Preventing and dealing with buildup

Perhaps you have heard the term buildup and wondered what it really means or what to do about it?

In this post I will try to break it down to the basics.

So what is buildup?

Buildup is basically anything that clings to the hair strand and scalp and isn´t easily washed out. It can be anything from your usual styling products to silicones in your conditioner or even minerals in the water. This prevents good stuff such as moisturizers or protein treatments to get in there and do its job and will eventually lead to dryness, weaken the hair and cause breakage.

Sometimes you can feel the buildup with your fingers or even see it but sometimes the feeling that your usual moisturizing routine and washing your hair just doesn´t work as well as it used to is the only sign.

Another sign that might be caused by buildup is blocked pores on the scalp. This looks a bit like a pimple. It can be big or small, red or have a yellow middle just like a pimple. If you see this then give the scalp a good clarifying wash and keep an eye on it to see that it doesn´t get infected which in worst case scenario might lead to scarring and permanent hair loss in that area.

How should you deal with buildup?

The first thing you should do is to try to prevent it as much as you can by avoiding products with non-water-soluble ingredients such as petroleum, mineral oils and silicones. Or other greasy heavy products that are hard to remove from the hair without sulfates.

You should also find out if the water where you live is hard or soft. Hard water has a much higher level of minerals that bind to the hair shaft causing buildup that needs special chelating shampoos to remove. If you live in an area where the water is hard it might be a good idea to use distilled water in your spritzes and maybe install a water filter in your shower.

If you are using conditioner only to wash your hair, make sure that that conditioner does not have silicones in it or only water soluble silicones and once in a while do youse a gentle sulfate free shampoo to cleanse the hair and prevent buildup.

If you end up with buildup it is usually enough to use any sulfate based shampoo to get a deeper clean and remove the buildup. Just make sure to moisturize your hair properly after to restore the hairs moisture since a sulfate based shampoo washes out all the hairs natural oils that the hair needs to stay strong and healthy.

Sometimes a normal sulfate shampoo might not be enough to remove stubborn buildup and in that case there are special clarifying or chelating shampoos out there that are specially designed to remove buildup from heavy products or minerals. Clarifying shampoos usually have the word clarifying or purifying on the label. To know if the shampoo is a clarifying or chelating shampoo you need to read the ingredients list. This might seem a bit overwhelming with all those strange words you find in those lists but if you know what you are looking for it makes it a bit easier (Click here for more info on ingredients in haircare products).

Clarifying and chelating shampoos have some stronger cleansing ingredients in them such as for example:

EDTA, sodium citrate and trisodium phosphate.

These ingredients bond with the minerals in water and thereby remove them.

Even though these two types of shampoos have some of the same ingredients there is a big difference. While a “normal” sulfate based shampoo could act as a clarifying shampoo, only the shampoo with these types of mineral-bonding ingredients are chelating shampoos that can remove mineral buildup caused by hard water or other minerals you may find in swimming pools etc. And remember that these shampoos will leave the hair squeaky clean since they remove the hairs natural oils along with everything else so be sure to properly take care of the hair after using such products.


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