Some nat­u­rals report that using any type of pro­tein or pro­tein con­tain­ing pro­duct can lead them to have dry, hard and brit­tle hair that feels like straw. Search­ing with­in sci­ence jour­nals has not yield­ed an expla­na­tion for this but it is well report­ed so here is my the­o­ry on deal­ing with pro­tein sen­si­tive hair.

1. Know pro­teins in your prod­ucts
Pro­tein can appear in dif­fer­ent forms and in order to pin­point it as the cause of your dry hair woes, you should be able to iden­ti­fy if it is in your pro­duct. Here is a list:

-Hydrolysed/hydrolyzed/hydrosylates: In gen­er­al you will find labels with ingre­di­ents such as hydrolyzed ker­at­in or wheat hydro­sy­lates or hydrol­ysed col­la­gen etc. The process by which pro­teins are bro­ken up into small­er pieces is known as hydrol­y­sis. If you do not know your pro­teins by name e.g ker­at­in, col­la­gen etc, then just look out for the word hydrol­ysed.
-Amino acids: If you are ingre­di­ent aware, you will know that amino acids are the basic build­ing blocks that can be strung togeth­er to make pro­teins. Some man­u­fac­tur­ers use words such as silk amino acids while some may specif­i­cal­ly name the amino acid, some com­mon ones are glu­tam­ic acid, cys­teine and arginine
-Pep­tides: The­se are small strings of 5 or so amino acids.
- May­on­naise: It is actu­al­ly the egg yolk that is used to make may­on­naise. The egg white is the part with the most pro­tein, so may­on­naise is not a major source of pro­tein but can have trace amounts
- Whole eggs/egg white/albumin/egg albu­min, avo­cado, bananas, aloe vera: The­se are all sources of whole pro­tein. The large whole form of pro­tein actu­al­ly does not tend to behave in the same way as hydrol­ysed pro­tein, amino acids or pep­tides. Some peo­ple with pro­tein sen­si­tive hair will find all of the­se per­fect­ly fine to use. It should also be not­ed avo­cado, bananas and aloe vera do con­tain very small amounts of pro­tein.

2. Dis­tin­guish between an intend­ed effect and actu­al sen­si­tiv­i­ty

If you use a pro­tein treat­ment such as Aphogee Two Step or Komaza Pro­tein Strength­en­er and you fol­low the instruc­tions to allow the pro­duct to dry under a hair dry­er, most hair will feel some­what straw like imme­di­ate­ly after rins­ing. A mois­tur­is­ing con­di­tion­er is nor­mal­ly required to help hair go back to its nor­mal feel.

For pro­tein sen­si­tive hair, mois­tur­is­ing prod­ucts with even small amounts of pro­tein cause hair to feel brit­tle. For exam­ple, Gio­van­ni leave in with small amounts of wheat pro­tein or the Herbal Essences con­di­tion­er range which by and large con­tain glu­tam­ic acid.

3.Be aware of prod­ucts that may help hair retain pro­tein e.g coconut oil, hen­na, clay or mud wash­es
If your hair is pro­tein sen­si­tive, prod­ucts such as coconut oil and hen­na which help pro­tect hair from loos­ing pro­tein when washed may pro­duce the same straw-like feel that a pro­tein con­tain­ing pro­duct will do. Many times, pro­tein sen­si­tive hair will also be sen­si­tive to nat­u­ral oils and but­ters as many of the­se are thought to be able to pen­e­trate hair. Oils that do not pen­e­trate hair e.g sun­flow­er oil or min­er­al oil may be pre­ferred by pro­tein sen­si­tive hair.

4. Be aware of pro­tein allergies.
Some peo­ple are actu­al­ly aller­gic to hydrol­ysed pro­teins in hair prod­ucts. Apply­ing a pro­tein con­tain­ing pro­duct can lead to an itchy skin rash (med­ical­ly known as con­tact urticaria). If a cer­tain pro­duct caus­es your scalp to itch, you should avoid using it again and try to deter­mine which ingre­di­ent you are aller­gic to.

Is your hair pro­tein sen­si­tive? If so, how do you man­age it?

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30 Comments on "4 Ways to Manage Protein Sensitive Hair"

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Recent­ly, I’ve tried not using a wash out con­di­tion­er at all & my hair respond­ed well. The only dilem­ma is detan­gling. Some­times I can detan­gle pret­ty eas­i­ly with water only but oth­er times I need a lit­tle help. For now, my solu­tion is to apply a pro­tein free or almost pro­tein free detan­gling con­di­tion­er in the show­er to detan­gle then fol­low with an ACV cleanse (1 part ACV to 3 parts water in a spray bot­tle). I think my hair hates pro­teins & emul­si­fiers, which are basi­cal­ly the waxy sub­stance in ALL hair creams/lotions that are used to bind the… Read more »

This is real­ly help­ful. Ker­at­in treat­ments ruined my hair and the dr said avoid prod­ucts that mim­ic it, which can be nat­u­ral and organ­ic. I do think coconut oil dries my hair out and I will pay real­ly good atten­tion now. I’ve been using a pro­tein mask that’s all nat­u­ral but may­be the ingre­di­ents are dry­ing out my hair. Thanks!

