good for my hair. like you wish i had known this a while back! :)

  • Anonymous says:

    Shelli here again,

    In regard to the last post, I'd just like to clarify that I have fine hair and believe I have always had a problem with protein heavy products and I wash with sulfate free shampoos on a weekly basis now. In the past, I washed on a bi-weekly to monthly basis with co-washes in between. I didn't diagnose that protein might be the problem until discovering CurlyNikki though. When I found this site last year and read about protein sensitivity, a lot of things started making sense. I've never been able to use most products made for "relaxed" or "ethnic" hair when I was relaxed 11 years ago or since going natural because they made my hair hair hard and brittle, same can be said for those egg and mayo treatments and my hair's dislike for them. Then I learned that products made for relaxed hair tend to be rich in protein to "repair" the damage done to the hair cortex by the chemicals. I was also using a protein heavy gel last Winter and started experiencing dry hair, especially after washing, and breakage. When I started reading about protein sensitivity on this site, I started putting two and two together. Furthermore, I confirmed this after making the "diagnosis" by making and using a homemade coconut MILK deep conditioning treatment. My hair did NOT like that at all. LOL!! But, I use coconut oil and Vatika oil on a regular basis as pre-poos, in my DTs and to seal on occasion. Anywho, just wanted to put that out there. Thanks.


  • Anonymous says:

    I've found that a lot of women I've talked to have problems with protein, because they don't wash their hair well. They do protein treatments, they hardly ever wash their hair and then complain that their hair is dry. Then someone comes along (not talking about the author of this piece) and says protein is bad for your hair, so then no one wants to put any protein in their hair. I remember a while ago everyone was saying they wouldn't use coconut oil because it had so much protein, coconut oil has not protein in it. I just think that you can't attribute have dry and brittle hair to one thing, you have to look at everything before making a decision.

  • TMS says:

    Count me in Shelli…

    I have low porosity coarse hair and I'm sensitive to protein. My hair becomes dry and very brittle after protein treatments. I couldn't figure out why my hair was so brittle until I submitted my hair strands for analysis to The analysis was $12.95 and took about two weeks for the results.

    As a result of the analysis, I'm on the right path for healthy natural hair now that I know how to select what is best for my hair (trust me, I was struggling). I highly recommend getting the analysis so that you to can know which products work best for your hair.

    Side note: I have all these products in my closet and fridge with protein in them. Ugh! If I had known about this a year ago, I could have save a lot of hair, money and time. LOL

  • Annie L. says:

    @Shelli – I was just about to write something similar! I know this post was geared toward fine hair but:

    my hair is horrible with protein but is lo-po. It dries SUPER quick w/o product but stays moist longer w/leave-ins while air-drying. My hair is healthy, the strands range from fine, medium to coarse. Is there a place to find out more information about this or should I care?

  • Anonymous says:

    Very nice explanation! I have a couple of questions though. I know my hair doesn't like some protein heavy products as it gets dry and brittle, so I've avoided using anything with protein, including conditioners. However, I was told last Summer that I have low porosity hair by an experienced natural stylist. This surprised me as my hair takes forever to dry and has always quickly absorbed moisture from the air and rapidly expanded. She told me the drying issue is related to the leave in conditioner and other products I apply before allowing my hair to dry. That made sense as I do think my hair dries a lot more rapidly without any product on it, I just never allow it to do so! Anyway, as of Spring of last year, I began to use henna treatments. Initially, I did this on a weekly basis to "build up" the effects of henna. I read Nikki's post about the cumulative benefits of henna, and went hog wild=). Well, my questions are:

    1. Is henna an acceptable substitute for protein deep treatments to rectify/prevent over-conditioning (i.e. over moisture saturated, spongy hair)?

    2. Does henna reduce the porosity of hair in the same manner as protein by filling in the "holes?" In other words, is it probable that my regular use of henna has resulted in decreasing the porosity of my hair?

    Thank you so much!



    OMG It's like you heard my cry this week I have fine 4a hair! I am currently experiencing this right now- hair over loaded with protein that is- well I think I am anyway, my hair is very very coily and is porous I believe! Last week i had nice soft hair, this week i have brittle straw like hair!:(!! I overloaded with oil last week, which resulted in straw like hair after wash day i then did a protien treatment last night and my, oh my even more straw!:( I've had to put in an order for a protien free leave in/condish, can't wait to find out cures and what protiens to look out for!!!! Thank you so much!!!


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  • kenyah says:

    This was awsome explanation! Thank you so much! I really have a better understanding of porosity.

  • LondonChick says:

    This explanation has helped so much. I've got fine hair and tried aubrey's GPB con and my hair became so hard and stiff the ends started to snap off. Now I know my hair has a high porosity.

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