Can I Over-Condition?

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Back in the day … like 2 years ago ;), you couldn’t tell me that there was such a thing as over-conditioning. As a 12 year natural, the first thing that I would tell anyone transitioning, newly natural or interested in natural was, “Condition, condition and condition again! There is no such thing as over-conditioning!” Well, to tell you the truth, I still pretty much stand by that statement. Buuuuutttttt, here’s the thing. That’s because I think the term “over-conditioned” is a bit of a misnomer. I think most of us, when we are seeking an answer to that question, want to know whether we can over-moisturize our hair. And the answer to that is yes … a fact that I learned the hard way.

via The Science of Black Hair

Out in the “real world” overconditioning, or “tipping too far” on the moisture side of the protein/moisture balance, is virtually rare …

The problem of overconditioning seems to arise once the individual has been indoctrinated into all things hair. By now, she has figured out which products are protein-based and which are more moisture leaning-and here, the tendency to over moisturize tends to develop. She develops an aversion to protein and throws all of her resources into achieving a perpetual “moisture high.” The proliferation of true “protein overload” stories may have gotten her to this point! She knows that there is a gentle, often tricky balance to maintain but she puts all of her eggs in her moisturizing basket just to be safe. She may even realize that different proteins have different properties, and some actually improve the hair’s elasticity rather than toughen the strands-but she’s not taking any chances with protein period. This aversion causes her to moisturize and overcondition her hair until the cows come home.

“Protein-Sensitivity”
In 2010, I discovered the term, “protein sensitivity” and thought that I’d finally diagnosed the problem that I had with many products formulated for black/”ethnic” hair. These products, especially the conditioners, most often made my hair hard when wet and brittle and hay-like once dry. So, when I discovered that this was because they contained protein, I started to avoid anything with protein like the plague. Instead, I began using henna as my strengthening treatment. However, an over-zealous henna routine (i.e. multiple full-length treatments in a short period of time) resulted in significant curl-loosening.

Therefore, in 2011, I started doing roots only treatments of henna, for color and strength without the resultant curl-loosening. But, I didn’t incorporate anything else to strengthen the length of my strands. By October 2011, my hair felt incredibly soft, but it was also flyaway, snagged at the slightest touch and was shedding (and probably breaking) like crazy. Every time I touched my hair, strands were littering my hands. At this point, I realized that I had omitted an important part of my regimen: strength. I began researching protein and revisited it after learning how to use it the right way (see this post for deets).

Revisiting Protein – ApHogee
After my first ApHogee 2 Minute Keratin Reconstructor, I saw an IMMEDIATE difference in the feel of my hair … it was harder, but hard-strong, not dry or brittle … and my shedding/breakage drastically decreased. So, I was a convert and began to incorporate protein into my regimen more regularly, typically every 3-4 weeks.

Then, in February, I tried my first (and thus far, only) heavy-duty ApHogee Two Step Protein Treatment. It went well and I would have done more, except that I didn’t have the proper bonnet dryer to safely and efficiently dry the first step.

Enter Aubrey Organics GPB
Back in May, I decided to try Aubrey GPB (Glycogen Protein Balancing) Conditioner for the first time. Something happened that I haven’t seen in a long, long, looooooong time … my shed hair was curly!!! That’s right. I’m a natural with curly/wavy hair who is telling you that I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d seen curly shed hair … maybe a year or two? My strands just seemed wavy and some were essentailly straight. But, after my first GPB treatment, I looked at my shower stall and, to my surprise, saw curly strands for the first time in ages! And, I got excited!! Every wash session with Aubrey GPB, the amount of curly strands seem to increase! This past Saturday, after my haircut, I had a shed hair that was a complete, collapsed coil and I ran into the living room to show Wei! I told him, “I know that this seems silly, but I’m so excited because my curls are back!! It’s a coil!!”

Towards the middle/bottom left, you see those straightish
strands that I was used to seeing.

Now, this isn’t an entirely fair comparison, but I had to show you a pic of my “curls” (i.e. waves) in February and my curls (i.e. CURLS! *lol*) now. The reason the comparison isn’t really fair is because I got a haircut last week to get rid of my henna-loosened ends and my hair is freshly washed after being straight for 2 weeks in the pic on the left whereas, in the pic on the right, it is 7 days old and shrunken.

