Everyone tells us to do this protein treatment and that protein treatment. But many fail to mention that there is definitely something called hair protein overload!

(Keep in mind that this is strictly about protein treatments that you put ON your hair. Your hair can’t get protein overload from eating too much protein.)

Like any hair problem, protein overload can lead to some serious damage, and you definitely want to do something about it.

But let’s get started by finding out what exactly happens when you put too much protein in your hair and how you can recognize it!

In this article:

Disclosure: Some of the links below are so-called provision links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Related: All you need to know about protein on your hair

What happens if you put too much protein in your hair?

Firstly, let’s get the basics out of the way: What does protein overload do to your hair?

Any protein treatment attaches itself to the hair, hardening it, and thereby protecting it from damage. But when you plaster your hair with too much protein, it will become weirdly dry, brittle and kind of stiff over time.

As always with dry hair, it breaks really easily, leading to lots of damage even from the usual hair care activities, like washing your hair, combing it, braiding it and so on.

In short, protein overload is one of the worst states of hair: looking dull and dry while breaking like there’s no tomorrow.

How to recognize a protein overload

So now you might be thinking: “All well and good, but how do I know that I actually have protein overload and not just REALLY dry hair?”

Well, the characteristic stiffness is only one of the warning signs of too much protein on your hair.

Signs of protein overload in hair

You’ll notice several changes in your hair structure. Your hair will tangle and matt like crazy, and a lot of people experience heavy shedding as well.

Related: How to keep hair from tangling throughout the day & night

Even though you changed nothing in your hair care routine, your hair won’t seem to like your hair care products anymore. Instead of being shiny after washing it, it’ll feel like straw and look unusually dull.

If all these signs are there, you only need to take the “hair strand test”. For that, you try to stretch a clean hair of yours. Hair with protein overload doesn’t stretch at all. Instead, it immediately snaps.

Sounds familiar? Then it’s time to bring your hair back to balance!

A list of the warning signs of protein overload: dry hair, breakage, tangling, dull look, breaking hair during the hair strand test

How do I get rid of protein buildup in my hair?

Do you recognize those sign? Well, then the next question is how to get rid of protein overload in hair!

First of all, have a good, detailed look at your hair products. Many products, especially those for curly hair, contain proteins even if they don’t advertise it.

Related: The best, curly girl approved protein treatments
Related: The best curly girl approved products

Paste the ingredients into an online tool like “Is it CG?“. The result will tell you if there is any protein in your hair product.

If that’s the case, you will need to get new products. (Look below for some ideas.) When your hair has protein overload, you want to avoid any proteins for a while.

Your second step will be to focus on moisturizing your hair heavily. I like to start either with a thorough hair oiling (on damp hair, not dry!), or with my favorite hair mask for dry hair.

Image of 3 transparent containers in a row, two containing flowers, the one in the middle containing oil

If you opt for the oiling, make sure to avoid coconut oil. Coconut oil actually prevents protein loss from your hair. Not what we want for our protein overload!

Related: Coconut oil for hair: the real benefits

Can coconut oil cause protein overload though? Unlikely in itself, but not impossible. If you have any doubts, better avoid it!

Related: The 11 best oils for your hair

Generally, incorporate lots of moisturizing elements into your hair care. Aloe vera and honey are two very good candidates for this. Simply put a little bit into your shampoo or conditioner on every wash. (Get 100% pure Aloe vera gel here*!)

Related: 8 ways to use Aloe vera gel for hair

Protein sensitive hair

Image of Dry, tangled hair with a wooden comb stuck in it

Some people have hair that’s naturally more sensitive to protein treatments. Instead of getting protein overload from too much protein over time, they only need to use a protein-containing product once and will already have all the warning signs.

You might be one of those if you’ve always gotten stiff and dry hair from any products with protein in it.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can never ever use products like that, but it does mean that you’ll always have to balance it well with moisturizing, protein-free treatments.

Related: How to fix crunchy hair – all the solutions

Protein-free hair products

So what are some good products to reverse protein overload? Of course, protein-free ones!

If you are here, you probably need some protein-free hair products NOW. I know, because I’ve been there.

And you know what? They are surprisingly difficult to find! Almost everything has either silk or wheat protein in it!

So to shorten your timespan from stiff hair to healthy mane, I found some protein-free hair products for you.

Protein-free shampoo

If you’re looking for the best shampoo for protein overload, make sure to pick a product that’s both hydrating and, of course, free of any kind of protein.

This shampoo by Vanicream* is protein-free. Additionally, it contains moisturizing elements, like Glycerin. Perfect for dealing with protein overload!

And it’s curly girl-approved. What more could you want?

Order it here!*

Related: 6 hand-selected, curly girl approved shampoos

Protein-free deep conditioner

This protein-free deep conditioner* has “moisturizing” written all over it. It contains argan oil, which is one of my favorite hair oils for dry hair.

Related: What is the best Argan oil for hair?

While it contains silicones and therefore isn’t a fit for followers of the curly girl method, it will help you balance out your protein overload.

If you want a protein-free AND curly-girl approved deep conditioner, this product by Eden Bodyworks* fits your criteria! It contains humectants and moisturizing alcohols (those are the good ones!) to help bring your hair back to life.

Protein-free leave-in conditioner

This organic conditioner* is perfect if you have protein overload. Not only is it protein-free, it also contains quite a few moisturising ingredients, helping you to balance out your hair.

And the best thing about it? It functions as both a leave-in conditioner and a styling gel!

By the way, all its’ ingredients are curly girl approved!

Get it here*!

Related: The best, curly girl approved protein treatments

Protein-free oils for hair

If you’re using hair oils in your hair care (as you should!), you’ll probably wonder at this point, which oils you can use safely when you’re avoiding protein.

Generally, any pure oils are fine, as they don’t contain any protein. (Find a list of my favorite oils for hair here!)

Yes, not even coconut oil is a protein source for hair! That’s a common misconception. But, as I wrote above, coconut oil helps your hair retain protein, so you might want to skip it until your hair is balanced again.

In short, the best oils for protein overload are the ones your hair likes!

Related: 7 curly girl approved hair oils for shiny locks

Good luck with battling your protein overload!

If you’ve read till here: congrats! You now know everything you need to know to balance your hairs protein and moisture again. While it can be frustrating to deal with this problem, it is absolutely possible to get things back under control.

If you have any more questions, drop them in the comments below and make sure to pin this to your hair care board!

Got protein overload on your hair? Find out here why it's bad, how you can recognise it and what you can do to get rid of the protein buildup!

*These links are so-called provision links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.