Hair Q&A – Protein Overload?

Q. Hey Suburbanbushbabe!!!!

I’ve been following your progress for quite some time now and I always enjoy the tips/information you give!!!  You share a lot of helpful info and with that, I have an issue that you may be able to help out with.   I tried the Aphogee Two-Step Protein Treatment out and I probably found out the hard way that my hair is sensitive to protein that strong. Good news is that my shedding has slowed down …I never had much of a problem with breakage, mainly shedding. My only problem is that now my hair feels like a brillo pad! My hair is SO dry 😦 I’ve washed it several times, done several deep conditioning treatments–even did one for a few hours. I REALLY need some help…what do you suggest I do/use to get my soft hair back?

– 1NappyNewbie

Hair feeling crispy as a cracker? Could be too much protein.

A. Hi 1NappyNewbie,

Great question.  I bet with the colder climate in many regions, lots of curly vixens are doing protein treatments right about now and wondering WTF happened to their hair? How proteins in products affects the hair can vary with a number of factors including porosity and whether the hair is fine, medium or coarse/thick in diameter.

Although I’ve never used Aphogee, I can relate to the protein overload. I was using Nexxus Emergencee alternated with Sebastian Penetraitt about once every 5-6 weeks. When my hair started feeling crispy, dry and looking grizzly at the crown, I was convinced I was protein sensitive and could never use proteins again. I stopped using proteins in products for almost a year, which meant giving up some of my favorite conditioners.  What I discovered was that–

  1. Some proteins (like keratin) can quickly overload on my fine, porous hair  — and most of those protein specific treatments contain keratin Continue reading

Celebrating 3 years of Natural Hair – 10/21/06 to 10/21/09

October 21, 2006 was the day I got my third and last “little chop” — 3 cuts I had gotten between then and August of 2005 when I stopped texlaxing. (My texlax had been a medium-strength sodium hydroxide relaxer kept on only as long as it took for the hairdresser to apply it). With the last of my texlaxed ends cut off, I walked out onto Church Street in Cambridge, MA with naturally curly hair for the first time in my adult life.

December 2006 – A rainy day of shrinkage

This year I became aware the date was creeping up sometime in September. I began to mentally mark the days to my natural anniversary. It would pop up in my mind periodically. I thought about possibly celebrating it, at least with a “woohoo!”. I looked forward to being 3 years a natural, one more year of knowledge and increased love for my hair.

October 4. 2009 length check – wet and styled. I lose 2 inches when it dries.

I remembered the tough spots I faced in those 3 years: a bald spot on my temple, thinning hair from menopause and dropping hormone levels; having a major cut mid-2008 to get rid of some bad ends; and finally, the painful 16+ month transition from brown, color-treated hair to fully and naturally gray.

But the success outweigh them: having a stylist I trust with my haircuts; the first time I got dry 2nd day hair (worth a post of its own, it’s so huge); my first bun; my first roller set; my first twist and curl (the later ones sucked); my increasing proficiency with dry twistouts; my ability to retain more length; and finally, hair that reflects back my love and care of it by growing thicker, longer and healthier.

Today I got to the computer, saw the date and realized my anniversary had passed me by with absolutely no distinction. No bells, no whistles. I had been totally clueless on the big day, the entire week in fact! I was more focused on the moment. On Wednesday 10/21 I was rocking a dry twistout I had done on a 4-day old wash and go, and feeling very good about that, thank you. No thoughts of anniversary there!

So to celebrate my journey, let me make up for this oversight with this post and photos – SBB from then to now. I didn’t begin photo-documenting my hair until the following April of 2007 but I did find a scanned photo of me from December of 2006. I doubt two months will show much difference. Hope you enjoy! And don’t let your hair milestones pass by without celebrating them.

2007 Top right April, Top left mid year; Bottom left and right early year/late year comparisons.

May 2008 after a major cut and shape that ended my growth challenge. I really needed it.

December 2008, a twist and curl

October 21, 2009. A dry twist out done on a 4-day old wash and go.