“Over-Conditioning”
So, what’s my point in all of this? First, I wanted to clarify the term over-conditioned, because I think that most of us call both moisturizing and protein-based post-wash treatments “conditioners.” Therefore, when I say that “over-conditioned” is somewhat of a misnomer, it is because I think that most of us are really referring to over-moisturizing the hair and not using too much protein. We tend to refer to the latter as “protein overload.” Second, we can dip too far to either side and the key is to give our hair what it needs when it needs it. Sometimes it’s moisture, sometimes it’s strength/protein. So, how do you know what your hair needs? It’s all about elasticity.

  • Take a few strands of shed hair and hold one set of ends in the fingertips of one hand. Then lightly tug and release the other ends with your other fingers.
  • Does your hair stretch and stay there (i.e. it doesn’t shrink back like a spring)? Then you probably need protein.
  • Does your normally curly hair appear limp and curl-less? Then you probably need protein.
  • Does your hair snap/break immediately or quickly? Then you probably need moisture.
  • Does your hair stretch, then spring back? Sounds like you have the perfect balance of protein and moisture!

The above is nothing new and you’ve probably read it before. So, what I hope to add to the conversation is what I think that I’ve learned.

  • One, the fact that my shed hair no longer had any curl was an indicator that something was off. Though a variety of factors can contribute to this, over-moisturizing should have been one of the “Usual Suspects.”
  • Second, Aubrey GPB restored the curl that I thought had somehow been lost. That says to me that not all proteins are created equal for all people. Though my shedding/breakage decreased drastically with the ApHogee 2 Minute Reconstructor and the 2 Step Treatment, my shed hair still had little to no curl. However, with the introduction of Aubrey GPB, my curls are springing back to life and elasticity is returning in leaps and bounds.

So, all this to say, if you have avoided protein and your strands have become limp and lifeless and your curls have seemed to all but disappear, you may want to try experimenting with different types of protein. However, remember, just as “over-moisturizing/conditioning” is a real thing, so is protein-overload. And, it’s easier to correct over-moisturized hair than hair with too much protein. So, do your research, proceed with caution and always listen to your hair!

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How do you know when you need moisture or protein? Have you experimented with protein treatments/conditioners/reconstructors? Which one(s) have you found work(s) the best for you?

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38 responses »

  1. I’m in the same predicament as you were regarding the henna…my curls have loosened drastically and I’m now working on just applying the henna to my roots. I also just bought and used the Aubrey Organics GPB this weekend for the first time, so I hope my results mimick yours…LoL! How often do you use it?

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    • Hi Lennette!! I don’t think the GPB will restore curls loosened by henna as that is due to the weight of the dye molecule weighing the hair down. However, the loosening should decrease as the treatments get older and after many washes if you didn’t henna as aggressively as I did (I probably did 11-12 full strength treatments, if not more, within 8 months time). However, if your hair is over-moisturized, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the GPB works for you! I wash weekly and I’ve been alternating it with the Honeysuckle Rose (HSR) conditioner thus far with 2 weeks with HSR and one with GPB. However, I’ve read a few reviews and it seems that others have great success using it weekly since it has the moisturizing ingredients as well as the strengthening ones!

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      • Thanks Shelli…I bought the HSR conditioner too because I saw where it said to deep condition on dry hair and then shampoo and condition so I figured I’ll maybe use the HSR after I shampoo. I haven’t not a henna in a while now…the first time I used it late last year I done like 3 in a matter of a couple of months before learning about amla powder…then I started adding that to my mix…it seems to have helped but I said I’m going to take a break from doing them for a bit. I think I done like 6 or so in a matter of 7 months…I didn’t keep track so that’s just a rough estimate…LoL

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  2. Wow…I’m sooo impressed with this information! Detailed and so incredibly well written! This is some seriously useful stuff to know. I know that for me, my hair absolutely will become mush if I use conditioner all the time, which is why I don’t conditioner wash. I use Aubrey’s line (thanks to you) of hair care products solely. I love them! I Shampoo and follow up with conditioner in the old school way, lol. Too lazy to pre poo…look, I know a term, lol! When I felt I needed something else I’d whip up my mom’s concoction of mayonnaise and oil. Instead of olive oil, I substitute Safflower oil because it’s like the bomb, tic tic, grab an aloe vera leaf and filet it, scrap out and throw it in my concoction and slather on my hair. Seems to work ok, I’ve been doing it for years. But, as you have me hooked on Aubrey I want to try this GPB! Like Lennette, I’d like to know how often you use the Aubrey GPB. And yep, I think I know what that stands for. Only because you spelled it out, lol! Thanks, Skills!! :)

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    • LOL!!! Awwww, thank you so much Kimberly!! You know, the mayonnaise and egg based homemade treatments always made my hair hard too! So, I didn’t like them. I then tried a home recipe made with coconut milk. Again, hard hair. So, I’ve never really used those. But, definitely am LOVING GPB!! My response about the frequency with which I use the GPB is below in reply to Lenette’s question. Hope that helps!!

