Protein Overload - Busting TikTok Myths

Published 19th Oct 2023 by Josie Jackson

There are countless videos going around on Tik Tok discussing protein overload in your hair, and the negative affects this can have. There is a high chance that your clients may have seen these videos, and as such, may be worried about hair treatments – both ones they’ve found themselves, or even ones you’ve recommended to them in the salon. To help debunk the digital drama, HJ chatted to some industry experts to get the low-down on potential protein overload…

When discussing treatments with your clients, it can help to give them an understanding of what proteins are. Dr Ali Syed, founder of Avlon, explains: “Proteins are large molecules made up of amino acids that are linked together via peptide bonds. Specifically, an amino group of one amino acid is linked with the carboxylic (acidic) group of the adjacent amino acid, creating a peptide bond.

“When multiple amino acids combine in a linear fashion, the resultant molecule is called a polypeptide. Polypeptides containing thousands of peptides are called proteins. In hair protein specifically, called keratin, two polypeptides are linked in a parallel fashion forming dimers inside the cortex of the hair. These dimers are responsible for the elastic nature of hair.

“It is customary to treat hair with products that contain proteins, which are smaller in size and are hydrolyzed. These hydrolyzed proteins may originate from different sources, and can penetrate the hair cortex and help increase the elasticity of damaged hair. These proteins are not reactive proteins but act as fillers in available empty spaces in the hair. This increase in elasticity is not permanent and tends to diminish over a few successive shampoo treatments.”

INNOluxe founder Jez Barnett also breaks down the basics of protein to help you inform your clients, adding: “Even if your clients have never coloured or heavily styled their hair, you’d still get some damage. All sorts of factors, from brushing too much to our great British weather, can weaken the strength of your hair.”

Can Too Much Protein Be Problematic?

So, if our hair is made of protein, then how can using more to strengthen our strands be bad?

Dr Ali explains: “If a product contains a higher than optimum concentration of hydrolyzed proteins, the endocuticles and cortex of damaged hair absorb and adsorb more protein than needed, hence forming a build-up of protein in the hair – which tends to make it hard and unmanageable.”

Jez expands further: “Early protein treatments took a pretty one-dimensional approach, packing loads of the same type into their product. This wasn’t great for the hair, especially if you’re not following the instructions on the product and doing things like leaving the product in all day. These formulas could make hair harder, leading to brittleness and breakage, and they often had to be followed by a moisture conditioner or treatment to balance the effects.”


How To Diagnose And Treat Protein Overload

Clients will know if a protein treatment worked for their hair if their hair felt their hair soft to touch, shiny, manageable; protein build-up makes hair harder to touch, brittle, and unmanageable.

If a client is suffering from the latter, try explaining the science to them, highlighting that there can be too much of a good thing – especially if the good thing isn’t being used and applied as it was designed – instructions are there for a reason. To resolve the issue, Dr Syed recommends clarifying shampoo: “These will help deplete the build-up of proteins from hair. It may take a few shampoo treatments before the build-up is eliminated. It is important to use clarifying shampoos that utilize sulfate-free detergents and moisturizing ingredients. Also, avoid other after care products that contain proteins for a significant number of weeks till the protein build-up is eliminated from the hair.”

He also notes: “The frequency of use depends upon the extent of damage and the concentration and type of protein used on hair. It is advisable to use protein treatments bi-weekly or monthly if the hair is severely damaged by chemical treatments. The use of protein treatment is a relatively old technique to strengthen hair, however, and there are new innovations in the marketplace.”

Jez explains how INNOluxe is a great example of this: “It contains Advanced AminoBond Technology, our very own advanced blend of exceptionally low weight proteins. By using different sizes of protein molecules like this, we can target and repair different areas of the hair and avoid the problems older treatments could cause.

“As such, it sounds like protein overload is unlikely to be a common issue. So, the next time your clients call you in a panic about something they’ve just seen on Tik Tok, trust your professional opinion, and tell them to trust you, too."

Image credit: Fabriq

Josie Jackson

Josie Jackson

Published 19th Oct 2023

Josie supports the team with content for the print magazine, website and social media channels at HJ. Having grown up in a salon environment (thanks to her hairdresser mum) and even working as a Saturday girl before getting her degree in English Literature, Josie feels right at home in the industry. Although she’s experimented with a few creative colour looks in the past, she always comes back to blonde, and loves all things hydrating and bond building.

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