Apply­ing pro­duct is an almost-dai­ly prac­tice for most nat­u­rals. Whether to mois­tur­ize, con­di­tion, style or seal, there’s always a risk of pro­duct coat­ing the strands, leav­ing them dull, weighed down and hard to style. Pro­duct buildup can also lead to dry hair since pro­duct is not pen­e­trat­ing the cuti­cle and infus­ing mois­ture. Here are 5 sources of pro­duct buildup.

1. Ineffective Moisturizing Products

Mois­tur­iz­ing prod­ucts should be water-based and have the abil­i­ty to infuse your cuti­cle with mois­ture. If not, it will sit on the out­side the strand, coat­ing it and leav­ing it dry. Mois­tur­iz­ing prod­ucts should leave hair feel­ing soft and sup­ple, not coat­ed and greasy. If your mois­tur­iz­ing pro­duct isn’t doing the job, ditch it.

2. Non-porous hair

Hair that isn’t porous has a hard­er time allow­ing pro­duct into through the cuti­cles because they lay flat as opposed to being raised. Pro­duct applied to non-porous hair will sit on the out­side of the strand, lead­ing to buildup. Try steam­ing your hair (in the show­er or with a hair steam­er) before apply­ing mois­tur­iz­ing and con­di­tion­ing prod­ucts. The steam will help lift the cuti­cles, allow­ing mois­tur­iz­ing pro­duct to get inside. Click here to deter­mine your hair’s poros­i­ty lev­el.

3. Applying too much product

With the many pro­duct appli­ca­tions that nat­u­ral hair requires, it can be easy to get heavy hand­ed. Excess pro­duct will sit on the strands, attract­ing lint and dust and weigh­ing them down. When apply­ing pro­duct to hair, make sure it doesn’t feel greasy or waxy.

4. Co-washing and the “no poo” method

Co-wash­ing is often used as a sub­sti­tute for sham­poo­ing, but they are designed to leave deposits on your hair that fill in dam­aged cuti­cles. Make sure that you per­form occa­sion­al clar­i­fy­ing rins­es to remove con­di­tion­er residue from your strands and scalp.

5. Incomplete rinsing/washing

Although some nat­u­rals rec­om­mend not ful­ly rins­ing out con­di­tion­ers, the excess pro­duct can lead to faster buildup.

6. Ineffective sealing products

Seal­ing prod­ucts should soft­en strands and help them retain mois­ture. Inef­fec­tive seal­ing prod­ucts will leave a waxy residue.

If you are deal­ing with buildup, apple cider vine­gar, ben­tonite clay and good ol’ sham­poo are great for clar­i­fy­ing. Ladies, do you get buildup? How do you deal with it?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­lis­te, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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7 Comments on "6 Sources of Product Buildup on Natural Hair"

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[…] Also, be aware of pro­duct buildup and try to avoid it. […]


Vine­gar and clay alone do not remove build up.

Many sil­i­cones will build up in the hair. (except for the water-sol­uble ones)

Wax­es and petro­la­tum too, tend to build up in the hair.

Not all con­di­tion­ers build up in the hair. See

Parker Putt

A big thank you for your arti­cle post.Really look­ing for­ward to read more. Cool.


This is a great post. I think that teenagers and young adult shuold espe­cial­ly take notice. I own a and I try to con­vey to all my younger clients just how dam­ag­ing it is for your hair when you are con­stant­ly hav­ing it exposed to the sun.Good Post.

J Kenn (SpeakingTALL)

I used to have a lot of build up when I had locs. The ACV treat­ment worked won­ders. Now, I don’t deal much with build up. The only leave-in pro­duct I use is my mois­tur­iz­er, and it is very light. 

Also, I wash my hair fre­quent­ly, so that helps too!


Cas­tor oil makes hair feel greasy/waxy. Does that mean it’s too much?


Cas­tor oil is very thick by nature and can leave a greasy/waxy feel­ing depend­ing on how much or the way you’re using it. You can cut the thick­ness of the oil by mix­ing it with a lighter one, such as grape­seed, sweet almond or jojoba oil to make it eas­ier to apply/use. Hope this helps.