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How To Spot Protein Damage In Your Hair

Protein Damage

Apart from a few horrific haircuts in my ‘yoof’ and that one GOD AWFUL time I went grey on purpose, my hair has been reasonably stable throughout my life, in fairly good condition for such long hair and quite easy to look after.

Last year, I switched from my usual shampoo and conditioner to Mane & Tail Deep Moisturising as it was on offer in Boots and I’d used the original in the past so thought this would be another good version for my hair. Bloody hell I was wrong!

After a few washes my hair was feeling dry and hard, for want of a better word, almost as if it was coated in something. I quickly switched back to my usual products, hoping my hair would just revert back, but it actually made it a million times worse. Yay.

I’d never heard of protein damaged before, and literally had no idea what was wrong with my hair, so I was maniacally typing things into google like “dry crispy hair” “hair suddenly gone crispy and brittle” trying to find an answer. Thank God for google is all I can say.

Protein Damage
Portrait of Red Hair girl

It turns out Mane & Tail had way too much protein in it, which my hair didn’t need, coupled with my usual brand which was protein rich on top, leading to a complete overload in my hair, and massive protein damage.

In a nutshell, protein fills gaps in the hair follicle caused by damage, we all need a certain amount of added protein in our hair, to keep it strong. Protein damage is when the moisture/protein balance in your hair becomes unbalanced. With too much protein in your hair your hair feels coated/dry and brittle. It’s also more susceptible to shedding and breakage and actively stops any moisture getting in.

For me it meant my hair was ridiculously dry, the texture had changed drastically and it was breaking off and falling out in huge amounts. It also tangled up instantly, even when it was full of conditioner which my hair doesn’t do as it’s quite slippery.

The waves/curls had completely dropped out and it was drying straight which it never does. And, the thing I noticed the most, was this kind of plastic shine coating it had on it, which meant it was separated into little strands.

After a tonne of research (which was so much harder than you can imagine!) I learnt which ingredients contained protein (anything that starts with ‘hydrolysed’) and which products to avoid. You would be AMAZED at how many things contain protein! I’m talking oils, heat protectors, shampoos, conditioners, masks – I had to go through my entire hair stash and remove anything and everything that contained the nasty little bugger that was wrecking my hair.

It’s taken me four long months to finally get my hair back. I stripped back everything I was using and stuck with one or two things that I knew worked, which is a tough call for a product junkie!

Green People Haircare

I started with the hair care range from Green People because I knew they were natural and organic. The lovely Romy answered my panicked email with a level of calmness that I needed and sent over their Daily Aloe shampoo and Intensive Repair conditioner. Aloe Vera is a brilliant ingredient if you have protein damaged hair, so I knew I was onto a winner with that.

In my head, I felt like I had to replace something that had been stripped from my hair, but actually, with protein damage, you have to remove the protein, because it is physically coating your hair. So another tip is to use a clarifying shampoo, but be wary of using it too much if your hair is already fragile and breaking off.

Once I’d got past the stage of my hair clumping together as soon as water hit it (and not crying so hard in the shower) I knew I was on the right path.

Next up in my arsenal was Aussie Deep Moisturising 3 Minute Miracle. I think I got through a bottle every 2 weeks just trying to coax my hair back to life.

Maria Nila True Soft

Last, but my no means least, Maria Nila True Soft conditioner. This is what I’m using now as I (touch wood) seem to have removed the protein from my locks so I’m trying to get moisture back into it. My waves have started to come back and it feels soft again!

I tried to stay away from all heat, I left my hair to air dry on it’s own almost all the time but obviously there are occasions I needed to style it so I threw out my old heat protector and use Toni & Guy Heat Protection Mist instead. On the days I don’t wash it, I use Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo.

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day / Toni & Guy Heat Protection Mist

I’m not planning on changing anything in my shower for a long time now, I used to be such a switcher, throwing in a hair mask here and a new shampoo there but actually, sticking with what my hair likes it’s a much more sensible idea.

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