Protein Overload: One Reason Why Your Hair Feels Like Straw
Dry hair can be a result of one or a combination of things ranging from your hair’s porosity, to the type of water you use (hard vs. soft), or the issue I am going to cover today: protein overload.
I recently discovered that I was overloading my hair with protein. To give you some background, I am relaxed and I do my touch-ups every 6 months. I’ve always wondered why my new growth grew in so dry no matter how much I moisturized, but attributed it to the contrast of my two textures. On my wash days it would be extremely soft until it dried (I air dry). I guess I never really cared much because I wasn’t experiencing crazy breakage, plus I do low manipulation/protective styles when I stretch my relaxer. Keep in mind that my relaxed ends felt perfectly normal; the problem was with my new growth.
Rewind to 3 weeks ago, I wanted to get to the bottom of this, partially because I’ve been playing with the idea of going natural on a 24-36 month stretch. I agree that natural hair is thicker and drier than relaxed hair, but this was a different kind of dry; my natural roots felt like straw! What could be causing this? Panic ensued.
The first thing I did was purchase a different moisturizer—Giovanni Direct Leave-In. Nope, it didn’t work and it went straight back to Target! Once the light bulb came on, I realized it had proteins in it along with everything else I was using (my moisturizing shampoo, conditioner/moisturizer, heat protectant and of course protein treatment). Finally, it all made sense. My natural hair was not benefiting from the extra protein because it’s in its healthiest state. On the other hand, my relaxed hair loved it.
During this chaotic episode, I tried protein-free conditioners (i.e. Shea Moisture Restorative Conditioner), but they made my hair feel even worse. The culprit? Coconut oil. Coconut oil works to slow down the loss of protein from your hair—totally counter-productive to what I was trying to do. It also solidifies in colder temperatures, making your hair harder. *Le sigh*. At one point, I wanted to go ahead with my touch-up and let the lye do its job of breaking down that excess protein, but my inquisitive nature wouldn’t let me.
After much trial and error, I have found protein-free products that are putting moisture back into the natural portion of my hair. Before I used them, I clarified with Vo5’s Kiwi Lime Clarifying Shampoo to start on a clean slate.