Trials N Tresses

The Recreation Center for the Natural Hair Community

Protein Overload: What Is It & How To Correct It

If you’ve been following along (which I hope you have) I recently had my first professional haircut in five years. It is also my first professional haircut as a natural. When Vincenzo examined my hair, washed and treated he came to the final consensus that I was experiencing protein overload. Now I knew about protein overload but never thought that the breakage/dryness that I was experiencing was due to an imbalance in protein/moisture in my hair.  Before I tackle how I was told to correct the issue let me first fully explain what protein overload is exactly.

Protein Overload: Protein overload is when the moisture/protein balance in your hair has pretty much come unbalanced. With too much protein in your hair your hair feels coated/dry and brittle. It is also more susceptible to shedding and breakage.

Identifying Protein Overload:  First you’re going to need to pay close attention to what I like to call “your hair acting up”. When you just cant put a finger on why your hair is reacting differently and feeling differently you are going to want to pay closer attention. If you’re noticing your hair is dryer than usual, your texture has changed/altered drastically, your’re having breakage and excessive shedding all without really changing your regimen then something is up. I don’t dye or straighten my hair so to have that amount of shedding and breakage was strange. That is why I decided to head to a professional before it was too late. There are a few specific things you are going to want to check/ test to identify whether you have protein overload or just dry hair due to a lack of proper moisturizing techniques (IE: The LOC Method).

  1. Your hair snaps off when you do the hair strand test
  2. Unusually dry/lifeless and brittle
  3. lacking the natural shine/luster that it used to have
  4. Heavy shedding and tangles
  5. Feels very straw like and stiff.

Out of these five identifying signs I was experiencing FOUR! I also had a change in my hair texture and curl pattern due to the constant dryness despite my many efforts to moisturize. My hair was falling out rapidly (excessive shedding) and was breaking off at the nape on the left hand side. I was dealing with one half of my hair  growing twice as fast as the other side as well.

How To Recover: In order to recover from protein overload you are going to have to take very precise steps in your regimen and it will not be an over night process. It actually can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 months depending on how severe the protein overload is. What you’re going to want to start off by doing? Focusing on MOISTURE! And to do so you are going to have to head to your product junkie stash (which we all have) and toss/sell or give away some products that are doing you more harm than good.

You are going to want to get rid of any products that contain any proteins in the ingredients. Even if the product claims to be moisturizing there could be proteins hidden in there that will continue to cause damage. It is extremely tricky because proteins can come in many different names/categories on the bottle. Here are a few common protein names that are found in many hair care brands/products on the market.

  • Hydrolyzed collagen
  • Wheat protein
  • Quinoa protein
  • Soy protein
  • Rice protein
  • Silk protein
  • Keratin
  • Oat flour
  • Amino acids

I was shocked to see that according to this list I would be tossing or getting rid of 80 percent of my stash and have to pretty much start from scratch to rebuild my product stash. Now I don’t recommend getting rid of ALL of your products that contain proteins as you are going to want to still use them on occasion to balance out the moisture in your hair (to avoid moisture overload which is also a negative in your hair). However for right now your main focus will be moisturizing products with moisturizing ingredients until you get the balance right.

So where does this leave me?: Going back to my roots in my transitioning days. My regimen will consist of the following until I get my hair back to a state where it is healthy and balanced.
Cleanse: With protein overload you are going to want to use a cleansing/clarifying shampoo. I’m not a shampooer so I will add this back into my regimen but after a few weeks I may go back to my co-wash and Bentonite clay methods of cleansing. Cleaning will help get rid of the excess build up of protein I have on the surface.

Deep Condition: I’m going to steer clear of products for deep conditioning for now and just simply use a moisturizing DIY recipe: Avocado+EVOO+ Honey. Honey as a humectant will help draw the moisture into my hair. I’ll be alternating between a steamer and a hooded dryer to add to the mix of my deep conditioning.

Leave In Conditioner: A Moisture based leave in conditioner is necessary & crucial to my overnight regimen as well as the first step in the LOC method. Adding that leave in between wash periods as well as a quick steaming session with my Q-Redew will help me moisturize during the week.

Styling: Any stylers or creams will have to be protein free obviously. I am also going for a more hands off/ low manipulation style for the first few weeks. With protein overload your hair is sensitive and trying to find the right balance. Therefore too much manipulation will just cause it to snap off and break even more.

Moisturize & Seal: With my moisturizing cream added I must seal the moisture in and focus on the ends that are old and fragile. I’m going to be avoiding coconut oil during this detox process as well (including products that include coconut oil which can be tough since natural hair products are usually drenched in it). Instead I’ll be focusing on using products with aloe vera gel/juice or honey in them.

It will take lots of work to choose the right products to use and lots of reading in the aisles of the beauty supply store. However it will be worth it to get my hair back to the way it used to be in its healthiest natural state. It is also vital to take note that proteins can be very well hidden in the ingredient list for example “soy” or “soybean”, or aspartic acid are types of amino acids which are proteins.

Have you experienced protein overload? If so how did you cope/deal or manage? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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10 Discussions on
“Protein Overload: What Is It & How To Correct It”
  • This was a great article! Also as the cooler temps come nearer a good rule that I use when using honey is, if the water outside freezes so will the water in your hair.

  • Great informative article MJB. I’m experiencing protein overload for the first time EVER … these steps you’ve outlined will be very very helpful in getting my moisture-protein balance back. I’ll be packing my “patience” for sure. Keep these awesome articles coming.

  • You described EXACTLY what I’ve been going through even down to stunted growth at left nape ofneck. Thanks for the article looks like I have work to do

    • OMG! It can be so annoying. Glad I could help and hope your journey takes a turn for the better. Please don’t be afraid to come back and keep us updated.

  • I had used coconut oil in my hair (to try something new)– WORST mistake of my life. My hair has been coming out in clumps for 5 months straight and it seems nothing helps until I found this article just now. I just have once question: with the avocado, honey, EVOO mixture, how many times a week should this be done? and for how many months? My hair now has less than 40% of my usual volume and thickness left at this point. It is VERY THIN. Like I said, it’s been coming out in clumps everyday for 5 months. Please help? Thanks.

  • Thank you so much for this! Like for real. This really made me understood what my hair has been going through.

  • Thanks so much I just had a baby and thought my hair was acting strange because of that. I knew it was more more to that it just isn’t right so did so reach and came across this article and all the same. Thanks

    • Congrats on the new baby!!!! And we’re glad you found us and we could help!! Thanks for stopping by! Let us know how your hair journey transforms !

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