How Protein Helps Your Curls + Protein sensitivity

Whole proteins in foods are generally too large to be useful. So they are broken into smaller fragments (hydrolyzed protein). Amino acids (individual units of proteins) on the other hand are too small.

Benefits of Hydrolyzed proteins:

  • They form a film over your hair to prevent water loss (film forming)
  • Some proteins penetrate the cuticles to keep hair hydrated (hydrating)
  • Protein helps temporarily repair damaged areas in hair by filling in gaps in the cuticle (repairing)
  • Proteins can also add body and strength to hair (for elasticity)- which is great if your hair is fine or medium, but can lead to rigidity and breakage if your hair is quite coarse (protein sensitivity) OR if you use protein too often.

I am not talking yoghurt/curd/egg/mayonnaise

The proteins in these foods are too large to attach on to or penetrate hair. The softening effects post using these is a result of the fat content. And egg can form a film like a regular conditioner does. But it is NOT the protein in these that bring about these effects.

Protein sensitive hair

Protein sensitive hair tends to become brittle and straw like (like you just got an electric shock) with just one use of hydrolysed proteins (not egg , yoghurt etc). That usually happens due to the protein type, concentration etc. Before ditching proteins completely, try a wide variety of them. Check your product labels for the below ingredients if your hair is always brittle and straw like. Don’t worry though, protein washes off easily – it is usually removed during the next 1-3 washes using non-protein products.

Types of proteins in hair products

  • Hydrolyzed Collagen – Improves hair elasticity. Gelatin is partly hydrolyzed collagen and therefore contains medium to large protein constituents and is both hydrating and film-forming – Homemade gelatin protein treatment for damaged curly hair
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat protein – film-forming, porosity-filling protein.
  • Hydrolyzed Oat protein – hydrating, film forming and porosity-filling.
  • Hydrolyzed Soy protein – Conditioning
    Hydrolyzed Keratin- hydrating and conditioning
  • Hydrolyzed Silk protein – hydrating and conditioning
  • Other types are Amino acids, Peptides (small hydrolyzed protein), Cocodimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed, Lauryldimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed, and Yeast extract

 What type of hair needs protein?

  • Damaged hair/porous hair: Sun exposure, chlorine damage, hair dyes and bleaches, heat tools – if you have any of these damages, your hair needs protein
  • Dry hair: If you have tried deep conditioning or oil treatments(with penetrating oils like coconut or olive; not random oils) left on for more than 4 hours, squish2condish and using a good amount of leave ins(very important! “Coin sized” amounts are not for curlies. Use at least a lemon sized amount of cream and gel and check if your hair is still dry), and those things aren’t working, your hair’s dryness may indicate a need for protein.
  • Fine and medium hair: Protein also provides support for fine and medium hair because it provides body.

Signs your hair needs protein: 

  • When wet, hair that needs protein tends to feel mushy like a wet soft banian.
  • Hair that loses its bounce may need protein.
  • Hair that just won’t behave though you have tried deep conditioning or using oils probably needs protein
  • Hair that has lost its curl pattern and doesn’t hold shape. ( I am not talking about curls opening up after they have dried. That is a different issue addressed as point 14 here)

Source : Protein 101 – Lots of Basic Information About Using Protein in Hair Products


  1. some parts of my hair still look so dry even after applying lots of oil.. is that a sign that it lacks protein, anjana ?

  2. coconut oil, but it’s not pure, it’s a mixture of coconut, amla and lemon.. i usually oil my hair atleast once a week and leave it for more than an hour..

  3. yes anjana.. i have recently started trying deep conditioning with coconut and olive oil (pre-poo) and also adding the same mixture to the conditioner after shampoo.. 🙂

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