Hair Q &A: Hair in a cold, cold climate

Q: My daughter has a hair type EXACTLY like yours, and I am @ a loss for what to try in her hair. We live in a very cold climate so I am opposed to wetting her hair daily, but NO matter what I do her hair comes out looking like an oversized cotton ball. When wet it is eerily similar to your hair type but swells into frizz. HELP!! BTW you have a beautiful mind and beautiful hair! Thanks Sis!

A: Thanks so much for your kind words, I felt really good reading them.

Cold climates are usually dry and that’s the challenge. I think I’ll write a post on this topic (see previous post). If your daughter’s hair is similar to mine, her hair could get puffy and frizzy for 2 possible reasons:

1) The hair itself doesn’t contain enough moisture so when it draws atmospheric moisture it swells. If you’re in a cold climate this means the hair is very dry. In a warm, humid climate it doesn’t mean your hair is dry, only that it’s dryer than the air.

2) Using the wrong conditioning and/or styling products or not enough product, or not applying them correctly.

To correct #1, co-wash and condition your daughter’s hair frequently, at least 2 times a week, and use deep conditioners every other week. In the cold weather, shea butter is very effective on my hair. I rub some in my palms and scrunch it right over my wet hair that has conditioner or a leave in conditioner. I also use a soft gel to hold my texture and help keep the moisture in. And by moisture I don’t mean keep the hair wet, just hydrated when it’s dry.

For #2, click on the links below for some very helpful information on styling and hair care. And if your daughter’s hair is truly like mine, put down the brush and comb when distributing products. Fingers only! Use a large toothed comb only for conditioner detangling.

My seasonal product routines are in my hair journal. Important to note too, is that my hair when worn down goes hardly anywhere without gel. I use “soft” gels. Excellent all year round gels: Kinky-Curly Curling Custard (not a custard, a gel); Theraneem Leaf & Aloe Vera Gel (marketed as a body lotion); and Giovanni LA Naturals gel. has some excellent threads for 4a hair and transitioners:

Transitioners support thread
4b/4a Guide to Basic hair care

Curlisto Styling your Hair Video – Tight to Kinky Curls

This is essentially my styling method, except of course, no comb or brush or clips. I just section with my fingers and hope for the best. I am lucky to get it.

Hair questions: Help me with my daughter’s hair please?

This is a real question from, and here is my actual answer to it, and what I didn’t say below it. I had to bite my tongue–

I have two mixed daughters. One is three the other is two and for the life of me I cannot seem to get their hair to look shiny or decent. I have tried greasing it, I have tried baby oil, Pink lotion. The oldest daughters hair is very rough and brittle while the youngest has very soft hair. It won’t grow and it won’t stay in place; the curls are out of whack. Mind you I have curly hair as well as their father. My mother tries to brush it and gets annoyed when the curls dry out right away. I see all tons of little girls with beautiful locks of curls hanging past their shoulders, but unfortunately my girls have a little fro. My son on the other hand has beautiful hair that doesn’t stop growing. I use the same items on his hair, any advice will be greatly appreciated thanks in advance.:)


Not sure what effect you are going for, but if your daughters’ hair is kinky or coily, it will sheen when healthy but won’t shine like straight hair. It refracts light much differently.

Baby oil, Pink lotion and other products containing mineral oil are not good for hair. To help add moisture to their hair, try cleansing with a light conditioner, like Suave Naturals, or a light shampoo like Dr. Woods Castile Soap, then conditioning with a heavier more moisturizing conditioner such as Clairol Herbal Essences or Garnier Fructis. You may choose to leave the conditioner in, or rinse hair and add a little more conditioner back. Then try smoothing/scrunching in some castor oil on their ends, then letting dry naturally. This method helps hydrate the hair and emphasize the natural texture.

Retire the mineral oil laced products and try using natural oils like castor oil, avocado, coconut or jojoba oil. Natural fruit butters are also very beneficial to the hair (avocado, mango). But remember that any oil alone will not soften or moisturize the hair. Conditioning is key.

