Let's talk about "Product Build-Up"...

What is buildup and why is it important to cleanse your hair properly?

Product build-up is a hot topic in the curly world, with conflicting advice given on how to manage  & what to cleanse with it’s difficult to know what we should be reaching for in the shower to keep curls full of life and our scalp healthy. We’ve teamed up with Cosmetic Chemist Tiffany Ati Tay to help simplify the science behind product build-up and how regular cleansing should be in every curly girl & guys routine. 


“Build up occurs naturally on the scalp and hair strands with an accumulation of natural oils (sebum)” Tiffany advises. “Add dirt, light to heavy product usage and/or pollution particles (yes, this is a thing!) that accumulate after wash day, and you’ve got yourself greasy looking, sticky, weighed-down curls.” All the more reason why we should be washing our hair regularly.


Without products like conditioners, leave-in creams & masks hair would look frizzy, feel incredibly dry and unmanageable, especially for us curly girls & boys! However, using conditioning products, including natural solutions, can all lead to product buildup...


 A common misconception is that cleansing less is good for hair because shampooing strips off those beautiful oils and leads to frizzy, damaged curls. However, not cleansing your hair can be detrimental to your scalp and hair.


“Shampoo removes all sebum, dirt and product build-up from hair and scalp. Usually, high-foaming shampoos containing detergents or Surfactants, like Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), are responsible for this and can strip delicate curls of all moisture and completely drying them out.”


For this reason, curls are opting out of using shampoos altogether, replacing with regular co-washing or cleansing only once in a while out of fear of stripping the oils their scalps produce naturally. 

“I get asked about shampooing and if it’s bad for our hair. The answer is; not all shampoos are created equal.” Using mild kinder surfactants like Decyl Glucoside and Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate can offer effective cleansing without harsh stripping. Look for a low foaming shampoo with mild cleansing agents such as Hydrating Hair Cleanser to gently remove build-up from scalp and hair strands. 


When it comes to co-washing, there are a few things we need to know.  Conditioners are designed to adhere to hair to reduce static (friction) and make it easier to comb for smooth, defined curls. Cationic conditioning ingredients like Behentromonium Methosulfate as well as silicones stick to hair and can be hard to remove from hair strands without cleansing. Add on some rich creams, heavy oils and waxy butters on there and you’ve got yourself a well saturated and coated hair strand! 


Co-washing alone can not remove these layers. It’s almost like not washing your face and putting more and more rich creams on top of the other! It may not be visible to the eye but a barrier of conditioning agents and oils that keep layering onto the old build-up, can suffocate curls* (See Microscopic Images).

 image of hair follicle up close to show product build up

  *Residue of a hair styling product flaking off the surface of hair. 

So what does this all mean? 

Quite simply, do not be afraid of cleansers and shampoos! They create a clean foundation for curls, ready to soak up all the beautiful products needed to moisturise and define. Use gentle cleansers and rotate with co-washing once to twice a month to ensure you are getting a proper cleanse.


Choosing the right cleanser/shampoo for your curl type and lifestyle is important, and controlling how frequently you use them is the best way to incorporate into your routine. Experiment, the right balance can work for you!

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