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How To Remove Product Buildup In Hair

by Gabbi

When product builds up in your hair and scalp, it can feel like your hair is perpetually dirty. Product buildup is a slow accumulation of silicones and other gunk, mixed with your own sebum (oil), making your hair and scalp feel greasy and unclean.

Product buildup can also make your hair look dull and be difficult to style. And it can happen to anyone, including people who use minimal products in their hair.

This buildup can come from the ingredients in your shampoo, conditioner, leave-in treatments, and other styling products. 

Product buildup is pretty much inevitable in today’s world. Many people don’t even realize they’re experiencing it.

If you suspect that your hair is experiencing this type of accumulation, there are several things you can do to remove the buildup and prevent it from happening in the future. 

Are you wondering how to remove product buildup from your hair? There are more than 5 different ways to do it and many of them involve using products you already have at home, such as vinegar and lemons. You can also invest in a quality clarifying shampoo.

The best way to remove buildup from your hair is to use a substance that is known to break through grease and grime while still being safe for the hair. In this post, we will discuss over five different ways to wash out all the gunk and some tips on preventing product accumulation in the future.

What Causes Product Buildup In The Hair?

Despite popular belief, product buildup isn’t caused just by using styling products like gels and pomades. More often than not, product buildup is unavoidable as it is caused by hair products everyone uses – like shampoo and conditioner. 

Product buildup is usually caused by film-forming ingredients like silicones, petroleum, mineral oils, and other waxes. These ingredients are common in shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, and styling products.

The issue with these ingredients is that they are not water-soluble, so they don’t fully wash out in the shower. Little by little, they add up on the surface of the hair and scalp.

Your natural oil, known as sebum, can also get mixed in with this buildup causing a greasy feeling that never seems to go away.

So, why do shampoos and other products use these ingredients that don’t wash out with water? They actually serve an important purpose! These ingredients help protect your hair, make it smoother, and prevent frizz. A lot of times, these ingredients also help hydrate your hair and lock in moisture.

So, there’s nothing wrong with using products that contain silicones and waxes. It’s just important to understand that you might need to clarify your hair from time to time to get rid of this buildup.

Symptoms Of Product Buildup In Hair

The biggest sign that you might be dealing with product buildup is that your hair starts to look dirty quicker than usual. 

For example, if you normally go a few days before hair washes, but you’re noticing that lately your hair starts feeling greasy after one day, it could be due to product buildup.

Product buildup generally has the following signs:

  • Uncharacteristic greasiness
  • Scalp irritation
  • Flakiness
  • Uncharacteristic hair loss
  • Dryness
  • Hair feels weighed down and doesn’t hold shape

If it’s been a while since you’ve used a clarifying shampoo (or tried one of our other clarifying methods, listed below) then it’s a good indication that you’re probably experiencing product buildup. 

Methods To Remove Product Buildup From Hair

There are several methods you can use to remove product buildup from your hair. Some of them require you to purchase special products, while others can be made at home using ingredients you likely have in your kitchen!

These DIY methods can be really fun to make, plus it gives you a lot of control over what you’re putting on your hair, especially if you’re someone who prefers to use natural ingredients whenever possible.

Here are some of the best and quickest ways to safely remove product buildup from your hair:

Clarifying Shampoo

If you’re not big on DIY, you’re in luck. There are many clarifying shampoos on the market that are made specifically for removing product buildup.

These shampoos don’t contain any of these waxy and oily ingredients. Instead, they are full of strong soaps, so they do a great job at removing buildup without contributing to the problem.

These shampoos are not meant to be used daily since they can be very harsh on the hair.  Instead, use them once in a while when you notice that there is an accumulation of product on your hair and scalp. 

Because of the strong soaps in these shampoos, people with dry hair might find them to be too harsh. But they work really well on oily hair!

Here are some of the best clarifying shampoos you can find online:

There are many other clarifying shampoos you can use. To distinguish clarifying shampoos from regular shampoos, look for the word “clarifying” or “cleansing” on the label. 

You can also look at the ingredients list and make sure that the shampoo contains no dimethicones or oils. Look at the first 3 ingredients on the label and make sure that at least one of them is a surfactant, like lauryl sulfate or laureth sulphate.

If you’ve never used a clarifying shampoo before, the process is simple:

  1. Wet your hair in the shower.
  2. Use a quarter-sized amount of clarifying shampoo and massage it through your hair, focusing mainly on the area around the scalp and the roots of the hair.
  3. Allow the lather to soak your hair for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Rinse out with warm water.
  5. Repeat if your hair still feels greasy.
  6. Do not follow up with a conditioner.
  7. Resume a regular hair-washing routine during your next wash. Do not use clarifying shampoo every time you wash your hair.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

Vinegar is a popular household staple that does wonders for the hair. Although it may sound strange to put apple cider vinegar in your hair, it’s actually very good for it.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) does a great job of removing product buildup and dissolving grease and grime. It also conditions the hair and makes it soft and silky.

If you’re concerned about the smell, consider adding a few drops of essential oils into your apple cider vinegar rinse. The smell of vinegar doesn’t last long in the hair, especially when combined with the lovely scent of essential oils.