There are so many different textures to natural hair, especially in multi-racial children. All of them are beautiful, not just the locks of curls that hang past the shoulders. I hope you can help your girls learn to appreciate their hair. I’ve included some helpful links

Additional Resources:

Here is what I didn’t say:

Your negative attitudes about hair that doesn’t meet your unrealistic standards of curly are potentially harmful to the self-esteem of your baby girls. They are still toddlers, yet toddlers can pick up dislike as well as an adult. You are setting them up for failure, mom. Please get a grip, and educate yourself — for the sake of your girls.

Hair Purgatory: Between the Big Chop and the "Hang"

A member started a topic about Hair Purgatory. For hypertextured 4a’s, 4b’s and beyond, that means when that pretty teeny weeny Afro (TWA) is no longer teeny enough to highlight your head shape, but not long enough to hang even partially south. It’s still too short for that but it may be flopping out in other more crazy ways. It may naturally coil. But it also may have different textures. The sides may be tighter like coffee stirrer coils. The crown may have looser coils. The front may grow more slowly than the back. One part may be coarser than another. Or one part may be shrinkier than another.

This is the time when many curlies are focused on gaining length but are still learning what products and routines work best for their hair. It is when we aspire to all those shoulder length and beyond natural looks whose photo albums we so eagerly stalk. We get so focused on our hair future because that is way easier than our hair present. And of course these SL gals never had to go through this awkward period, they just woke up one morning and were SL, right? Let’s call this Beyond the Big Chop (BC) Purgatory. It’s a tough time because depending on what you do, you can inhibit your hair’s development.

Beyond the BC hair purgatory happened to me several times over many years. It was a tough time for me — too long for the cute shape anchored by my scalp. Too short for the hang. Doing the north, east and west, but definitely no south. WTF was it doing?

  • not long enough to hang but not short enough to behave.
  • not long enough to pull back into a bun.

I was in this stage several times in my life and each time it felt like I was unanchored and could not see the far shore. No matter how much I patted it down it refused to behave like a TWA. It also refused to behave like it wanted to drop and hang. I went through several cycles of growing it to a certain length, losing hope, and BC’ing again. And it all happened before the curly hair product revolution I saw happen after Y2K.

The first time I entered purgatory, I got it relaxed. My hair relaxed is limp and I really don’t know how to care for it. So I BC’d again.

The second time in purgatory, I got braid extensions. After I took them down I got my hair regularly trimmed, rollerset, hood dried and lightly blow dried/combed out at a neighborhood Hispanic hair salon. My hair was mid-short, thick, healthy and growing wonderfully, and I loved it when it was cared for this way. But I couldn’t afford frequent salon visits and didn’t have the attention span or skills to do it myself. And I was going through some emotional changes, so — BC.

The third time in purgatory, my hair got the Jhericurl. Dry, breaking, always damp with curl activator….BC!

Next time my post-BC hair became unmanageable, I got more braid extensions. After they came out, I went to a top stylist in my new town and he gave me a texlax and a shaping cut. It was a spot texlax, brushed on just like you brush on color in a technique called baliage. My hair looked very nice. I could wash and go in a short “natural” do–with curl activator. I got some growth, not much. I had to switch stylists and shops because he was so much in demand in the New York fashion industry.

My new stylist continued to texlax. I achieved a little more growth and the chemically induced, curl activator “hang”, but it never hit shoulder length. Then I started two-process blonde highlights over the texlax. Seven years later I had the damaged part cut off. It wasn’t a BC but very close. Still I continued to get the new growth texlaxed.

I texlaxed for 4 more years still trying for the artificial hang. I got it with curl activators, along with with very dry, dry, dry, dry hair. Every time I entered a hair salon it was “girl you need a deep treatment!” Enter Naturally Curly and my gradual (14 month) transition to natural.

My obstacles:

  • I did not trust my hair.
  • I kept comparing my hair to those other, better looking heads and coming up short.
  • I kept seeing my hair for what it should be, not what it was and could do in the here and now.
  • I kept wanting to tame it — work against it rather than with it.
  • At medium-short I tended to over-use styling products to get my hair to “behave”.

I kept wanting this:

When I could have had this with my natural hair:

And I would have loved it, had I known how to style for it.

