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Protein overload on hair, how to remove excess protein

protein ovedose on hair

Protein overload. What is protein overload and how to avoid it?

Protein overload on hair may sound like the side effect of the popular whey protein DIY treatment, but in fact, it is a very common problem.

After reading this articles you will get the idea of protein overdose with no doubt and reduce the risk of experiencing it to minimum.

Additional reading: Best Proteins For Hair and How to Determine When Your Hair Needs Them.

The Diagnose

Diagnosing protein overload is simple, as long as you know your hair well. For a novice, it may sound too ambiguous at the beginning.

To spot some first hand symtomps, check if your hair is:

  • brittle
  • stiff
  • dry
  • straw-like?

I always notice protein overdose if I can hear fire crackling sound while pinching hair ends. One of my viewers described it as a „Cheetos sound”. Her hair stopped being super-crispy, so yours can too!*

*I want Cheetos now. Fun fact: there is no Mac-n-Cheetos in my country.

Of course, dry and brittle hair may be this way because they lack moisure. The lack of moisture combined with protein overdose may create a severe hair disaster, and often goes hand in hand.

  • How to moisturize hair and lock moisture in hair?

The Reason

Let’s have a look at your set of hair care products. By analysing their lists of ingredients, we will be able to tell, if they may have led to the disaster.

Public enemy number one is hydrolysed keratin. Yes, that may be surprising, as keratin is widely advertised as „hair restorer”, „rebuilder” etc.

Hair is built of keratin, no doubt, but if it only was so simple to put some keratin on damaged hair to fix it!

The way hydrolyzed keratin, and a number of other proteis work, is to temporarily fill up some dents in hair. Proteins work like bricks. They will not perfectly fit the dent, but more-or-less fill it. Additionaly, protein molecules tend to „like” similar molecules. Especially hydrolyzed keratin!

This is the very essence of protein overload – protein deposits on strands of hair attracting more and more protein which settle on hair, eventually leading to the overload.

Is Keratin the Only Enemy?

Keratin is the biggest potential troublemaker. I may have even developed keratinphobia, but I am serious – most people overdose it! And producers love this ingredient in hair cosmetics, for whatever reason. Probably…

…because it sells.

The other possible dangers are:

  • Hydrolyzed Silk
  • Hydrolyzed Milk Proteins
  • Amino acids (serine, proline, arginine, l-cystine)


  • Non-hydrolyzed proteins (eg. milk)
  • Hydrolyzed plant proteins: wheat proteins, soy proteins, rice proteins, oat proteins
  • Non-hydrolyzed plant proteins
  • Collagen
  • Elastine

Can you see the pattern? Yeah, the smaller the molecule, the higher risk of protein overload. The second group may not cause the problem at all, as the molecules of collagen or plant proteins are considerably bigger.

Protein overload

From my experience, hydrolyzed keratin is the most common reason for the problem, as it is put in so many products: shampoos, conditioners, mists, serums.

With hydrolyzed silk, the most common occurrence of protein overload turns up after long-term usage of serums or mists with this ingredient. All these so-called „hair silks” – stay put!

The Treatment

Getting rid of protein overload is simple in making, it is just a matter of individual hair structure how long the process will take.

1. Wash your hair.

Protein overdose is one of these rare cases in which you will need toi actually wash your HAIR. Usually, it is only scalp that needs cleaning (remember How to wash your hair?)

Wash your hair twice with a SLeS-based shampoo. Dilute it, of course, as shampoos work better while diluted. Rinse with lots of water.

2. Apply a generous amount of emollient-besed codnitioner. Avoid additional protein or humectants, stick to oils.

3. Brush in the conditioner, which will help to emulgate whatever still sits on hair strands.

4. Wrap your hair in a plastic wrap, leave for 5-10 minutes.

5. Rinse.

This process should remove protein overdose immediately. If not, repeat one or two times, and eventually it will work.

Avoid proteins for the next one or two weeks.

How to Avoid Protein Overdose?

Use protein when needed, usually once a week is optimal. Rember that everyone’s hair has its preferences and may always vary.

It is important to check your hair products thoroughly to know your stock and to be able to plan ahead.

You can sort your products into 3 or more baskets or shelves, depending on your organization habits.

  • Emollients, proteins, humectants. How to sort hair products?

Just have a look at the article above! And for protein-sensitive hair, be especially careful with:

  • Hydrolyzed Keratin
  • Hydrolyzed Silk
  • Hydrolyzed Milk Proteins
  • Amino acids (serine, proline, arginine, l-cystine)

You may print out the list and keep in your wallet, or take a screenshot and put in a folder with other Hair Care Cheatsheets.

Do you have a story of protein overdose? Share your thoughts and experiences.

If you suspect experiencing protein overdose right now, try getting rid of it with my methods and take before/after pics. You may be surprised!

Please share this article so more people can access their portion of hair care know-how.

  • MY SHOP with great hair care cosmetics (EU shipping, ask all you want about the products)

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