Protein Hair Treatments – Too Much of a Good Thing

I feel like a broken record bringing it up, but my hair is long, more or less straight (due to its length), wavy-ish if it is feeling sassy (or actually wavy when it is shorter). Except for a couple misguided decisions, I have always worn it that way. Currently, I am growing out some crazy layers that a scissor-happy stylist gave me over a year ago. They’re almost gone! To keep my hair awesome, I was using what I was quite convinced was the best shampoo and conditioner of life, Moisture Maniac from Bed Head by Tigi – I didn’t have problems, but the products say, “A rich, creamy lather takes shine and softness over the edge,” and, “Ends your fight with snarls and tangles. Stop your struggle with dull, drab hair.”

Protein Hair Treatments - Too Much of a Good Thing

To maintain my length, which is to the top of my waist at its longest layer, I do all of the common-sense things that you know you should – I do not regularly blow-dry, flat iron, or use other heat on my hair – when I do, I use an adequate heat-protecting product. I deep condition, I nip away wild splits myself, so on and so forth. Despite my efforts, and despite the shampoo not stripping too much and the conditioner being rich and thick and awesome, after about a year and a half of use, my hair started breaking left and right.

It was not normal shedding, but strands actually snapping and splitting. My normally polite and reasonably well-behaved hair became unruly and miserable; it would tangle the way it did when I was a small rambunctious child with disdain for a brush – and I wasn’t doing anything strange. Get up, brush it, clip it up or leave it down, go to my office job, and somehow halfway through the day my hair was a mess. I was yanking through knots at my desk and it was making me insane. My routine had not changed in a while – what gives?

A while ago, I mentioned trying and being disappointed by Pantene’s Split-Fix. I purchased it to help me with my woes. When it didn’t, I was getting (laughably) upset over it. I decided to look it up because surely something was happening. Someone suggested hormones – well sure that might make sense if it was breaking near my scalp, but it wasn’t. Maybe it was just the dry air I faced inside over the course of the unnecessarily miserable winter.

Then, I stumbled across this forum thread (now unavailable), which discusses the effects of an overabundance of protein hair treatments which more or less covered the majority of my issues. What? Protein helps our hair stay strong and resilient, right? Why would it cause my hair to enter a state of disarray – or anyone’s for that matter? Keratin is a common ingredient in products and treatments to fortify hair with protein and it is all the rage. Even so, when I learned this, I checked the ingredient list of my shampoo and conditioner. Here’s what you should look for in your shampoo, conditioner, and products if you’re struggling with these issues:

  • Amino Acids
  • Hydrolyzed…anything
  • Keratin
  • Soy Protein
  • Wheat Protein
  • Rice Protein
  • Oat Flour
  • Anything mentioning, “protein!”

Lo and behold, my beloved shampoo and conditioner contained both. I started using some sample foil packets I had accumulated (making sure they were free of the culprits), and within two weeks or so, my hair was back to normal!

Now this is not to scare you away from using protein hair treatments or hair products with protein. Protein can be great for your hair, it is just important to make sure you aren’t getting too much of a good thing like mine had over time. Everything in moderation, after all. If you experience these issues, check your styling products, too – a lot of heat products also contain protein ingredients. If you feel the need to cut back, perhaps try cutting back one of the, “culprits,” at a time – just one may be enough. My experience was an excellent example of why you should be aware of what you’re putting on your body – though the marketing was true (for me) for a while, I wound up starting a fight with snarls and tangles, and my hair became dull and drab. No eyebrows raised at Tigi, though – it is not their fault and isn’t as though they made a bad product (I still recommend it) or misled anyone with their marketing – it is just important to keep on top of things. Now, I use a protein-free shampoo and conditioner and occasionally (2x per week) use a leave-in protein hair treatment. My results have been great ever since!