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edited April 2014 in Ask the Beauty Brains
This is something I see people talk about a lot, but have never seen shown to be really true: the idea that if you put a lot of protein on your hair, it will become brittle and breakage-prone because there's "too much" protein.  Similarly, that certain hair types shouldn't have brazilian keratin treatments because it will "over-protein" their hair (though it seems to me that breakage would likely come from the repeated flat-ironing that's a part of the straightening).  A lot of no-pooers wash their hair with egg occasionally, but are warned away from doing it too often with the same line, "too much protein". 

I haven't been able to find any scholarly evidence to show that this actually happens though, and the posts I've seen here and The Natural Haven seem to indicate that all protein does is create a slightly-conditioning film.  Is it possible to "over-protein" your hair?  As an addendum, how high would hydrolyzed protein generally need to be on an ingredient list to have an actual effect?


  • The idea that applying protein to hair could cause it to spontaneously break makes no sense from a scientific perspective. But what COULD be happening is this:

    High protein conditioners are often used on women who relax their hair. That’s because hair that has been relaxed can be extremely damaged and porous and can soak up too much of the quats, fatty alcohols, and silicones from regular conditioners. This over-absorption makes hair feel mushy. So, high protein conditioners were developed which contain LOWER levels of these ingredients. Using one of these products it’s possible that the lower level of conditioning agents (not the higher level of protein) could have contributed to more breakage because the hair wasn’t as lubricated.
  • Perfect.  So, would you say that when people talk about over-proteining, they're really talking about under-conditioning?
  • To the best of my understanding, yes.
  • Sorry to keep harping on the same topic, but what do you make of the "wet hair test" that's frequently cited as a way to test for lack of protein or moisture?  The idea being, if you comb wet hair, hair that stretches without breaking "needs" protein, and hair that breaks needs moisture (the latter part sounds reasonable).  This (unsourced) article is being brought up on one of the reddit boards:  "Overproteining" is a really pervasive idea, but it sounds like there's not a lot to support it.
  • Let's put it this way: I've been in the hair care business 30 years and I've never seen anyone use a test like this. 
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