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scalp buildup

Scalp Buildup happens when sebum (an oily, waxy secretion) accumulates with sweat, hair products and dead skin cells on the scalp. When this happens, it may result in dry, dull, flaky hair. It is something quite common and can happen to anyone. Fortunately, it is also quite easy to treat and prevent it. 

Everyone wants to have amazing and healthy hair and sometimes end up focussing on the hair and perhaps neglecting the scalp slightly. This is quite a big misconception as healthy hair cannot grow strong if not taken care from its roots. A healthy scalp equals healthy hair.

Everyday you apply a lot of products to your hair (either gel, leave-in, cream, or even dry shampoo), which will build up on your scalp. And, over time, you may start to notice your hair getting drier or even having some difficulty forming curls. But don’t worry, getting rid of that buildup on your scalp is pretty simple and we’re going to help you with this article.

What causes scalp buildup?

Before we move on to the specific causes, there are two types of scalp buildup: product buildup and natural factor buildup. As the name implies, product buildup is just the accumulation of product residues over time. Natural buildup, on the other hand, is the buildup of dirt, oils, and dead skin cells.

5 causes of product buildup:

  • Gel
  • Oil
  • Mousses or creams
  • Foams
  • Conditioners

5 causes of natural buildup

  • Dead skin cells
  • Sweat
  • Pollution
  • Natural oils
  • Hard waters

How to know if you have scalp buildup?

Some hair routines are more product heavy than others but, with time, these products will accumulate especially if you do not use sulfate shampoos. Although the signs might differ from person to person, these are some scalp buildup signs:

  • Dull or dry looking hair
  • Difficulty in forming curls
  • Itchy scalp
  • Dry or flaky scalp

How to treat scalp buildup?

To help remove scalp buildup, itching and flaking try these:

  • Use a clarifying shampoo: While we usually recommend sulfate-free shampoos for natural hair, those are not enough to dissolve oils and remove product build up. That’s why including a clarifying shampoo into your routine is necessary from time to time. Clarifying hair is almost like giving your hair and scalp a fresh start. 
  • Exfoliate your scalp: an appropriate scalp exfoliant is quite beneficial, not only will it gently cleanse away buildup and dead skin cells, it will create quite a healthy environment for your hair follicles.

4 tips to prevent scalp buildup:

  1. Wash hair regularly (while hair is different and you should analyze what’s best for your hair type, washing your hair regularly will avoid product buildup and will keep your scalp healthy. If you exercise regularly, you should also wash your hair after each workout. When you work out, you sweat and if you let it sit, it may contribute to buildup)

  2. Apply shampoo to your scalp only (focus on massaging and washing your scalp rather than using shampoo on your hair lengths and ends)

  3. Apply conditioner on your lengths and ends (differently to the shampoo, your conditioner and/or mask should be applied to your lengths and ends only. Your scalp doesn’t need moisturizer and applying conditioner to your scalp will just contribute to buildup)
  4. Rinse shampoo and conditioner thoroughly (a quick rinse is not enough. Make sure to properly rinse through any products by gently massaging your scalp while you remove everything with water)


To sum up: scalp buildup is quite normal and common, and it may cause dry and damaged hair when not treated in time. This buildup can be treated or prevented by following a healthy hair routine. Once treated, your scalp will feel much fresher and healthier and your hair will look even more amazing
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