Protein sensitivity is used to describe hair that overeacts in the presence of protein making it dry and brittle, hence more prone to breakage. However, it is important to note that in the presence of protein, ALL hair does feel dry and brittle. One has to be able to distinguish between the intended effect and actual sensitivity.
People who are protein sensitive, have enough or high levels of protein in their hair, and therefore do not need anymore. Finer hair usually tolerates protein better than coarse hair.
How exactly does protein sensitive hair feel?
Coarse, dry, brittle and tangled like a clump of straw, breaks whenever one uses protein in their hair, fried, hard, rough and scratchy even when wet. Protein sensitive hair has also been said to lose curl definition.
Protein sensitivity is not only caused by products that are rich in proteins, but also by certain oils that contain trace amounts of protein, or products that mimic protein.
If you suspect that your hair is protein sensitive, it is advisable to stay away or at least limit the use of products that contain the following:
1) Amino Acid
4) Milk (both dairy & alternative)
7) Soy (and soy oils)
11) Avocado oil
12) Coconut Oil (traps protein onto the hair, mimics protein)
13) Jojoba Oil (is actually a wax and it contains trace amounts of protein)
14) Aloe Vera – juice and gel (some protein-sensitive people are affected, others aren’t)
This list is in no way exhaustive.
Also stay away from nut oils (almond, peanut, macadamia, hemp). If your hair becomes hard and dry after using such oil, chances are, your hair is protein sensitive.
Henna, clay and mud washes help hair retain protein and as such may produce the same straw-like feel that protein containing products will do. (The tannins in henna bond with protein in the hair and act like a protein treatment)
If you plan to do a beer rinse, just know that beer contains yeast (brewer’s yeast – vegemite, marmite, etc) which is known to contain protein.
Just identify the triggers and avoid them. Focus on keeping your hair moisturized, and keep in mind how your hair feels so as not to over-moisturize it. With time you might notice that you can indeed use some protein. That boils down to its size and how much of it is in a product.
More on Protein size and types in my next post.