Protein overload? If so, how do I fix it?

lecaprolecapro Posts: 4Registered Users, Curl Ambassador Curl Neophyte
Hi! I'm fairly new to this forum, I'm just trying to take care of my curls, but I think I have protein overload. I have 2C/3A really fine hair, and I went semi-curly girl method a month or two ago. I've done no silicones or sulfates and I started using the DevaCurl delight line, but the low-poo didn't clean my scalp well and it made my hair greasy so I've been using a mild shea moisture shampoo. Since my hair is very fine, I can't use really deep conditioners very often or my hair gets weighed down, or so it has in the past.

What I have been using:
-Shea Moisture Fruit Infused Coconut Water Weightless Shampoo
-DevaCurl Delight Conditioner
-DevaCurl Light Defining Gel
-About once a week, I'll use an herbal essences clarifying shampoo (it's the light pink old label)

My curls have looked better lately, but my hair has been extremely dry and brittle and I've been losing handfuls of hair. I've been swimming a bit this summer, so I thought that might have been the culprit. I'm also not used to brushing this infrequently, so I just brushed it off (no pun intended). I thought I was still "transitioning" to the curly girl method and figured I'd give it time.

I did my clarifying shampoo yesterday followed by the DevaCurl conditioner and decided to blow dry my hair on low to see what it would look like without the curls. My hair has never been tanglier or dryer. It was insane how much it was dry, cracked, and tangly, like I've never seen it before. It's thinner and just looks AWFUL! It got caught in my rubber band and I could not get a brush through it, even after conditioning/detangling it in the shower. It felt like straw. 

Since I suspect I have high-porosity hair, I thought it was weird that I would be protein-sensitive, but looking at the ingredients of what I've been using and WOW, there's all the protein. Every product I'm using has protein pretty high on the ingredient list. 

Tonight, to try and give my hair moisture, I did an apple cider vinegar rinse followed by Whole Foods 365 conditioner for 15 minutes (I saw that kind didn't contain protein) I think it helped, and I shed WAY less hair compared to what I've been dealing with lately.

I'm just really confused as what to do. First of all, how do I fix my hair?? Should I ditch my protein-heavy products? How do I even start to find products? Are there non-protein, lightweight, no SLS/no silicone products out there? Should I just go back to my old silicone/sulfate routine? These expensive products have completely ruined my hair balance and I'm totally confused about everything. Any help would be greatly appreciated. 

TL/DR: My really fine 2C/3A curls (with high-porosity) potentially have protein-overload. How do I fix my hair??? Also, what can I do to find products for this type of hair? I'm lost.


  • Guide 65Guide 65 Posts: 1,717Registered Users, Moderators Curl Virtuoso
    It could be protein overload.  Try to use protein-free products for a while.  I'm pretty sure Not Your Mothers Naturals line is protein free, and not very expensive.  Check the ingredients though, because I'm not 100% sure on that.  Or just use the 365 conditioner instead of the Deva one.  Also deep condition with something protein free.  Garnier Nutris 1 minute hair masks are protein free and cheap. 

    Hold onto your current products.  At some point, you'll need to bring protein back into your hair.  It's a fine balance you need to find.  All hair needs some protein, but not in all products all the time.  So when your hair recovers and then starts swinging the other way, you can start using the Deva products again.
    Formerly known as Janiegirl
    2B/2C, fine hair, low density, mixed porosity, protein loving hair
    Current products:
    Changing up my shampoos because I can't find one I like
    Deva Curl One Condition (original formula)
    Innersense I Create Volume
    Deva Curl Ultra Defining Gel
  • Therese1Therese1 Posts: 2,468Registered Users Curl Virtuoso
    edited August 7
    I would double-check the ingredients on the 365 conditioner. The one I saw online has amodimethicone, which is a silicone, so you may need to clarify with a sulfate to get it out of your hair.

    When I get protein overload, I deep condition (as you have done) with a protein-free conditioner. I do this every time I wash my hair (which is about every three days) until I feel like my hair is getting close to normal again and isn't so dry.

