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The Surprising Reason Your Hair Might Feel Dry (And How to Fix it)

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Main Image – Annatabakova/Stocksy

Have you ever run your fingers through your hair and felt a bale of hay rather than your usual head of smooth, glossy locks?

I’ve definitely been there. But that’s ok, slather it in as many protein-heavy treatments you can find, and it’ll be right as rain in a few days. Right?

As it turns out, no actually. Because, as I found out after one particularly enthusiastic round of protein masks, whilst protein is excellent at keeping your hair in good shape, it is also possible to overdo it. And this is what can cause hair to dry out (cue my own fluffy, frazzled strands).

Like anything in life, it turns out it’s all about balance, and I’ve called in the experts to make sure I never overdo it on the protein again.

Keep scrolling to read tips from hair experts Paul Labrecque, Dr Jodi LoGerfo and Katy Grimshaw on what protein and moisture both do for your hair, why too much protein may be damaging, and the signs that show you’re overdoing it. 

 

Image – Live That Glow

 


Why protein is good for your hair

Grimshaw says it treats from the inside out. “In protein products and treatments, you’ll typically find keratin and collagen,” she explains. “Your hair is made up of keratin bonds, so a good in-salon protein treatment would usually go in and repair those bonds from the inside.

These key ingredients will strengthen and repair the hair, whilst protecting it from further damage.”

So, what is the difference between protein and moisture? “Protein is always used for hair strengthening, moisture is great for making the hair supple,” says Labrecque. “You cannot add too much moisture to your strands.” But some say you can use too much protein.

 


And the problem of protein overload

Expert opinions on whether this is an issue vary and Dr LoGerfo says it hasn’t actually been scientifically proven. 

“It is a buzz online that basically means you have too much protein in your hair which says (again, no medical proof) that you are using too many products and hair becomes dry and brittle. There is no scientific evidence of such,” she says.

However, other experts claim to have seen it becoming a regular issue with their clients, particularly with protein-packed products. “People believe more and more is better and use it too often. When this happens, they’re actually making their hair brittle,” says Labrecque.

 

Image – Annatabakova/Stocksy

 


What are the signs your hair has too much protein in it?

‘It could look and feel like real breakage in extreme cases,” Labrecque explains.

Still not sure if that’s what’s up with your hair? There’s a simple test to work out whether your hair has too much hydration, protein or is healthy. “I always do an elasticity test – you can do this when the hair’s wet,” says Grimshaw

“You get a small piece of hair in between your fingers and gently pull it. If it bounces straight back it means the hair’s got a good amount of elasticity, protein and moisture, but if it snaps it usually means your hair is lacking in moisture.”

Meanwhile if your hair just keeps stretching when you pull it, it may need more protein.

 


How to restore hair health after overloading it with protein

Firstly, lay off the protein products for a while, say the pros.

Next, “If your hair has signs of damage – dryness, split ends, dull hair – you can start with getting a haircut,” recommends Dr LoGerfo. “Trimming off a bit of the ends can help refresh hair and make it feel lighter.”

She also adds that with any product overload, “you can use a hair clarifying shampoo which can help strip hair of excess oil, as well as residue from products.” She recommends Aveda Purifying Rosemary Mint Shampoo (£20 from Look Fantastic UK /$19.97 from Amazon US).

Finally, reach for hydrating ingredients, like shampoos, conditioners and hair masks that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid or glycerin. “I always recommend supplementing with hydrating treatments and products,” Grimshaw says.

 


The takeaway

Finding the right balance of protein and moisture for your hair is a sensible way of keeping it healthy – crucially, hydrated. 

Learn to spot the signs of protein overload (breakage) and lack of protein (too much elasticity). Then act accordingly with either a clarifying shampoo for product overload and plenty for hydrating ingredients for protein overload, or a protein-heavy treatment like a keratin mask to top up on protein.

But, as I’ve learned, overdo any one of these products at your own risk. It turns out that the key is to being in tune with how your hair is behaving using the above signs and simple home tests as your aid, and using everything in moderation.

 

Meet the experts

Paul Labrecque  is Creative Director, Master Stylist and Colorist with Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa.

 

Dr Jodi LoGerfo is a skin and haircare expert, Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Family Nurse Practitioner certified in Family Medicine and Dermatology.

 

Katy Grimshaw is founder of Spectrum One Hair Extensions & Spectrum One Salon.

 

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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University
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