Hair Liberty’s Nicole Hollis, our Resident Curl Chemist, is answering your most urgent hair questions. Got one for her? Email me at [email protected] 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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