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  3. All I can say is Amen to this post. For years I’ve heard people say condition condition but no word of protein use. Conditioning is good but as you know that if you over condition the hair loses its elasticity (that yucky gummy feel). Funny thing is it probably would be better to condition more for relaxed heads.

    I love the GPB too. I think that once a week is more than sufficient. Not just for times sake but hair doesn’t need to be deep conditioned more than once in a week.

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    • Hey, you know that you were the first person to ever hip me on how to use protein correctly, which is why you are linked in that original post! That was suuuuuch an eye opener! I love that the GPB is a pre-shampoo deep treatment though, as it doesn’t cause me the hard, dry, brittle feeling I get from other protein treatments and henna (I noted that you said somewhere …. on your recent TnC post? … that henna doesn’t give you that hay-like feel. Lucky you as I DEFINITELY get it!). Anywho, yeah … love, love, LOVE the GPB. I’m trying to figure out which ingredient(s) make it so awesome. I definitely know that the glycoprotein (oyster shells) are something that I haven’t seen in a product that I’ve used before. But, I also don’t think that I’ve used anything with milk protein either! So you know that I’ve been researching!! I found this on one site:

      For All Hair Types
      Feed your hair a healthy, balanced diet with our #1-selling conditioner. Nutrient-rich, protein-based GPB rehydrates and reenergizes your hair, strengthens hair fiber and repairs damage from salon treatments to restore softness, manageability and shine. Our most popular product ever.

      Milk Protein is rich in cysteine and methionine; that strengthens and mends damaged areas
      Organic Aloe replenishes moisture
      Glycoprotein and horsetail extract balance and fortify hair and scalp (emphasis added).

      So, I wonder if it’s the glycoprotein, the milk protein or both that are making my curls pop back to life! You know if I figure out anything, I’ll be posting on it;). I’ve already found a little info on LiveStrong.com about milk protein and hair that I’m investigating;).

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  4. I also had never deep conditioned on dry hair…but I done as was instructed on the bottle of the Aubrey GPB…have you found a difference whether you do it on dry hair before shampooing verses doing it on wet hair after shampooing?

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    • Yes, it absolutely made a difference for me Lennette! The first time I used it, I deep conditioned after I shampooed, like I normally would. I didn’t feel like it did ANYTHING and was prepared to write it off as a loss. I told a friend who had recommended it and she told me to follow the directions and use it on dry hair before shampooing and … Oh … Em … Gee … what a difference a different technique makes!! So, I say, follow the directions. But, you can always try it after you shampoo and see if you notice a difference and do what works best for you:)! Trial and error is definitely a big part of the game;).

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      • Ok…yeah I said I was going to try it next time after I shampoo and just see what the difference is…but most times I do follow what’s instructed because in most cases it’s what usually works best…thanks for your help…:-)

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  5. Shelli, VERY INFORMATIVE POST! Many a curlies need this information pronto. I didn’t get the wake up call until much farther along in my journey.

    AO products were some of the first products that I used as a natural curly. They remain among my holy grail. But, as you’ve stated in one of your very early post, you need a regimen. I’ve altered my regimen with every new product, mention of frizz free or curl defining buzz. As a result, I failed to develop a regimen and I failed to really see progress. This post is a good reminder of a few key messages counted as a priority for me ~ listen to YOUR hair!

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    • Awwww, thanks as always for the support Rhonda!! My products may change, but my regimen steps stay the same once I find certain things that work. But, it is hard not to be swayed by all of the promises of curlier, bigger, shinier, frizz-free curls!!! But yeah, the biggest thing is definitely to listen to YOUR hair. :)

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  6. I alternate every week between a protein treatment and moisturizing treatment. I’ve been doing this now for about 6 months and I’ve haven’t had any issues w/ protein overload. My p/t of choice is Curl Junkie Repair Me and I love it. My hair is strong, but soft and moisturized at the same time. I haven’t found any other treatment to do that and plan to continue to use it. Still trying to find a staple moisturizing deep conditioner so I can curb my pj ways, lol.

