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Signs of too much protein in hair

The Surprising Reason Behind Your Dry Hair?

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While for a while now my hair has been *mostly* pretty manageable, the result of bleaching combined with a natural fluffiness meant that for years my hair would do pretty much whatever it wanted- lying almost completely straight some days, or forming into almost ringlets others…and let’s not even go into what humidity did to it.

But after trying out roughly 47,000 hair products only a slight exaggeration, honestly), a few years ago I finally seemed to find a regime of shampoos, conditioners and serums that keep my strands on the right side of healthy, and without too many bad hair days.

That was until recently when I started to notice that my normally moisturised-ish locks were starting to feel a bit brittle.

Assuming this was the result of some heat damage I decided to throw some more keratin-infused products into my lineup, hoping they would go some way to repairing whatever damage I’d managed to do.

Instead of helping though, I noticed my hair was becoming even drier as well as limp and a bit dull.

So as any good beauty journalist does, I turned to Google. And as it turned out, in my quest to undo the damage caused by (ahem) years of bleaching and heated tools, I’d actually disrupted the balance between my hair’s moisture and protein levels.

Because, as I discovered, hair needs a mixture of both to be healthy.

The Problem

Since hair is made up of keratin (a protein), when it is damaged by heat, colour or styling, gaps can form in the hair cuticle, leaving it weak and dull.

Protein-infused hair treatments temporarily fill these gaps, strengthening hair. Too much protein though (found in products containing ingredients like soy protein, hydrolysed collagen, wheat protein, keratin, silk protein, amino acids or rice protein, and often on products labelled ‘repair’ or ‘strengthening’), and it can build up- actually making strands brittle and prone to breaking.

Healthline says that “hair care practices that often contribute to dry hair include washing your hair too often, using harsh shampoos, conditioners, or styling products, dying or chemically treating your hair, regularly blow-drying your hair and using electric curling irons, straighteners, or curlers.”

Meanwhile, moisturising products- those which contain ingredients like glycerin, shea butter, and oils- coat or penetrate the hair shaft, leaving it soft and shiny.

IGK Thirsty Girl

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The amount of each will be different for each different person depending on your natural hair type, level of chemical processing, and use of heated tools.

The Test

One way to tell if hair needs protein or moisture is to take a strand and try stretching it: if it snaps quickly then your hair is lacking moisture, while if it stretches and doesn’t return to its normal shape it needs protein.

The Fix

If your hair has had too much protein, clarifying shampoos can help wash out some build-up, while conditioning with moisture-infused products will help to restore hair’s balance.

Meanwhile, over-moisturised hair can benefit from protein-infused products.

After I realised my own addiction to keratin products had actually been making my hair worse, I spent a few weeks washing it with a moisturising shampoo.

Once my hair was back to normal, I now make sure to stick to rotating my keratin-based and moisturising products to avoid protein building up again.

The Takeaway

Healthy hair needs the right balance between moisture and protein, so if strands are looking a little dry, try a moisturising, oil-rich conditioner.  On the other hand, if hair seems frizzy and brittle, try adding in some protein with a product containing ingredients like keratin or soy proteins.




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Sally Underwood is a journalist, *serious* beauty fan, and Editor-in-Chief of Live That Glow. Formerly Editorial Director of one of Europe's largest newspaper groups, Sally has been a beauty obsessive since her teen years spent dragging her long-suffering (but immaculately-groomed) friends around every beauty counter in London. She now leads Live That Glow's editorial operations.