It’s the middle of the week and for some reason you find your hair is weighed down and oily. Or maybe you wake up to start your day and find your hair is bone dry and needs refreshing, even though you’ve refreshed it every morning, afternoon, and evening this week. Both of these issues can be caused by product buildup; but not to worry! With a little patience and a close eye to detail, you will be able to find the cause of this buildup. Let’s first look at what product buildup is exactly…
What is it?
As the name implies, product buildup happens when product has stopped being absorbed by the hair strand. Product buildup can happen when you’ve applied either too much, too many products on your hair, and or by combining products that don’t mix well together. Looking closely into these three scenarios can help better understand why buildup occurs. As you read through the causes, take note that product buildup can be caused by one of these factors, or a combination of them. This is why it’s important to be patient and to pay attention to your hair, as doing so will help you pinpoint which of these factors is causing the buildup.
A little goes a long way
Depending on which styling products (who are normally the culprit when it comes to buildup) you choose to use, you will find they either instruct you to apply liberally (more likely with leave-ins and moisturizers) or a tiny, dime sized amount (more likely with gels, butters, etc.) No matter the instructions or the product, you will hit a point where applying a liberal amount of product becomes too much. Applying too much product to your hair (especially if you’re layering products on top of each other) can cause the hair to become oily and weighed down. This happens because your hair strands cannot absorb all of the product applied; leaving the residue product to sit on top of the strands.
This extra product can lead to breakage (depending on the thinness of your strands) or can lead one to think their hair needs to be washed more than their regular amount. Washing your hair more than it needs can lead to it drying out and breaking off; and once you go and apply your products at the (excess) amount you have been, that then leads to more breakage, then more washing, and the process repeats.
The other scenario is your hair, instead of becoming oily, will become bone dry. This occurs when the moisture from the excess product on your hair is absorbed by the air around you. This is more likely to happen if you live in an area with dry air or are inside where the air is normally not humid enough to prevent this from happening.
I’ll apply this, and that, and that, and this!
As you all may already know, here at NaturAll, we’re all about routines; finding the right products for you to incorporate into your routine. A part of developing your hair care routine is trying different products and narrowing your go tos down as much as possible. Even though it may be tempting to have a multistep process when it comes to applying product to your hair, having a process that is too elaborate can lead to buildup on your strands.
After washing, it is recommended that you apply a leave-in conditioner or moisturizer to prime the hair; creating a base for the rest of your stylers. After this basic (and kind of necessary) step after washing your hair, you then have the choice to apply gels, mouses, creams, etc. Depending on your hair’s porosity, thickness, and density, you may find yourself applying too many products on top of each other. Keep in mind that this issue can arise no matter how little of each product you’re applying; it’s about the quantity of products you’re applying, not the amount of each product you’re applying.
Adding too many different products can either lead to your hair becoming oversaturated (like adding too much product) or it will cause your hair to dry out. Your hair has the chance of becoming dry by applying too many different products because of all the ingredients you’re introducing to the strands. These many ingredients have the possibility of counteracting each other, or not being a good mix together, which brings us to our next point…
Mixing, in hopes of it matching
It’s safe to say not all natural hair products were created equally. They may have no natural ingredients, some natural ingredients or, ideally, be made from all natural ingredients. Finding which ingredients are for your hair and which aren’t can be difficult once you first get started, but ultimately will help you 1) nourish your hair better and 2) avoid buildup. Knowing which products will take to your hair and absorb will make it easier to find more products that will work with what you already have.
When it comes to mixing and matching products, like mentioned before, some products contain ingredients that don’t combine well with another. This can be because of an oil found within a product, or if one contains a chemical that doesn’t interact well with another chemical found in another product. This is where comparing your labels comes in handy. Mixing products that have ingredients that aren’t compatible can lead to flakes, clumps, dryness, or oiliness once your hair has dried.
Bad product combinations that end in dryness normally mean the products you’re mixing have lots of oil or butters in them, without a lot of hydrating (water) or moisturizing ingredients. This will happen when the oils are not able to be absorbed into the strand, so they coat the hair, leaving little moisture within the strand and preventing any moisture (from the air) to get in.
Bad product combinations that end in oily hair normally mean you’re mixing products that provide enough hydration and moisture, but individually contain different oils that weigh the hair down when mixed together. This can lead to dryness as the moisture from the products absorb into the hair (or depending on the weather conditions around you, into the air).
Tip: if you aren’t sure which products will mix well together, put whatever products you want to test on the back of your palm, in the order in which you intend to apply them. If you mix them together and it doesn’t result in a creamy, smooth consistency, that product combination will most likely leave your hair flakey and dry.