But what has been done to the short 4a/4b here (let’s call her Miss Spikey High Clumps) is counter-intuitive to what we length transitioners want to do with our hair. We want it to lay down at medium-short. We want it to “curl” — boing-boing curls we can measure with implements of various widths such as pencils, straws, large markers, small flashlights. We want “swang”. Miss Spikey High Clumps’ hair does none of that. But it sure looks good, at least to me.

How did Miss Spikey High Clumps get her hair that way, anyway? My best guess:

– She got it continually trimmed and cut in places for shape – note the short sides and back and the longer top.

– She had product put into it and then dried in a hood dryer and then the stylist used pomade or texture paste to finger pick it and twirl it for height and clump. Or maybe they did large twists, dried, untwisted and finger picked and texture pasted.

Here is what finally helped me; maybe it can help you.

Constant photo taking;
There’s a psychological reason I have a photographic hair journal. It really helps me to see my hair for what it is not what I think it is or should be. I definitely had/have some mental/visual hair distortion going on.

Shape corrections;
Trimming seems to be a no-no to length transitioners because –hey you are growing it and need every single centimeter, right? Wrong! Don’t rely on product to shape your hair if you want to wear it out. Get it regularly trimmed and shaped. Regular for me is 2 or 3 times a year. Last March of 2008, I was in a hair growth challenge and was almost shoulder length. I ended it by getting a cut because my ends were jacked and my hair was draggy, straggly and shapeless. After the cut, my hair was no longer close to shoulder length but the shape was fabulous. I’ve had 2 conservative trims since then, the last one in March. My next small trim? Probably end of June/July.

A good haircut by a professional who knows curly hair will take all your various textures and shrinkage into account. I am not a fan of amateur or self-cutting and don’t recommend it. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great heads out there who cut their own hair. But if someone cannot see their hair as it truly is and appreciate it, how are they going to effectively trim and shape it?

Love and exploit your crown height now;
Hair purgatory dwellers, this is one advantage you have over longer haired sisters, but only as long as you don’t grow a mullet and wide sides. You will lose it as your hair gets longer. I see so many length transitioners trying to flatten down their hair by their face, forehead and crown or “lay down their edges”. If you have the right shape your crown height will give you an elegant, fashionable look like Miss Spikey High Clumps up there. And her edges aren’t laying down for anyone. The longer hair gets, the tougher crown height is to achieve.

You want hang?
Twist, braid, twist and curl, rod set, roller set, or shingle. If you wash and go, rake product through your wet hair and sit under a hood dryer to dry. When it’s completely dry, scrunch it and stretch it out by pulling your hair back for a couple of minutes, then fluffing. Don’t be afraid of losing the texture. C’mon! It’s 4a hair.

Look at how long haired 4b’s care for their hair rather than what 3’s do.
Have you noticed how many 3b’s and below are using products formerly only used by we tighter-textured curlies? This approach works!

At first I looked at conventionally curly heads, 3b Botticellis and 3c’s with their tighter but still silky curls. My curls are not and never will be silky. My hair is cottony. I started to look at those long haired 4a’s and 4b’s because long hair of that texture is a true achievement and is incredibly versatile, not to mention gorgeous. I also looked at all 3c’s and above who had successfully length transitioned.

Never, ever measure hair when “stretched.”
My hair is shoulder length when wet, but when dry still shrinks to my chin. Goes with the territory. Why on earth would I measure it stretched when it’s curly?

After I started to really see my hair, I realized it would grow longer more like this:

And that was such a gift, because I love her hair. I won’t even get my Fotki avatar’s hair. And even though texture-wise Zezi Ifore is my twin…..

I don’t delude myself that I will ever have her length because I have too many issues with length retention. I’m pretty happy with what I do have. I use less styling products now and condition a lot more.

Miss Spikey High Clump’s photo gave me the confidence to know that if I were to BC today, I could transition to longer hair without chemicals. Also, looking at successful 4 and4b length transitioners did it too, because if you saw my hair short, it’s closer to 4b than to 4a, as would Zezi’s hair also be. Check out Teri at She is not a 4b, but a wonderful example of how hair can grow with care. I lived her early hair.

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