Product build-up: Definition, causes, and how to get rid of it.

Product build-up: Definition, causes, and how to get rid of it.

What is product build-up?

Product build-up is a phenomenon that is a common problem faced by curly-haired people. Because we tend to use more products on our hair than our straight-haired counterparts and those products have more oils and butters listed as their ingredients. And we don’t typically shampoo as often.

The resulting outcome is the hair becomes too dry from collecting build-up. Over time, this buildup gives the hair extra structure and can cause it to look brittle or lifeless.

Products with mineral oil, silicones, and waxes can leave a residue behind, so you should use products that have no build-up: products such as Wonder Curl that are water-soluble.

product build-up in curly hair
Got product build-up?

How do you get product build-up?

Product build-up is the progressive coating of the scalp and hair shaft with a shampoo, conditioner, or styling product. Product build-up can be a problem for people with curly hair. It can especially be a problem for people who have low porosity hair.

Here’s a quick run-down of the process according to the Sciencey blog:

Oily residues like actual oils and butters, creamy ingredients like Cetyl alcohol and other emollient ingredients.
Cationic ingredients that bond to the hair. When they're good, they're very good and when there is too much, you feel "build-up."

Your hair needs to stay hydrated so it won’t become brittle, it has more protein than water. The protein is called keratin (which is why your hair has a coarser texture than other parts of your body). Having the right moisture/protein balance is key when it comes to our hair.

Great products for healthy curly hair

Once it builds up, there are two main ways to remove it: 1) you can use shampoos such as our Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo Bar and this will cause less damage to your hair, or 2) you can use a clarifying shampoo that attacks the product build-up which will strip away all of the build-ups s well as your hair’s natural oils. The first option works if you don’t have much product build-up and 2) works better if you have more than moderate buildup which is where products like Shampooxious come in handy.

Why is this bad for your hair?

When your hair has product build-up, it becomes harder for your cuticles to open to absorb any moisture. Our hair absorbs about 30% of its weight in water which helps make our hair more elastic so it won’t become brittle and break.

Your products won’t be as effective when your hair has all that build-up on it. They will sit on top of your strands rather than get absorbed into the hair. Your hair might end up feeling stiff or gummy.

How do you get rid of product build-up?

There are a few ways we recommend removing product build-up from your hair depending on how serious the issue is.

  1. Use a clarifying shampoo to remove the build-up gunk on your hair. You want to make sure the shampoo you’re using is created specifically to clarify your hair. This will strip your hair of all its natural oils. Follow-up with a deep conditioner.
  2. Do an apple cider vinegar rinse. Dilute 1 part ACV to 3 parts water. You can either use this rinse in place of your shampoo or use it as the last part to your shower routine.
  3. Try a baking soda rinse. Mix a couple of tablespoons of baking soda in water and rub throughout your hair. This can alter the pH of your hair causing your cuticles to become weathered. We recommend doing this rinse sparingly and follow-up with a deep conditioner.


Product build-up is a common problem for curlies especially those with low porosity hair. It is often caused by using too many products that are either not water-soluble, or not shampooing your hair regularly.

Adopt a hair care routine that incorporates the right type of cleanser for your hair type. We like the Detoxifying Clay Cleanser for high porosity hair and the Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo Bar for low porosity hair. Medium porosity hair can alternate between the two as needed.

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