Do you ever wash your hair and leave the shower with dull or oily locks? Scratch your head and come away with fingernail beds full of gunk? You’re probably suffering from product buildup, something I didn’t even realize was an issue until I switched to a natural shampoo.
I used to struggle with an itchy scalp. It was not dry like most itchy scalps, but oily and consistently plagued with buildup. I was in love with my shampoo and conditioner though: a popular brand whose commercials sexualized silky locks and slow-motion hair flips. However, when I realized that these products were the reason for my gunky buildup, I immediately switched to a shampoo that would work with my hair oils rather than against them.
1. Why do most shampoos cause buildup?
Mainstream shampoo brands work very well at delivering on their promise of smooth shiny hair and tangle free locks, but they don’t really care about the long-term cost to you or the environment. They know that if you have a product that works, you’ll never change it, so they can get away with coating the strands of your hair with synthetic silicones, silica, and waxes to make your hair workable and shiny. These plastics don’t wash off easily and can make your hair look oily and your scalp feel gunky even after you’ve just shampooed.
2. What’s so bad about shampoo and conditioner buildup?
If you’ve been using commercial hair products your entire life, chances are you have buildup on your scalp and coating your hair. All this synthetic gunk prevents moisture, natural oils, and nutrients from getting through to your hair follicles and this can cause several problems. Buildup can make your hair look oily even when you’ve just washed it, and even dry and weaken your strands. Overtime, this buildup can clog hair follicles and even slow hair growth and cause hair loss.
3. Clarifying shampoos remove shampoo and conditioner buildup
Your first line of defense is to ditch the commercial shampoos. Say goodbye to Dove and Pantene and Garnier, and hello to pure, chemical- and paraben-free brands, like 100% Pure, Rahua, or, something you can buy at Target, Aveeno’s all-natural hair care line.
Clarifying shampoos are just a more intense version of your normal shampoo. They’re sometimes called purifying or detox shampoos, and they’re designed to clean using fewer conditioning agents. The conditioning agents are usually what contribute to wax and silicone buildup. A clarifying shampoo’s main job is to clean oils, dead skin cells, moisturizers, product, and whatever else has built up on your scalp.
Some brands will tell you that any shampoo is clarifying, but if there are chemicals in the mix, you will not get the results you want. We recommend using a clarifying shampoo like Aromatica’s Tea Tree Purifying Shampoo or Maple Holistics Degrease because these brand’s products are paraben- and sulfate-free and their essential oil blends make your hair smell oh-so-yummy.
4. Ingredients to look for in clarifying shampoos
When looking for a clarifying shampoo, it’s more about what ingredients the product omits than what it has. You don’t want to have any conditioning agents that coat your hair, like cetyl alcohol, which smooths the hair or cetrimonium bromide, which acts as an anti-static agent. Glycerol is another ingredient to avoid, because it coats the hair and adds cheap shine.
When using a clarifying shampoo, your hair should squeak when you run your fingers through it. Your scalp should feel clean and gunk free. Your hair won’t feel the silkiest or smoothest it ever has, but that just means the product is doing its job.
5. Holistic methods to remove buildup
There are other ways to remove buildup without buying a clarifying shampoo, and you probably already have the ingredients in your cupboard.
Apple cider vinegar will rinse gunk out of your hair without stripping your scalp of its natural healthy oils. Just mix four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with eight ounces of water in a plastic water bottle and squeeze it onto your roots in the shower. Massage it into your scalp and rinse after about a minute.
Baking soda will take care of greasy buildup easily. Just mix two tablespoons of baking soda with two cups of warm water and pour it on your scalp. Shampoo and condition with natural shampoos afterward.
A lemon juice mask can help reduce buildup as well. Just create a mixture with one-part lemon juice to one-part water and let it sit in your scalp for ten minutes before rinsing and shampooing.
It also might be as simple as just brushing your hair often, or only conditioning the ends of your hair. These simple practices may help prevent buildup from occurring in the first place. So, don’t forget to try preventative measures first.
Taking care of buildup on your scalp will change your hair, reduce itchiness, and reduce the limp, oily look of your locks. A clarifying shampoo or an at-home rinse is a great start, but it’s important to take a good look at the labels on your commercial products and make sure they aren’t doing more harm to your hair than good.