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    • Tayec, have you tried the Aubrey Honeysuckle Rose? That is awesome as well! I also have had great results with Darcy’s Botanicals Pumpkin Seed Conditioner ($12 on Curlmart) and another one that I’ve tried recently with very nice results is the Matrix Biolage Conditioning Balm (Sally’s GVP version and the real deal, which IS a lot more expensive). Curl Junkie has a moisturizing DC too … I know I have it at home somewhere. Have you tried that?

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      • I haven’t tried AOHR yet (it’s on my list), but DB Pumpkin Seed Conditioner is in rotation now and it’s okay. The smell gets to be too much and I find when I use it under my steamer it gets gummy-like. It performs better when I mix it with oil, but I don’t think it will be a repurchase. Curl Junkie’s moisturizing DC is on my list too, but I promised my husband I will use up a product before I go buying another. Thanks for the suggestions!

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  7. Great post! I have a question. Since you have been getting such good results with the GPB, if it weren’t for coloring your greys, would you still use henna? I bought some henna, but I must admit I am scared to use it. I’ve read mostly wonderful things about henna, but cannot bring myself to use it.

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    • Tracy, if it weren’t for the color, I probably wouldn’t use henna anymore or would just do a gloss (which is a lot less involved), because the protein treatment seems to do it all! So, if you aren’t worried about grey coverage and just were seeking the strength benefits of henna, I say, try the GPB first and see if it does the job for you!

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  8. You mentioned something about protein sensitivity. My daughters hair gets super dry and hard when it dries even after detangljnv and no matter what products I’ve used. It’s dry dry dry and painful for her when I style it. She had below shoulder bone length hair and now she has lost at least 4 inches with all the breakage and tangles. I’ve tried so many procedures and products and so far nothing is making a significant difference. I currently use loreal ever creme to wash, John Frieda full repair or tresseme naturals to condition and Giovanni direct leave in and Shea butter mixture. It still doesn’t help and it seems like nothing gets into her hair. It alk just sits on top and disappears. Any recommendations or advice you can offer. Thanks so much!

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    • Lara, I’m not familiar with the shampoo that you are using or the John Freida conditioner. Also, products can depend on porosity. Sounds like her hair may be under porous? I would suggest trying the Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose (HSR) mix with virgin coconut oil as a pre-poo on dry hair with heat. Then, use a sulfate free shampoo to cleanse and the Aubrey HSR can be used again as an instant conditioner after that or perhaps the Tresseme? What kind are you using or is there only one? I’ve used the Aubrey HSR with success as a leave-in too. But, overall, sounds like you may start by trying a moisturizing deep conditioner on a weekly basis and see if that helps with the dryness. HTH!

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  9. Okay so I have a question about this. I’m seven months post BC and in the akward length phase so I’m usually rocking a puff. I do co-wash almost everyday because I like the freshly done look and my hair gets really smooshed when I sleep on it. Once my hair actually has more length, I plan on not co-washing everyday, but as of now I’m not sure how to fix my hair without having to co-wash and redo it every morning. Since I’m co-washing my hair so often, is this damaging my hair? The bottom of my hair, which is a tighter curl pattern, always snaps back when I tug on it, but not soo much at the crown. My pattern is more wavy as opposed to a tight curl so I always thougth that was the reason why. I’m nervous now, lol.

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  10. Oh, I forgot to mention that by co-washing daily I mean completely rewetting my hair in the shower and adding conditioner to it in the shower. Aside from a TINY bit of gel on my edges, the condition is the only product that I am using in my hair as of now.

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    • Hi Keedy! There was an article on this topic earlier this week on CurlyNikki. I’ll provide the link, but the short answer is yes, you could cause damage to your hair by co-washing daily for two reasons. One, every time you soak you hair with water, you put it through a stress. Two, some daily conditioners could cause more harm than good when left in hair. Using a spray-in leave-in conditioner (which is specifically formulated to be left in your hair) puts less stress on the hair. Here is the article on CurlyNikki.com:

      http://www.curlynikki.com/2012/06/how-often-do-you-co-wash.html

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  12. This was one of the first articles I read from Audrey of The Science of Black Hair before I went natural. Having the right balance is key to healthy hair. Prior to going natural, my hair was as healthy as relaxed hair could get, nice and thick. Now as a natural, I still like to add protein as needed to my hair to make sure my hair is on track, but I don’t keep a schedule.