I used to use shea but­ter on my hair when it was relaxed and tran­sis­tion­ing then when i bc’d and put that my hair with coconut oil, and a whole lot of oth­er things ( that cost me about fifty dol­lars) it made my hair so crunchy that my hair would crum­ble in my hand. yes crum­ble. i made this huge batch that i had to give to my hus­band and son, so i was left with no way to mois­turise. i just learned to use con­di­tion­er but that does­nt real­ly work all the time, i’m still look­ing for a… Read more »

Olive oil? I find that it soft­ens my hair although it’s a new exper­i­ment. I mois­turise my hair with a bath pow­der that’s used to de-acid­i­fy the body mixed with water and then I put the olive oil (from my kitchen) in my hair. My hair does feel soft­er, but let’s see if it’s stops break­ing and I retain a bit more length than usu­al. Just try­ing to keep it sim­ple.


Np olive oil just sits on my hair and does noth­ing, it used to like it now it does­nt


I thought it was work­ing with me cause the de-acid­i­fy­ing liq­uid alka­lised my hair there­fore lift­ed the cuti­cles and allowed the water and then the oil in. That’s my the­o­ry. May­be you can put some­thing alka­lis­ing in your hair first (bak­ing soda in solu­tion?) and then try anoth­er oil, per­haps argan oil. Good luck! :)

I love that there are informed dis­cus­sions hap­pen­ing on the top­ic of hair pro­tein sen­si­tiv­i­ty. I have grown so frus­trat­ed with the search for the holy hair grail of pro­tein free prod­ucts that I start­ed work­ing on cre­at­ing my own. I am per­fect­ing them but my wash out con­di­tion­er and my leave-in have now replaced all oth­ers on my shelf and I am beyond hap­py with the results. I NEVER real­ly under­stood what a good con­di­tion­er was sup­posed to do for my hair until now. I hope to soon be at the point when I can offer this to oth­ers… Read more »

THANK YOU! I have been going crazy try­ing to under­stand why my hair is so dry and straw-like, even with all the coconut oil treat­ments I have been doing. I didn’t even know pro­tein-sen­si­tive hair was a thing until now.

Here are some rec­om­men­da­tions for prod­ucts for real­ly pro­tein sen­si­tive hair from my expe­ri­ence. The­se have no coconut oil, pro­teins, aloe vera, nut oils or avo­cado oil. PLEASE add yours for future ref­er­ence for our fel­low pro­tein sen­si­tive heads! *(Some of the­se prod­ucts have extracts which my hair is fine with but even extracts make some people’s hair brit­tle so just an FYI)* Sham­poo: Mop C-Sys­tem Hydrat­ing Sham­poo (CRAZY mois­tur­iz­ing and cleans well) Leave Ins: Qhemet Cocoa Tree Detan­gling Ghee Curl Junkie Beau­ti­c­urls Leave-In Con­di­tion­er OGX Kukui Oil Con­di­tion­er Oils: EVOO Emu Oil (very, very rich and mois­tur­iz­ing) Argan Oil Grape­seed Oil  Hope this helps.… Read more »

For­got But­ters also!!!
Shea But­ter
Man­go But­ter
Muru­Mu­ru But­ter
Cupacau But­ter
Cocoa But­ter

Pret­ty much most but­ters you have heard of :)


Are the­se but­ters good for pro­tein sen­si­tive hair?


for­got to add that OGX Kukui has dime­thicone in it.


Great infor­ma­tion!!! My hair is pro­tein sen­si­tive and hates aloe vera. Do you have a diy pro­tein free con­di­tion­er recipe?


Lau­ra, the Tre­sem­me Nat­u­rals Mois­ture Con­di­tion­er has the same effect on my hair which is dri­ving me to dis­trac­tion with all of its ‘dis­likes’ (any oil, pro­tein, aloe, blah blah blah…). How­ev­er, whilst I am sooh grate­ful for the silk­i­ness that the sham­poo and con­di­tion­er give, would love to know what you seal in the mois­ture with or as a styler? The con­di­tion­er as a leave-in alone doesn’t have enough hold for my hair and it turns into a frizz ball or I get over­load if I leave too much in.

