Some naturals report that using any type of protein or protein containing product can lead them to have dry, hard and brittle hair that feels like straw. Searching within science journals has not yielded an explanation for this but it is well reported so here is my theory on dealing with protein sensitive hair.
1. Know proteins in your products
Protein can appear in different forms and in order to pinpoint it as the cause of your dry hair woes, you should be able to identify if it is in your product. Here is a list:
-Hydrolysed/hydrolyzed/hydrosylates: In general you will find labels with ingredients such as hydrolyzed keratin or wheat hydrosylates or hydrolysed collagen etc. The process by which proteins are broken up into smaller pieces is known as hydrolysis. If you do not know your proteins by name e.g keratin, collagen etc, then just look out for the word hydrolysed.
-Amino acids: If you are ingredient aware, you will know that amino acids are the basic building blocks that can be strung together to make proteins. Some manufacturers use words such as silk amino acids while some may specifically name the amino acid, some common ones are glutamic acid, cysteine and arginine
-Peptides: These are small strings of 5 or so amino acids.
- Mayonnaise: It is actually the egg yolk that is used to make mayonnaise. The egg white is the part with the most protein, so mayonnaise is not a major source of protein but can have trace amounts
- Whole eggs/egg white/albumin/egg albumin, avocado, bananas, aloe vera: These are all sources of whole protein. The large whole form of protein actually does not tend to behave in the same way as hydrolysed protein, amino acids or peptides. Some people with protein sensitive hair will find all of these perfectly fine to use. It should also be noted avocado, bananas and aloe vera do contain very small amounts of protein.
2. Distinguish between an intended effect and actual sensitivity
If you use a protein treatment such as Aphogee Two Step or Komaza Protein Strengthener and you follow the instructions to allow the product to dry under a hair dryer, most hair will feel somewhat straw like immediately after rinsing. A moisturising conditioner is normally required to help hair go back to its normal feel.
For protein sensitive hair, moisturising products with even small amounts of protein cause hair to feel brittle. For example, Giovanni leave in with small amounts of wheat protein or the Herbal Essences conditioner range which by and large contain glutamic acid.
3.Be aware of products that may help hair retain protein e.g coconut oil, henna, clay or mud washes
If your hair is protein sensitive, products such as coconut oil and henna which help protect hair from loosing protein when washed may produce the same straw-like feel that a protein containing product will do. Many times, protein sensitive hair will also be sensitive to natural oils and butters as many of these are thought to be able to penetrate hair. Oils that do not penetrate hair e.g sunflower oil or mineral oil may be preferred by protein sensitive hair.
4. Be aware of protein allergies.
Some people are actually allergic to hydrolysed proteins in hair products. Applying a protein containing product can lead to an itchy skin rash (medically known as contact urticaria). If a certain product causes your scalp to itch, you should avoid using it again and try to determine which ingredient you are allergic to.
Is your hair protein sensitive? If so, how do you manage it?