Here’s what you’ll need for your ACV rinse:

Here’s how to make your ACV rinse and how to use it:

  1. Combine 1 part apple cider vinegar with 1 part water. We recommend using ½ cup of each.
  2. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (optional).
  3. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle (optional). If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can just pour it into a plastic water bottle or any other container that you can bring into the shower with you.
  4. Wet your hair in the shower.
  5. Wash your hair with your regular shampoo. This will help remove some of the oils from your hair and prepare your hair for the ACV rinse.
  6. Spray or pour the ACV solution over your wet hair. Try to focus on the scalp and roots and avoid getting the solution into your eyes! Note: if it gets into your eyes, rinse it out with water right away. It may sting. 
  7. Massage the solution through your hair and allow it to sit in your hair for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Rinse the ACV solution out using lukewarm water. This will help seal the cuticle and add extra shine to your hair.
  9. Resume a normal hair-washing routine on your next wash. Do not use ACV every time you wash your hair.

Baking Soda Rinse

Baking soda is another household staple that works for a wide range of purposes including hair washing. 

Baking soda is fantastic at destroying gunk, and product buildup is no exception. Similar to the apple cider vinegar method above, you’ll be making a baking soda rinse that you can use in the shower while you wash your hair.

Here’s what you’ll need for this project:

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tbsp of baking soda
  • Spray bottle (optional)

The process is very simple:

  1. Mix water and baking soda.
  2. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle if you are using one. You can also just pour it into a plastic bottle or another container that you can bring into the shower with you.
  3. Wet your hair in the shower.
  4. Wash your hair with your regular shampoo. This will help remove some of the oils from your hair and prepare your hair for the baking soda rinse.
  5. Spray or pour the baking soda rinse over your wet hair. Focus on the scalp and root area of the hair and begin massaging the rinse through your hair.
  6. Wash out the baking soda using lukewarm water. The baking soda may take a few minutes to wash out because it can get caught in your hair.
  7. Once it’s completely washed out, use a little bit of your favorite conditioner on the ends of your hair. This is because baking soda can be drying, and you’ll want to protect the ends of the hair which are more fragile than the rest of the hair.
  8. Resume your normal hair-washing routine next time you wash your hair. Do not use this baking soda rinse every time you wash your hair as it can dry your hair out.

Your baking soda rinse may feel a little bit gritty on your hair. This is a good thing. Small particles of baking soda rubbing over your hair will help break up the product buildup better.

Although baking soda can be very drying, using it once in a while is perfectly safe, and will keep your hair clear of buildup!

Micellar Water

You’ve probably heard of using micellar water on your skin before, but did you know you could use it in your hair to remove product buildup? 

Micellar water has been a staple in French women’s beauty routines for decades and it has many applications. 

Micellar water contains small lipid molecules that attract dirt and oil to themselves like a magnet. The best part about these molecules is that they don’t remove any essential nutrients or moisture from the surface, so they won’t be drying or stripping to the hair.

Micellar water is a great choice for you if you already have dry hair and you’re worried about using other clarifying methods to get rid of product buildup.

The key here is to find a micellar water that doesn’t contain a lot of added ingredients that are often included as part of a skincare regimen. You can even find micellar water products specifically designed for hair.

Here are some great micellar water choices that work well on hair:

Although micellar water is very gentle on the hair, you want to make sure you don’t over-cleanse your hair. After all, your hair does need a healthy amount of sebum to keep itself healthy and shiny. 

If you’re using a micellar clarifying shampoo, follow the steps we described in the “clarifying shampoo” section of this guide. It’s pretty straightforward, just use the micellar shampoo in place of your regular shampoo from time to time to clear out any buildup.

If you’re looking to use pure micellar water (not in shampoo form), follow the steps below:

  1. Wet your hair in the shower and wash with your regular shampoo.
  2. Pour some of the micellar water directly from the bottle onto your wet hair, focusing on the scalp area.
  3. Massage the micellar water through your hair for a few minutes.
  4. Rinse out with lukewarm or cool water to lock in shine.
  5. Resume your regular washing routine next time you wash your hair.

Lemon Water Rinse

Lemons are acidic, which makes them really good at cleansing dirt, oil, and silicones. It’s no surprise that lemon essences have been used in cleaning solutions for centuries. 

If you love using natural ingredients in your hair care, this DIY lemon cleanse is a great way to remove product buildup. You will need:

  • 2 tbsp of lemon juice (from a real lemon or a bottle)
  • 3 cups of water
  • Spray bottle (optional)

Once you mix these ingredients, the process is similar to the other rinse methods we provided above:

  1. Wash your hair with your normal shampoo
  2. Spray or pour the lemon solution over your hair, focusing on the roots
  3. Massage it through your hair for a few minutes and rinse off with lukewarm water.
  4. Resume your regular shampooing routine at your next wash.

How Often Should You Remove Product Buildup?

To avoid over-cleansing and drying out your hair, you should use these clarifying products no more than once a week.

Remember, these silicones and waxes that coat your hair are there for a reason – they help protect your hair and lock in moisture. You don’t want to strip your hair of them because it could leave your locks feeling dry and brittle.

Clarifying and removing buildup more often than weekly can be excessive. In fact, many people can go a lot longer than that – it depends on how many styling products you use and how oily your hair is.

On average you should clarify your hair 1-4 times per month. It’s best to start doing it once a month and see how your hair responds. Once a month might be the perfect frequency for you.

If you are still experiencing symptoms of product buildup before the month is up, try doing it once every two weeks, and so on…

Final Thoughts

Product buildup happens to all of us. If you’ve never used a clarifying shampoo or any of the other cleansing methods, we can pretty much guarantee that you have some product buildup on your hair right now. 

Try one of these simple clarifying methods to remove the buildup and you’ll be surprised how clean and bouncy your hair will feel!

It’ll be great to adopt a buildup cleansing routine for your hair by trying one of these rinses once or twice a month.

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