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  14. Wow I really like this story …. And am now super eager to try this product !!

    I have about 2 inches of hair on my head after a big chop done on September 14th of this year (hair completely buzzed off) . I have been using only all natural products and shampooing with kinky curly come clean once a month . My hair is medium-coarse , and right now idk if I can tell my true curl pattern because its only 2 inches long , but it looks like tight waves and I’m kinda disappointed because I long for little , tight springs instead …. However , my hair has been feeling really soft lately but LOOKING very dry …. And it seems like these tight waves I have SHOULD ACTUALLY BE tight curls , so I’m guessing my hair is in fact over moisturized (I’ve been using a lot more moisturizing products then protein filled ones because I’ve been afraid that because my hair is coarse , that protein will dry my hair like hell and leave me curl-less …. Ugh I’m so confused . I just really want my hair to have tighter curls , do you think I should try this product ? Get more protein into my hair ? What do you think ??? Sorry for the long paragraph !! Lol

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  16. hey my name is yolanda I am having problems with my hair shedding really bad when I touch the bottom of my hair or brush it I have a lot coming out. Ive use aphogree 2 min treatment and the balance moisturizing. i have also use coloring what should I use to stop this problem. and the ends have been trim but still feel hard

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  19. i have never done a protein treatment and i am always co-washing and pre-pooing and and occasionally DC , however I live in Malawi,Africa and I cannot get these products you are suggesting. Oils are pretty easy to come by ( although expensive ) and I brought some product back with me , but I do not seem to have a protein treatment ;( my hair is fine and thick and looong ! and high lightened , it is curly but because of the length and weight it has been more wavy ,or so I thought ?! now I am thinking , Maybe I need protein !? so my question is , can you recommend a homemade version of a protein treatment ? I have read about several, but Im not sure which on to do ?? Thank you,
    Cheers

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    • Hi Geo, sorry for the delay!! You may need protein …. BUT … some curls start looking curlier the longer the hair gets because of the circumference of each curl, whereas others will get less curly in appearance for the same reason or merely due to the weight of the hair. But, if you don’t use any protein, you may want to if you hair feels mushy or is breaking (though it doesn’t sound like it?). Homemade protein treatments are often made with milk products (like Greek or regular yogurt), eggs and/or mayonnaise (the last one has eggs, so that’s why it is used). The thing is, make certain you follow protein with a moisturizing conditioner. Protein strengthens the hair and will make it hard, so you need the moisture to restore suppleness and elasticity. HTH and sorry for the delayed answer!!

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  20. Hi, Can you please help, I know that I HAVE over conditioned my hair. Its mushy when wet. MY curls are gone. ITs like a little bush now. I had very nice curls. I bought the Aubrey gpb and Aphogee 2 min protein treatment. Please help with steps. Should I use ACV and cleanse first , then do a protein treatment then condition with the Aubrey. Please help I am very lost. Thank you in advance. I have seen a lot of post, but I don’t know in what order should I do these things.

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    • Hi Zoey, I wouldn’t do an ACV or Aubrey GPB this wash. I’d suggest wetting, shampooing, rinse, then apply the Aphogee 2 minute keratin and leave on about 5-10 minutes. Then, apply a moisturizing/slippery conditioner to detangle and rinse. If your hair seems to bounce back after that, you can use the Aubrey GPB to pre-poo before shampooing and then proceed about your wash day as normal.

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      • Ok thank you very much. Do you have any suggestions as to what shampoo or conditioner to use. Dho I just need to get a clarifying shampoo. Before I got the response I washed with as I am cocunt co wash, then did the 2min protien, the I put Giovanni smooth as silk conditer in it for like 2 min. After that I put giovanni leave in and coconut curling creame by cantu. I see a little bit of curls but not like bf now my hair is dry bc im scared to put more moisture in it. But still not definition. Should I just wait a few days bf I try your procedure? I think I.never really no.what to do after protien treament. And I never clarified my.hair.only.cleansed. after protien treatment , condition, and then should.I.stil but.a leaving in my oil and cream. Im.new sorry so long I.have been doing the.lock method.. bagging.. cg method..etc.. no more.bagging for.me…thanks so.much for you response.

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