How To Tell If You Have Product Build-up In Hair

If your hair is no longer feeling healthy and manageable, the problem could be product build-up. In this article, we will look at how to tell if you have product build-up in your hair and offer a few easy solutions to manage the problem.

Product Build-up In Hair

There are a few signs that can indicate you have product build-up in your hair. These include:

  1. Hair appears and feels greasy and limp
  2. Lacklustre, dull looking hair
  3. Visible product residue left in your hair
  4. Curls lack definition

What Is Product Build-Up?

Product build-up is the build up of layers of product on the strands of your hair.

The products are no longer useful to your hair by being absorbed and doing a job. They are just there, weighing your hair down causing it to look lifeless and dull.

To add insult to injury, they are rendering any other products you put on your hair ineffective.

What Causes Product Build-Up?

Product Build-up In Hair

There are a variety of reasons that can cause products to build up in hair.

Heavy Handed Product Use

Being too heavy-handed when applying products can lead to product build-up, especially if the products have a thick consistency.

Some of these products can result in your hair becoming ‘sealed’ and this prevents moisture from being taken in.

It also means any other products you use for hair health are rendered ineffective as they are unable to penetrate this ‘seal’.

Infrequent Hair Washing

Many products used to style or manage hair are used on a regular, sometimes daily, basis.

Failure to wash your hair and get rid of these products can result in these products building up, layer by layer, on the strands of your hair.

This weighs down the hair, giving a lank appearance. It can also have an effect on the health of your scalp.

When you are washing your hair, make sure you are being thorough. Really work the shampoo into your scalp, rinse then repeat then rinse thoroughly.


There are some ingredients in products that are good to build up in your hair, for example, protein from a conditioner. This maintains hair strength and health.

However, there are other products that are not good to have to accumulate in your hair.

An example of this is silicone contained in many shampoos.

While silicone has some benefits like managing frizz and adding shine, it also has negative effects on hair. It can weigh hair down, giving it a dull and lifeless appearance.

The use of silicone-based products over time can act as a barrier to moisture and have an adverse effect on hair health.

It is a good idea to use a clarifying shampoo once a week to give hair a thorough cleanse and help combat the negative effects of this product build-up.

Also Read: Is Sparkling Water Good For Your Scalp? (Solved)

How To Tell You Have Product Build-Up In Hair

How To Tell You Have Product Build-Up In Hair

There are a few signs to look out for which can indicate you have product build-up in your hair:

Dull Hair

When a product is allowed to build up on the strands of your hair it can dull your hair’s natural shine.

The build-up of products can clog up the follicles of hair. This means that products you may use to promote shine in your hair are not properly absorbed thus leaving your hair looking lifeless and lackluster.

Limp Or Greasy Hair

Heavier products such as creams or butters result in heavier build-up and quicker- especially if they are applied on a regular basis.

Products that contain mineral oil, silicones, or petrolatum contribute to heavy build-up in hair and are best avoided.

Less Curl Definition

Excessive build-up of product can adversely affect the definition of curls.

This is a result of not enough moisture being absorbed to allow formation of the full curl pattern. The heavy residue weighs down the strands of hair also preventing curls from forming.


Visible residue left in your hair even after it has dried can be a sign of product build-up. When this dries up, it can result in flaking which can lead to an itchy scalp.

The product just remains sitting on the strands of hair as it hasn’t had enough moisture to be absorbed into the hair.

Hair Feels Dry

Again, this dryness is a result of moisture being unable to penetrate the barrier caused by the build-up of hair products.

Also Read: Moisture Overload; How To Fix In 3 Simple Steps

Does Product Build-Up Damage Hair?

When a product is allowed to build up, it can become matted and clumped.

This affects scalp health. The follicles of hair become blocked which results in the inhibition of healthy growth at the root and irritates the scalp. The blockage prevents cuticles from taking in moisture which can leave hair dry, brittle, and prone to damage.

How To Remove Product Build-Up In Hair       

Now you have identified the problem, it is time to combat it. Below we have listed a few natural remedies and a few store-bought solutions for you to choose from.

Clarifying Shampoo

This works by giving your hair and scalp a thoroughly deep clean and stripping away any residual product left behind from using hairspray, mousse, gel, wax, and any other products.

This should be used once a week when you have identified that you have a problem with build-up, and once a month after that to keep the problem at bay.


  1. Apply an amount the size of a quarter to wet hair.
  2. Massage the shampoo into the scalp and through to the ends of the hair for at least a full minute.
  3. Rinse thoroughly to remove all the product.

Results may be immediate or take a few washes, depending on how much build-up you have. If your hair is colored and you are concerned that the clarifying shampoo will strip away the dye, just make sure you choose one designed to protect color.

Baking Soda

This store cupboard staple is a must-have for getting rid of residue and grease build-up.


  1. Combine one tablespoon of baking soda with one to two cups of warm water. Ensure it is well mixed.
  2. Shampoo as usual then rinse.
  3. Apply the baking soda mixture to your hair, ensuring all the strands are fully coated.
  4. Rinse carefully then condition- this is important as the baking soda can be drying for hair.

Lemon Juice

Thanks to its acidity, lemon juice is an effective method of reducing product build-up.


1.Mix one tablespoon of lemon juice (lime juice can be used as an alternative) with three cups of water.

2.Wash your hair as normal then rinse thoroughly.

3.Apply the lemon juice mixture to your hair (take care to avoid the eyes).

4. Leave it to sit for a couple of minutes then thoroughly rinse.

5. To alleviate any dryness caused by the acidic properties of the lemon juice, apply a leave-in conditioner to keep your hair hydrated and healthy.

A point to note is that lemon juice can lighten your hair- bear this in mind if your hair is already colored or you spend a lot of time in the sun.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Not only does this versatile ingredient remove product build-up, but it also gives hair a smooth texture and balances the pH.


  1. Mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with one cup of warm water. Wash with shampoo as usual to remove dirt and oil.
  2. Apply the vinegar solution to your hair, ensuring it is coated from root to tip.
  3. Massage the mixture into your scalp for a minute or two.
  4. Thoroughly rinse using cold water.
  5. Take care if you have dyed hair as this can cause the dye to fade or run.

Scalp Scrubs

Product build-up can result in the scalp feeling dry and itchy which can lead to flaking and irritation. Scalp scrubs can soothe the irritation and treat the build-up.

There are lots of store-bought options to choose from. Alternatively, you can combine a few readily available ingredients and make your own.


  1. Massage the scrub into your scalp in circular motions.
  2. Leave to sit for two minutes.
  3. Rinse thoroughly.

So, if you do find yourself in a situation where your lovely locks are being affected by product build-up, you have a toolbox of treatments at your disposal to combat the problem and get your hair back to being healthy, beautiful, and manageable.

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