Too Much Protein In Hair: How To Fix It

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Shruti Chavan, MBBS
By Ramona Sinha, Certified Skin Care Coach

Too much of anything can be damaging. The same is true with an excess of protein hair treatments or overuse of protein-rich hair care products. Dry, brittle hair with split ends could be caused by too much protein in the hair. Though protein is the primary component of hair, its overload leads to hair damage.

This article explores the reasons for protein overload, the signs, and how to fix it. Keep reading.

The Reasons For Protein Overload Explained

Protein overload occurs when you use too many protein-rich hair products. Shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, serums often contain keratin. Too much keratin in your hair follicles prevents water from penetrating the hair shafts, making the hair dry and brittle.

If you notice a difference in texture, check your hair products to see if they contain any of the following:

  • Soy protein
  • Silk protein
  • Keratin
  • Hydrolyzed collagen
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Hydrolyzed rice protein
  • Amino acids

If you have protein sensitivity, avoid using protein products for a while. Excess protein buildup affects all types of hair, especially low-porosity hair (type 3 and 4). Low porosity hair cannot absorb water easily, and using protein-rich products can further prevent water absorption, causing hair breakage.

Here are some signs of protein overload in your hair.

5 Signs Of Protein Overload

1. Brittle And Dry Hair

Too much protein makes the hair dry and brittle.  Try pulling a strand. If it snaps easily without stretching, it indicates excess protein.

2. Stiff Or Straw-Like Feeling

Run your fingers over your hair. If it feels rough, coarse, and straw-like, it is because of excess protein. Use a deep hydrating conditioner and nourishing oils to moisturize the hair.

3. Radical Change In Curl Pattern Or Hair Texture

If you experience noticeable changes in the hair texture or pattern, it may be a sign of protein overload in your hair. It can involve loss of the natural curl pattern or the usual sheen.

4. Lack Of Shine

Healthy and lustrous hair needs the right amount of hydration. When the hair lacks water due to protein overload, it loses shine. You may notice your hair losing its natural color and becoming dull.

5. Shedding

Though not proven scientifically, excess hair shedding could be one of the signs of protein overload.

In the next section, we discuss the solutions for protein overload in hair.

How To Fix Protein Overload

To determine if your hair has protein overload, you may try the hair strand test. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Take a strand of either wet or dry hair and stretch it gently.
  • If it snaps easily, it indicates protein
  • If it stretches a bit and then snaps, it has the right protein-water balance.

If your hair has excess protein, try the following methods to fix it. Remember, fixing the problem takes time and may take weeks or months.

1. Avoid Hair Products With Protein

Do not buy hair products that have protein. If you are using a protein-containing hair product, stop using it. Some hair care products mention protein as an ingredient, while others mention amino acids, yogurt, and keratin.

Avoid using coconut oil as it prevents protein loss from the hair (1). Use hydrating products that contain natural ingredients to revitalize your hair and scalp.

2. Hair Clarifying Products

Get a good deep-cleansing or clarifying shampoo to remove excess protein, sebum, and dirt buildup. Use it once in two weeks and always follow up with a hydrating conditioner.

3. Moisturizer

Your hair needs moisturizing ingredients to cover the moisture loss and regain its natural bounce. Use hydrating hair masks and oils (except coconut oil) to keep the strands hydrated and soft.

To increase the moisture levels in your hair, you may follow this hair care routine:

  • Co-wash and shampoo on an alternate basis.
  • Apply a deep conditioner and wrap your head with a warm towel for better penetration.
  • Use a moisturizing hair mask once a week.
  • Use a natural oil or hair serum to seal the hair cuticles and prevent moisture loss.
  • Try steaming your hair with a steamer.
  • Use overnight masks to moisturize and seal your hair. Cover it with a plastic bag overnight. Your hair should feel hydrated by morning.

These tips can surely help you deal with too much protein in your hair and help it regain its former shine.

While protein is an essential nutrient for hair health, too much protein in your hair can lead to dry, brittle, and dull hair. It may also lead to excess hair shedding and changes in your hair texture. If you are using products with soy, silk, or hydrolyzed rice protein, it may cause an overload of protein in your hair. To combat this issue, you must avoid hair products with protein. Instead, use moisturizers, oils, and masks to keep your hair hydrated, bouncy, shiny, and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Olaplex help with protein overload?

Yes. Olaplex can help eliminate breakage due to protein overload as it strengthens hair by relinking disulfide bonds.

Is aloe vera good for protein-sensitive hair?

No. Aloe vera isn’t good for protein-sensitive hair as its keratin-like compounds may be too big for such hair to absorb. It may make your hair strands bulky, brittle, dry, and prone to breakage.

Key Takeaways

  • A radical change in curl pattern or hair texture, brittle and dry hair, stiff or straw-like feeling, lack of shine, and shedding are signs of protein overload.
  • A hair strand test will help determine if your mane has protein overload.
  • To protect your mane from protein overload, avoid using hair products rich in protein and clarifying products.


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Ramona is an editor at StyleCraze. Prior to that, she authored over 200 articles on skin and hair care. She... more

Dr. Shruti Chavan

Dr. Shruti Chavan is a consulting dermatologist at Dr.Sheth's Skin and Hair Clinic since 6 years. She is a co-committee... more