What causes protein overload in hair? One of these two things

woman doubts about protein overload in hair

There are two main causes of protein overload:

  • You use too many hair products enriched with protein. I’ll help you identify them shortly.
  • You nurture your hair with products that contain protein, but you forget to balance them with moisturizing products.


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So, you could say that  if you have protein overload, it’s because there’s an imbalance: an imbalance between moisture and protein. 


Everything, absolutely everything, in life requires balance to work.

For example, if you work a lot to make money but you don’t have time to enjoy the money you earn, sooner or later, you’re going to get frustrated.


If you water your plants every day with more water than they need, your plants will probably suffer from too much moisture.

If you eat fruits and vegetables all of the time, without adding a serving of carbohydrates, sooner or later, you’re going to feel like you don’t have energy.


Keeping the balance is one of the most important things we can do in our lives. When things don’t keep a healthy balance, we lose control.

And the same thing applies to your hair.


Protein is as important for your hair as moisture, because neither of those things can do their job without the other.

 Your hair needs a strong protein structure so the moisture doesn’t escape. 


But this balance between moisture and proteins that existed in your hair isn’t there anymore. And, because of that, you ended up with protein overload, which is often confused with having dry hair.

But even though dry hair and protein overload seem similar, there’s a fundamental difference between the two.

protein overload causes frizz

In both cases, you’ll notice fizz and your hair will be rough and opaque.

 But if your hair has excess protein, you’ll have split ends, which you can identify because many strands of your hair will end in a little “Y.” 


To be able to find the balance between protein and moisture and to be able to identify the cause so we can fix the protein overload in your hair, we need to take a look at the hair products you use daily.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about now.

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What ingredients should you avoid in hair products if you have protein overload

hair products that do not cause protein overload

These days, we’re pretty luckily if we compare ourselves to the ladies of the sixties. Because we have an infinity of choices when it comes to hair products designed for all kinds of different hair needs.

There are shampoos for normal, dry and mixed hair types. We also have toning shampoos available to us.

And we can’t forget about shampoos for dry hair prone to breaking.


Beyond that, we also have conditioners that have enormous quantities of nutrients for us to work on repairing our hair on a daily basis.

And if that weren’t enough, if you go into any beauty store, you’ll find shelves full of other kinds of products, like masks and creams to fix split ends, strengthen your roots and more.


And I am sure that  if you have protein overload, most of your hair products contain a few of these ingredients: 

  • Keratin or hydrolyzed keratin
  • Hydrolyzed casein
  • Hydrolyzed collagen
  • Hydrolyzed rice protein
  • Hydrolyzed silk protein
  • Hydrolyzed soy protein
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Hydrolyzed oat flour
  • Hydrolyzed silk


These are some of the ingredients you can find most often in hair products enriched with protein. And, of course, your hair absorbs them all.

Most products that contain these proteins leave some remnants of them in the outermost layer of your hair.

What does that mean?


Your hair has three parts: external, middle and medulla.

  • The external part is the cuticle which opens so any kind of product you use in your hair can penetrate into the inner layers.
  • The middle part is the cortex, and it’s made up of 80% keratin. Keratin is a protein and it’s the one in charge of giving your hair shape.
  • The medulla is where the nutrients and color live.


When you use a shampoo conditioner or protein mask, these products’ nutrients deposit in the external part of your hair, meaning in your hair cuticles.

A very small part penetrates into the middle layer, the cortex, but it’s not able to repair it because it’s a very small amount. And no protein gets to the medulla.


So,  the frequent use of these products causes your hair cuticles and cortex to dry out.  But the protein overload continues in the outer layer of your hair.

And that is when the  signs of protein overload appear in your hair :


tangled hair due to protein overload

And because of that, when you comb your hair and start to detangle it, you break it.

How can you fix protein overload? I’ll tell you about that now.


How to fix protein overload

remove toner from hair

 The first thing you should to fix protein overload is wash your hair with a detox shampoo to get rid of the excess proteins. 


Once you’ve left your hair without the excess proteins, you can start a new hair care routine.

It’s also important to check the ingredients in your shampoo and conditioner.

Do you remember the list of proteins I mentioned to you before? Read the labels and if you find those ingredients in your shampoo and conditioner, you should alternate their use.


To start, you shouldn’t wash your hair every day. You should wash your hair a maximum of three times a week.


So, you should organize your hair care routine as follows:

  • Monday: wash your hair with shampoo and conditioner that contain protein, for example, keratin.
  • Wednesday: wash your hair with a shampoo and conditioner that contain moisturizing ingredients like coconut oil or amino acids.
  • Saturday: you can wash your hair with the shampoo and conditioner that contain protein again.


And lastly,  use masks with protein once a week. 


You should use masks once a week, leaving them in your hair for 20 minutes and then rinsing. If you’re using a mask two or three times a week, you’re overloading your hair with protein.

A lot of my clients replace their routine conditioner with a hair mask and then they come to me desperate to know why their hair keeps getting weaker and weaker.

If you follow this advice, your hair will find its balance between moisture and protein and you’ll fix the protein overload.


Protein strengthens your hair, but you should use hair products that contain protein in moderation. Excessive use can cause protein overload in your hair cuticles and leave your hair weaker, prone to breaking and with split ends.

Reduce the use of any product that contains protein and add additional moisturizing products.

If after a few weeks your hair feels softer, that means you fixed the protein overload.

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