Skip to Content

How To Tell If You Have Product Buildup In Your Hair (4 Signs)

Sharing is caring!

Product build-up can be a major disadvantage for natural hair. If you are not sure what product build-up is or if you even have it you should definitely keep reading to learn more because this could be one of the reasons you are not seeing great results no matter which hair product you use.

Confused about how to tell if you have product buildup in your hair? Keep reading!


***Please note that this site uses affiliate links if you would like to read the legal stuff you can find it here


Product build up


What Is Product Build-up?

Having product build-up is simply when your hair has layers and layers of products on it. Those products are no longer being absorbed by your hair and are literally just sitting on the stands of hair weighing it down.

When you have too much product build-up any products that you use from that point onwards are basically ineffective.

Just remember that product build-up is not the only thing that stops your hair from staying fresh.  It can also occur from dirt and sweat that naturally happens over time as well.



What Does Product Build Up Look Like?

Product build-up can be very noticeable to the eye. It looks like white snowflakes in your hair, almost like dandruff.

Product build-up looks like tiny balls or it sometimes presents itself as a white film that is stuck to the strands of your hair.

Gels can sometimes be a major magnet for giving build up.


Product build up in hair


What Does Product Build Up Feel Like?

When you have product build up it’s quite easy to tell just by the feel of your hair. Product build up will feel clunky or even a little bit sticky. Your hair just won’t have the same movement that it usually does.

Your hair will feel almost greasy and the more product build-up that you have the worse your hair will feel and even look. This is due to the fact that product accumulation weighs your hair down, as well as causing the strands to stick together.


How Do You Get Product Build-up?

There are a few ways that product build-up can happen.  For starters, if you are very heavy-handed with products especially very thick hair products then it is likely that you will get build up a lot quicker.

Things like using shea butter every day could completely seal your hair and prevent it from taking in any further moisture.  This would then leave any other products that you apply stuck on the outside of the strand with no way in.

Co-washing a lot without using shampoo to clarify your hair every now and again could be another cause.  

It’s really important to clarify your hair once in a while and not just co-wash all the time to give your hair a chance to breathe so to speak.

There are a few simple telltale signs of having too much product build-up.  Let’s take a look at what some of those things are.


How To Tell If You Have Product Build-Up In Your Hair 


1. Dull Looking Hair

It’s very easy to see when your hair is suffering from build-up because usually, you will notice that your hair looks very dull in appearance.

No matter what you try to do to it, it just stays the same.

Usually, at this point no matter if you add water, leave-in conditioner or anything else your hair just won’t be able to receive it.

You can usually see that there is nothing else that you can do except to give it a good wash and cleanse it.


2. Hair That Just Won’t Hold A Curl

If you begin noticing that your hair just won’t hold its usual shape or that your regular twist out just doesn’t seem the same, that is another sign that your hair has product build-up.

For your hair to achieve the best it needs moisture and it needs to be able to receive that moisture. Product build-up prevents this from happening because there is no “space” for your hair to absorb that moisture.


4 signs that your hair has product build up


3. Dry Feeling Hair

Your hair will usually feel very dry to the touch as well, almost as though it has just had enough.

Again in this instance, no moisture can be absorbed any further leaving your hair to feel and probably look dry in appearance.


4. Limp Hair That Won’t Do Much

Have you ever been so tired that you just can’t get off the sofa no matter how hard you try?  Well, that’s how your hair feels too sometimes.

If you fail to clarify your hair and give it a fresh start it simply won’t be able to perform properly.  No matter how you try to style it, it will just flop and not be able to hold its shape at all


How To Test Your Hair For Product Build-up

There are a few things that you can do to test your hair to see if you have product build-up aside from the list above. The scratch test is one of them.


The Scalp Scratch Test

The scalp scratch test is a test I like to do whenever I feel as though my hair feels a little stiff and not quite right.

You simply part a section of your hair

Scratch your scalp carefully.

Take note of any product or gunk that gets left under your nails.

If there is quite a lot it’s probably time to do something about that build up.


How To Get Rid Of Product Build-up

We’ve already touched on this but the easiest way to get rid of product build-up is to clarify your hair with something like this.

Co-washing is great but there is a time and place for that, sometimes your hair just needs a good shampoo to get rid of all the build-up and start again.

If you really don’t like to use shampoo because you find it drying then the As I AM coconut co-wash is a great compromise.  Whilst it is still a co-wash it is better at cleansing your hair than regular conditioner.



What Damage Does Build-up Do?

Leaving product build-up without taking any real action can leave your hair prone to breakage.

Having product build-up stops your follicles from breathing and your cuticles from taking in and moisture which leaves your hair dry.  

Natural hair is already prone to dryness so you want to do everything you can to stop your hair from drying out.

If you have been experiencing a lot of breakage make sure that you check your hair for excessive product build-up.


How To Remove Product Build Up From Your Scalp

To remove product build-up from your scalp it’s best to exfoliate or massage your scalp. Doing so will help to loosen dead skin cells and product build-up from your scalp. It will also stimulate blood flow to your scalp and promote healthy hair growth.

This is a really good tool to help with releasing build up from your scalp:



How To Remove Product Build Up From Your Hair

Removing product build up from your hair is a little easier than trying to remove it from your scalp.

Here are 2 really great methods that you can try.


1. Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

Apple cider vinegar is so good at getting rid of product build-up. It’s a tried and tested method that a lot of people tend to use to get rid of build-up and clarify their hair.

Apple cider vinegar works by gently lifting away all of the dead skin, dirt and product build-up from your hair. The method is gentle enough to not strip your hair completely but enough that it gets the job done.

You can either do an apple cider vinegar rinse or mix it into your shampoo and wash it out.

Some people like to add baking powder to this method but I would only do so with extreme caution because of how harsh baking powder can be.



2. Lemon Juice Rinse

Using lemon juice to clarify your hair is another really good method. Lemon juice works by lifting away product build up and other impurities from your hair.

You can use it in a similar way to apple cider vinegar by using it as a rinse-out or by adding it to your shampoo.

Lemon juice will leave your hair with a really nice shine as well as leave it nice and clean.


Does Having Product Build Up Damage Your Hair And Scalp?

In the short term the answer is no, product build up does not damage your hair or scalp but leaving it like that for long periods of time would not be a good thing to do.

This is because when your hair can not breathe it can cause dryness, itching and a lot of other additional issues. There may also be some serious long term effects of having prolonged product build up.

Remember that when your hair is able to breathe and has good circulation that is when you will experience maximum hair growth.


What’s The Difference Between Product Build Up And Dandruff?

It can be a little difficult to see the difference between product build up and dandruff in your hair.

Although they look similar they are actually not the same thing.

As we have already discussed product build up is a layering effect of having too many products in your hair all at the same time.

Dandruff is when your scalp becomes very dry. This causes seborrheic dermatitis, which is when the skin starts to flake and become scaly. Dandruff can be caused by many different things but typically it happens when your scalp is unable to breathe.


Final Thoughts On How To Tell If You Have Product Build-up In Your Hair

Its always going to be a good idea to revisit your hair regiment to see what is working for you right now and what is not.

It could be that you need to switch your products to something lighter if you et product build up too quickly.  It could also be that you naturally produce a lot of sebum or that your hair picks up much more dirt with heavier products.

No matter which it is you should always be willing to relook at your natural hair regimen and change things up as and when.