Part of having healthy curly hair means finding a good balance between moisture and protein. The Curly Girl Method focuses a lot on moisture, but you really need both to have gorgeous curls.
One reason I think the CGM focuses more on moisture than on protein is that curly girls typically lacking more moisture than protein.
However, if you neglect your hair’s protein, you may find that your hair is suddenly less awesome than it used to be.
That’s what happened to me a few months ago. I was moving along with my curly hair routine then one day, my hair didn’t seem to be curling as well as it had been in the past.
I tried adding more conditioner and deep conditioning more frequently, but it didn’t seem to help the problem.
My search for a solution led me down a rabbit hole of information on protein and curly hair. This post is a culmination of everything I learned.
Today we’ll look at why hair needs protein, how you can tell when your hair needs protein, how to add some to your hair, signs your hair may have too much protein, and how to fix it if that problem arises.
Side note: This page does contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something using the product links on this page, I may get a small commission. This comes at no extra cost to you and helps keep this site running. Thank you!
Why does hair need protein?
Science has never been my strong suit, so I’ll spare you the scientific break down of why your hair needs protein to be healthy. Instead, I’ll give you the more simplified version.
Your hair needs protein to be healthy just like the rest of your body needs protein to be healthy. Protein is what helps your body grow and get strong.
Your hair works in a similar fashion. Protein helps your hair grow. It also makes your hair stronger and healthier, so it’s less prone to breakage. It will also typically result in a better curl.
How to tell when your hair needs protein
The easiest way to tell that your hair needs protein is your curls are particularly limp and lifeless.
You also may find (like I did) that adding extra conditioner does nothing to fix the problem–in fact, it will likely make the problem worse.
That’s because limp, lifeless curls are a sign that your protein/moisture balance is out of whack and in this case, you have too much moisture. Adding protein will help restore that balance.
It’s as if the extra moisture is weighing your curls down and your hair needs more strength (in the form of protein) to be able to support the added hydration. (This is not a scientific explanation, it’s just how I like to think of things.)
How to give your hair protein
The easiest way to give your hair protein is to use a protein treatment!
Two that I’ve used and loved are Mielle Organic Babassu Oil And Mint Deep Conditioner (this stuff melts into my hair) and Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Protein-Strong Treatment. You can also do a DIY rice water rinse.
Giving your hair regular protein treatments will help your hair keep a good moisture/protein balance. However, what “regular” means will vary from person to person. It may mean weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly depending on your hair.
It’s possible (and easy) to add too much protein to your hair, so you may want to start with monthly treatments and modify from there.
Alternatively, you’ll probably have the best results if you do what you can to pay attention and listen to your hair. When your hair starts to get limp and lifeless, do a protein treatment.
If your hair was lacking protein, you may find that you need more frequent protein treatments in the beginning when you first notice the problem than you will long term.
If you keep up with the same routine as when you hair was protein deprived, you may end up overcorrecting and end up with too much protein.
Should you find that your hair has a hard time maintaining a good protein/moisture balance, you may want your daily products and conditioners to have more protein in them.
Here is a list of protein ingredients you may find in hair products. The closer to the top of the ingredient list the ingredient is, the more that ingredient was used in the product.
How long it takes to correct your protein/moisture balance will depend on how much extra moisture your hair is carrying.
If you’re doing regular protein treatments and find that your hair is still lifeless, you may want to reach out to a hair professional.
Signs your hair has too much protein
Like I mentioned, it’s easy to add too much protein to your hair and skew your moisture/protein balance in the direction of too much protein.
This may happen because you unknowingly used products with a lot of protein, overcorrected over moisturized hair, or because your hair is more sensitive to protein than others.
Some signs that you have too much protein in your hair is if your hair has gotten very dry and brittle, you notice increased breakage, and/or your hair feels stiff. You may even notice more shedding and tangles.
How to fix protein overload
If you find that your hair has too much protein, you’ll want to add moisture to help correct that balance.
You can do this by deep conditioning once or twice a week until the balance corrects itself, adding more daily conditioner to your routine, or adding more hydrating creams and products to your styling.
However, you’ll likely want to back off the conditioning once your hair rediscovers its balance, just like when you add protein.
Looking for more guidance on your curly hair journey?
If you’re new to curly hair care and looking for some help, you should check out the No-Stress Guide to Curly Hair Care!
After spending two years learning and caring for my curly hair, I wanted to create my own, in-depth guide to help fellow curlies create incredible curls in the easiest way possible.
It took me a while, but I eventually found an approach that helped me create a curly hair routine that fits into my life in the simplest way possible. And now I want to help you do the same!
For more intermediate/advanced guidance
If you’ve been on your curly hair journey for a while but still have some struggles, check out Curly Hair Problems!
After spending hours scouring the internet looking for solutions to my own curly hair problems, I found myself wishing for an easier, more comprehensive guide to the most common problems.
So that’s what I created!
Curly Hair Problems offers you 78 total solutions to the five most common curly hair care problems, including frizz, curl clumps, limp curls, product issues, and scalp issues.
Sound off: What’s been your experience with protein and curly hair? Were you able to find a good balance? Tell us about it in the comments! And be sure to tell us a little about your hair type.