It is a glorious time to be curly! But can all these texture-friendly products and trending curl care methods be too much of a good thing? If you find that your waves or curls start to respond negatively to all this well-meaning attention and, instead of hair nirvana, you find yourself burdened with a simultaneous feeling of dryness and oiliness, dullness, and flaking, chances are, you’ve got a case of the Build Up Blues.
What is build up?
Simply put, build up is a gradual accumulation of products on the hair strands. Accumulated build up doesn’t allow necessary moisture, oils, and other nutrients to penetrate your hair. This results in dry, dull, flat hair.
What causes build up?
- Occlusive Ingredients
If a product contains an excessive amount of occlusive ingredients, which create a strong barrier around the hair shaft, it can be difficult to remove with regular washing. These ingredients are not necessarily harmful in and of themselves, but can become so if used excessively. With the notable exception of heat stylers, which need strong film-formers and occlusive ingredients to protect the hair, products should not contain ingredients that are primarily composed of occlusive agents such as petroleum derivatives, lanolin, or heavy silicones.
- Excessive/Incompatible Products
No matter how great the ingredients, if a product doesn’t moisturize your hair on Day 1, re-applying it throughout the week will not improve the situation. In fact, it will dry your hair out and weigh it down with a coating that remains on the outside of the hair shaft rather than penetrating to the interior of the hair where moisture is needed.
- Hard Water
Well or hard water will deposit minerals on the outside of the hair which block moisture and product from penetrating the hair shaft. Hair that’s been washed with hard water generally feels grainy and waxy but also straw-like and dry.
Although co-washing is viewed by many as a gentle alternative to washing with harsh shampoos, it does not completely remove most leave-ins, gels, and oils. Over time, this will lead to build-up and dryness.
How to Beat Build Up:
- Embrace the Cleanse
Regular cleansing with a sulfate-free shampoo, such as Get Fresh! or Get Clean! will remove excess product from the hair without stripping natural oils.
- Rinse & Repeat
Unless it’s labelled as a ‘leave-in’, conditioners are not designed to be left in the hair. Fully rinse your conditioner out to leave your hair receptive and open to the moisturizing leave-ins that you apply during your styling routine.
- Find the Right Product
Given the amount of products on the market, the search for the right product can be overwhelming. Start by reading labels and prioritizing products that contain high quality ingredients near the top and minimal to no occlusive ingredients. (All of our moisturizers, definers, and sealants check this box). Select a handful of contenders, and then assess their performance on your hair before committing to regular use. If a product is compatible with your hair, it should feel smooth going in, enhance your natural curl or wave pattern, and dry clear and shiny. This basic test is the cornerstone of our Seven Point Assessment, which our Experts perform for free at the Original Moxie Salon. However, you can do your own version of the Seven Point by working methodically and paying close attention to your results.
The majority of your product application should occur on freshly washed and conditioned hair. You should not have to repeat a full product application day after day. The right product combination will keep your hair moisturized and defined until the next Wash Day. If you need to refresh mid-cycle, selectively re-wet, rather than re-styling all of your hair, and defer to gels or oils rather than re-applying your moisturizer.
Even a clarifying shampoo may not be sufficient to remove heavy build up. While DIY methods abound, we strongly recommend leaving this job to the professionals. Many of the at-home treatments to remove build up can wind up further damaging the hair. For chronic or severe build up, we offer three detoxes at our Flagship Salon: a Damage Detox, Moisture Detox, and Scalp Detox. We’ll cover each of these treatments in upcoming blog posts and explain how we determine which one is best for various hair types and conditions.
Concerned that you might have the Build Up Blues? The good news is that there is a cure. Once build up is removed, moisture is allowed to penetrate the hair shaft, the hair becomes softer, curls pop, and frizz abates. Et voila! Happy feeling restored.