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Curly Nikki

How Do I Know if I’m Protein Sensitive?

By January 27th, 202110 Comments

Hair Liberty’s Nicole Hollis, our Resident Curl Chemist, is answering your most urgent hair questions. Got one for her? Email me at using “Hair Liberty” in the subject line and she may answer your question right here on the blog.

Q: How do I know if I’m protein sensitive?

A: Adding protein to your hair is one of the only proven ways to improve its moisture retention. Sealing in moisture is important, but some hair types are so porous that the strands have trouble holding enough moisture to begin with. If most of the moisture evaporates from your hair in the first 2 minutes that you’re out of the shower, you don’t have much to seal in. Protein acts as a humectant that helps trap moisture in the hair shaft. Hydrolyzed wheat protein is often included in hair products because cosmetic scientists have found it to be one of the most effective protein options. Hair treated with a leave-in conditioner or styler that contains hydrolyzed wheat protein should stay moisturized (instead of becoming brittle) for hours longer than hair that hasn’t been treated with hydrolyzed wheat protein.

The term protein sensitive is a myth. Any type of curly hair will benefit from protein, but remember, both the ingredient and the recipe matter. If you don’t like a product that contains hydrolyzed protein, don’t blame the protein, blame the company’s recipe. Your hair may benefit from a product with a lower amount of protein. Or you might like a product that has a high amount of protein (first 5 ingredients) but it’s blended with castor oil or a silicone for added softness. The best protein product can be used at least every other wash without any negative effects. Protein washes off easily so anything you put on is usually removed during your next shampoo. Some products are formulated to stay on your hair for longer, but it’s safe to assume that even those products will wash off within 3 shampoos.

If you usually think of yourself as protein sensitive, keep in mind that applying 3 products could mean you’ve put 20 or more ingredients on your strands. It’s impossible to know if a dry or stiff feeling is coming from any one of those ingredients. It’s more likely that some ingredients don’t like to be mixed with each other. The result is usually a stiff coating, a white residue, or a sticky feeling. It’s important to know about ingredients, but the recipe and the amount of product(s) matter too.

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  • Anonymous says:

    I don't think it is just the formulation, the type of protein matters as well. My hair has no problems with soy proteins or silk amino acids, but wheat or oat proteins and it goes crazy. I can handle keratin depending on the product (here formulation seems to be key). I test out all new leave-in conditioners the same way – the leave-in and a butter to seal, and without fail if it contains wheat or oat (even oat flour), I am going to get stiff, hard, brittle, and breaking hair. My hair tangled upon contact with the CJ Daily Fix and this was in the shower on wet hair so it was a problem of too much products.

    My hair is low porosity and medium-coarse. I don't really have a problem retaining moisture. The hair takes forever to dry as it is.

  • Dana says:

    Totally agree with the article. The primary component of hair fibre is keratin (protein). So it stands to reason that our hair would need protein, in the same way for example that we need water because a significant portion of our bodies is water. Some people might just need less protein than others, but we all need it. If your hair feels brittle afterwards, you will just have to follow the protein treatment with a good moisturising treatment. It's all about maintaining the right protein/moisture balance.

  • Jami says:

    Michelle, I'm not CN and I think HairLiberty is a woman who has been natural for years and has just accumulated a lot of facts, but wanted to point out a scientist to you, by the nickname of JC, whose blog is, and she says similar stuff at:





  • Anonymous says:

    From my research on the subject of hair and protein, I beleive that Hair Liberty is correct. Everyone needs protein unless you are under the age of 10. The question is what type of protein is best for your hair. There is soy protein, wheat protein, silk protein and amino acids. Find the one that works for you and your hair will benefit greatly.

  • Michelle says:

    I don't buy this. What are her credentials?

  • Jenell : BlakIzBeautyful says:

    Person A uses said product and they don't like it. Come to find out the company uses too much protein

    Person B uses the same said product and they do like it.

    Is person A not protein sensitive?? Why would too much protein in the same person adversely effect them differently?

    Is it not possible that protein sensitivity does exist in varying degrees?

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the suggestion. I have aubrey at home. 🙂

  • naturallyappealing says:

    Great post, very enlightening. A lot of other articles I have been reading had me almost afraid of proteins. I would avoid having to many products with protein in it w/ fear of a protein overdose, haha.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think Aubrey Organics & Trader Joe brands contain HWP.

  • Anonymous says:

    Anybody know of a leave in that contains hydrolyzed wheat protein?

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