Keep in mind that in all three of these scenarios, it is not only your hair that can suffer. Product build up can also pertain to your scalp, which can lead to blocked follicles, stunted growth, and a dry or irritated scalp.
But what if my hair has build-up before even applying any product?
If you find that your hair feels oily before even applying any product, this is a sign that your cleanser isn’t cleansing as it should (or more so, it is not a cleanser meant for your hair). It would be beneficial to test to see if a more intense cleanser would work better.
The issue could also be caused by the three things mentioned before, instead of your shampoo. You may very well be using a shampoo that has just the right amount of cleansing effect suited for your hair. If your products happen to be the issue, it’s no surprise that starting to apply less product will help to lessen the issue. If you find your hair is dry between washes with using less product, you probably aren’t using products suited for your hair type. If you find you are using less product and your hair still doesn’t feel clean, look into your shampoo routine; natural remedies like ACV may be a good choice for you. Or switching up the frequency in which you wash can also help fight off dryness.
If you find that your scalp isn’t getting cleansed and has product buildup, exfoliating your scalp, along with finding the right cleanser, will help. In exfoliating your scalp, make sure you still are making sure it is nourished and not dry, as you still want your natural oils to be present.
Scalp buildup can lead to blocked follicles which can stunt the growth of your hair. It also creates a breeding ground for bacteria, as scalp buildup normally ends up being oily and moisturized as opposed to dry and flaky (this lends itself more to being an issue with dandruff or using a shampoo that is too stripping).You’ll find the state of your scalp will make it easy to tell what issue you’re dealing with and keeping it healthy is imperative to growth and the overall health of the hair strand.
Now that we’ve looked at what can cause product buildup, we can look deeper into what you can do to prevent it all together…
Find products that work for your hair: using products that are too heavy will naturally lead to buildup. Using products that are too thin for your hair can lead to buildup because you’ll feel the need to over apply them to get your hair feeling moisturized enough. Your hair porosity is the most important factor here, as it will let you know if your hair is easily weighed down (low porosity) due to less product absorption, or easily dried out (high porosity) due to using products that don’t moisturize your hair enough.
- Try to use as little products between washes as possible: the only things your hair really needs between washes is moisture and protection. If you’re looking for the minimal amount of products, having a leave-in, moisturizer, and oil are the only three things you need. The leave-in acts as a base for the two other products. The moisturizer will stick to the leave-in and provide the hair strands with moisture once your leave-in has absorbed; moisturizers also tend to be thicker than leave-ins, making it a good alternative to a heavier styler, as it will help to clump and hold your curls. The oil will act as a sealant to lock in both the leave-in and moisturizer, allowing your hair to remain moisturized for longer periods of time. Sticking to these three types of products will prevent you from using too many different products and easily ensures that your products will work well together. If they don’t end up working well together, it will be easier to pinpoint which needs to go. Our Hydrating Leave-In Conditioner, Hydrating Moisturizer, and Hydrating Oil Blend are a great trio to have if you’re more of a Simple Natural.
- Use products that work well together: if you like to have a little more hold to your hair, you most likely are someone who will want more than three products between wash days. If you’re using more than a leave-in, moisturizer, and sealant, you want to make sure any other product you use will work well with the three basics. Look at the ingredient list; the shorter the list and more natural the ingredients, the better. Look to google to compare the ingredients, see if they’ll work well with the ingredients you’re already using. Our Hydrating Custard and Hydrating Twisting Paste not only pairs well with the basics, but is not too heavy (thanks to our natural ingredients) and will not leave your hair in shock or overloaded with product. Even our Flaxseed Styling Products from our Classic Kitchen will work well to style and hold the hair without being too heavy.
- Cleanse properly: make sure to use a shampoo that isn’t stripping (of your natural oils) but is cleansing enough to get rid of excess product that doesn’t wash away with water. Our Hydrating Shampoo will leave your scalp fresh without leaving your strands dry.
- Deep condition: deep conditioning is a good way to ensure you won’t feel the urge to go heavy on the product when styling your hair. Because deep conditioning will leave your hair feeling moisturized, you won’t want (or have) to apply tons and tons of products that leave your hair feeling moisturized while damp, but ultimately will leave your hair either oily or brittle after your hair fully dries. Our Ice Cream Treatments are perfect for deeply nourishing and hydrating your hair, leaving it soft and moisturized even after rinsing it out!
To summarize, you first want to choose the right products for your hair. From there, pick products that will pair well together. Using products from the same brand line or with the same base ingredients are a safe way to ensure their compatibility. Once you’ve found the right products for you that work well together, you want to make sure you’re cleansing properly and that your hair is hydrated after shampooing and while styling. Keep calm and stay confident in the fact that you will find the right combinations for you. We, at NaturAll, are always here to aid in that journey!