    I may also put a little bit of oil on my dry hair at night, before I go to bed (to give the oil several hours to soak into my hair). I usually use Weleda's rosemary hair oil, which is pretty light. You might try sunflower or avocado oil if you don't want to buy another product. I would avoid olive (which tends to be heavy) or coconut (which can exacerbate protein overload). Putting just a few drops of oil on your dry hair can help the hair shaft become flexible again so that you don't get so much breakage.

    I would cut out all protein-containing products (be careful of hidden proteins, like grain extracts) for at least two weeks. I find that in two or three weeks' time, my hair gets back to normal if I've overloaded it with protein.
    Low poo: Intelligent Nutrients (IN) Harmonic; Oribe Cleansing Creme
    RO: IN Harmonic
    LI: CJ Beauticurls; Jessicurl (JC) Gelebration Spray
    DC: JC Deep Conditioning Treatment; Weleda Rosemary Conditioning Oil
    Stylers: JC Confident Coils; IN Volumizing Spray; IN Perfect Hold Hairspray; John Masters Sea Mist; Bumble Bb. Gel; Kenra Firm-Hold Gel; Sevi Blue Yarrow Sea Salt Spray
    Low-porosity 2a/b baby-fine hair
  • MamaJTBMamaJTB Posts: 27Registered Users, Curl Ambassador Curl Novice
    I feel your pain!!  Sounds like too much protein, plus your hair is probably extra dry from the swimming, so double whammy. :(

    My hair only became protein sensitve last summer, and I’ve spent an entire year figuring it out.  

    First, cut out all protein for at least several weeks or until your hair feels normal for you again.  You must deep condition, even if it means flat weighed down hair for a while.  Hopefully, you have enough enough length to just wear it up while it gets better.

    You MUST deep cond with heat to really drive the moisture in.  For me, I have to slather the deep cond, cover with a cheap plastic shower cap, and then either top that with a hot head thermal cap (if you have one - worth it for times like this), or heat it with your hairdryer on low for like 10-15 minutes.  Then I’d leave it on all warm and steamy for 15 min more.  Rinse and then style with protein free product.  Do this every few days or so until you start to feel normal again, and then as needed.  

    I also have 2c/3a curls that are fine and get weighed down easy.  Devacurl cleansers and conditioners are awful for me for some reason.  I can use Deva Frizz Free Volumizing Foam and Arc Angel gel (both protein free), but right now I like Kinky Curly Knot Today leave-in and Curling Custard, both relatively inexpensive at Target or Amazon.  Use the custard lightly though.

    The entire Jessicurl line is CG and protein free so everything there is safe and free shipping every 15th with code (I think it’s “free ship” but you can Google).  Their Deep Conditioner is GOOD and I can use it for 5 minutes with a shower cap and not get weighed down.  If I was in overload though I would use it linger with heat, like I said above.  Their Gentle Lather Shampoo and Aloeba Cond are great for normal days.

    The only protein I can ever use now is the Briogeo Don’t Despair Repair Deep Cond which has Keratin.  I can do it once every 2-3 weeks as needed, but that’s it.

    When yo do go back to a little protein, go one product at a time and pay lots of attention to how your hair feels with each, noting any similar reactions to similar proteins.  I learned my hair hates rice protein the most.  So crispy so instantly - bleach.

    After a year, I’ve finally figured out the balance but it’s a total pain.  When I was in full overload initially, Ouidad meltdown extreme repair mask helped a ton, but it’s expensive and will weigh down fine hair for a good week.  But it helped a lot and I already owned it.  If you get weighed down, just out your hair up for a while. :)

    2C/3A, low porosity, thin density, color treated, protein sensitive
  • lecaprolecapro Posts: 4Registered Users, Curl Ambassador Curl Neophyte
    Thank you all for your comments!! They helped immensely. I've been using Giovanni shampoo, conditioner, and gel which are curly girl with no protein. I also use the Garnier avocado 1 minute leave-in once a week. That combination of products has been working wonders for my hair! I haven't used protein since this post, and it's going really well. My hair is pretty much back to normal and I'm really happy about that. Thanks for listening to my rant!
  • MamaJTBMamaJTB Posts: 27Registered Users, Curl Ambassador Curl Novice
    That’s great!  So glad to hear your hair is getting better.  I know firsthand what a relief that is. :)
    2C/3A, low porosity, thin density, color treated, protein sensitive

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