Teen­tine — I know this reply is real­ly late, but I hope you receive this. I use the Tre­sem­me Nat­u­rals Mois­ture Con­di­tion­er as my leave in as well. To seal in the mois­ture, I use olive oil. I real­ly hope that’s not one of the oils that your hair dis­likes. Let me just tell you, my dry, finicky hair fell in LOVE with the Tre­sem­me Naturals/olive oil com­bi­na­tion. After wash­ing, I just sec­tioned my hair off, slathered the sec­tion with con­di­tion­er, then put olive oil on top to seal and twist­ed it up. My hair is very thick, so I… Read more »
Laura Rosson
I just fig­ured out why my hair has been straw like for years! I am Pro­tein sen­si­tive and even mousse, serums and most oils make my hair feel dry.. You would think the oil rin­se method or an oil treat­ment would soft­en my porous hair but in fact it made it worse! My hair was snap­ping off! So I did some research and found TRE­Sem­me Nat­u­rals Nour­ish­ing Mois­ture Con­di­tion­er With Aloe Vera & Avo­cado. I used the sham­poo ver­sion of this pro­duct and then I used the con­di­tion­er and I imme­di­ate­ly noticed my hair was baby soft!I added a table­spoon… Read more »


Check out this blog. It tells you how to treat pro­tein sen­si­tive hair.


Being pro­tein sen­si­tive is just like hav­ing an aller­gy or fol­low­ing a gluten free diet. That means: Spend­ing alot of your life read­ing the back of bot­tles and under­stand­ing the labels. Smil­ing as you try to explain to the shop assis­tant why you are spend­ing so much time stand­ing in the store and smil­ing even hard­er when they start spout­ing non­sense because they have no idea what you are talk­ing about. Accept­ing that near­ly every hair pro­duct which spouts itself as the holy grail of all hair prod­ucts tends to con­tain coconut or some high con­cn of amino acid. That being pro­tein sen­si­tive means… Read more »

YESSSSSSS and it might take you a LONG TIME to find your arse­nal of prod­ucts but when you do, your hair will be hap­py because you will be con­sis­tent with how you take care of your hair. It only took me *ahem* 2 years but I’m almost done assem­bling my hair care arse­nal. All that is miss­ing is a real­ly mois­tur­iz­ing deep con­di­tion­er (my hair laughs at oil DC’s and rhas­soul clay is not enough) and I have a feel­ing it has not been cre­at­ed yet LOL…


What prod­ucts do you use on your protine sen­si­tive hair?


What’s in your arse­nal right now? I’ve just realised I’m pro­tein sen­si­tive and would like to work on this. My hair breaks so eas­i­ly. Thank you!


That would explain a lot, I eat meat like nobody’s busi­ness and my hair acts fun­ny with pro­tein.


I would also add that we may need to look at our diet because while pro­tein is great for build­ing mus­cles. How much we con­sume may be over­load­ing our nat­u­ral hair.

The Natural Haven

Great ques­tion! Any­thing in excess is not good but it is not real­ly pos­si­ble to over­load your hair from dietary pro­tein. Your hair will only take what it needs and no more (i.e eat­ing more pro­tein will not make your hair thick­er or grow faster). Sim­i­lar­ly, con­sum­ing a lot of pro­tein will not make your mus­cles grow big­ger, stronger or get more toned. You have to include a prop­er exer­cise rou­tine for that pro­tein to be effec­tive.



I find that my hair hates pro­tein in prod­ucts, but when it comes to eat­ing


JC — How exact­ly do clay or mud wash­es help hair retain pro­tein?

I read the “Clay Sci­ence: Ben­tonite and Rhas­soul” post on your blog but it doesn’t men­tion pro­tein reten­tion.

The Natural Haven

Ben­tonite clay is not researched for use on hair but it is exten­sive­ly used in the wine mak­ing indus­try. In wine­mak­ing it is used to selec­tive­ly fil­ter out pro­teins because some pro­teins can be attract­ed to it depend­ing on their charge. Some pro­teins there­fore remain in the wine while oth­ers are washed away with the clay. From this I can assume that ben­tonite clay may have a sim­i­lar inter­ac­tion with pro­tein in hair or in a hair pro­duct, fil­ter­ing some off and allow­ing some to be retained. 

I will update my arti­cle on the blog, thanks for let­ting me know :)


You’re wel­come! Thank you for your respon­se!


Is there a way to test for this?

My Baby Girls Curls
Excel­lent Arti­cle!!!! It all makes per­fect sense. My youngest daugh­ter is pro­tein sen­si­tive which I start­ed to notice when she 1 (she is now 3). Over the years, I have learned what pro­teins I can use spar­ing­ly and which ones to stay away from alto­geth­er. I have recent­ly been using the Ter­ressen­tials Mud Wash which did great the first sev­er­al times and then her hair start­ed feel­ing dry after rins­ing (so I put that away for now). I also got this same reac­tion using AVJ fre­quent­ly. Not to men­tion I pre-poo w/ coconut oil (but I knew all about coconut… Read more »