Does Your Hair Have Protein Overload? Here’s How To Tell!

Protein: it’s kind of a big deal when it comes to overall hair health.

About 90% of our hair is made up of a protein called keratin, which is how protein gets its well-earned street credit for encouraging long, strong, and enviable hair. If you frequently heat style or color your hair you may have already realized that any hair that has undergone heat styling or chemical damage often loses its protein. Case in point: protein treatments are often recommended for hair that is heat and chemically treated.

Without enough protein, your strands lose their elasticity, sheen, and fullness—that’s why damaged strands tend to feel and appear dry, brittle, and weak. Ultimately, a protein deficiency can completely thwart our hair goals by causing breakage and recurring split ends.

True: Protein is essential for repairing severely damaged strands, having an overload of protein is your classic case of “too much of a good thing.” Healthy hair needs moisture too! The ultimate healthy hair formula is as follows: protein + moisture = stronger, healthier-looking hair. Depriving your hair of moisture and solely focusing on protein treatments can cause more harm than good. 

If you’ve recently started a hair repair routine that includes lots of protein but your hair feels crunchy, straw-like, and stiff you may be experiencing protein overload. Let’s take a closer look at what causes protein overload, how you can avoid it, and the best solutions to help you find the perfect balance between protein and moisture to heal damaged strands. 

What causes protein overload?

Protein overload is caused by an imbalance in protein and moisture, namely too much protein and not enough moisture, often from over-treating your hair to protein treatments as an attempt to course-correct stand damage. Implementing products like hair masks, oils, creams, and treatments that contain protein can help repair hair damage but it’s easy to overdo it. When your hair is showing signs of damage (stiffness, dryness, excessive shedding, and split ends), there’s a breakdown of keratin (protein). When this happens, your hair cuticles are lifted, leaving your hair extremely vulnerable to losing moisture and dreaded breakage.

Does hair porosity play a role in protein overload? 

When your hair is at its healthiest, your hair cuticles lay closed and layered like shingles on a roof. When there’s damage, these cuticles are lifted, allowing moisture to escape. The state of the cuticle on the hair shaft can affect your hair’s porosity, or its ability to absorb + retain moisture. Low porosity hair, or hair with an especially tightly closed cuticle, sometimes has difficulty absorbing products, causing them to sit on the hair shaft which can lead to buildup. Those with low porosity hair types should be cautious when using protein-heavy products.

So how to know if your hair needs protein or moisture? Take our quick Strand Test to find out:  

Woman with dark curly hair twirls a strand around her finger


To start, take a strand of hair and give a gentle tug. Take note of how that strand reacted:

Did your hair snap and break quickly? Your hair is most likely craving moisture. 

Did your hair stretch and return to its original shape? Your hair has great elasticity and likely a good balance of protein and moisture.

Did your hair immediately snap and didn’t stretch? Your hair is craving protein for structure + strength.

When your strands are experiencing protein overload, it’s time to give your hair a little extra TLC with a moisture treatment to help restore your strands to their healthiest, happiest state. Rebalancing your hair by infusing it with more moisture can help alleviate the symptoms of protein overload.

Once a week, use our Superfoods Avocado + Kiwi Mega Moisture Mask—it’s infused with Avocado Oil and Kiwi Extract to nourish and protect thirsty strands and has no added protein. Make sure to give your strands a break from any protein treatments while your hair rebalances itself.

Don’t let protein overload get in the way of your healthy hair goals! We’ve made it easier and more convenient than ever to find the right balance of protein and moisture depending on your hair type, unique texture, and damage type.

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