Gunky? How to Get Rid of Scalp Buildup {Yes!}

Scalp buildup can leave your hair feeling heavy, looking dull, and difficult to manage. It can also cause itchiness and discomfort if left untreated. That’s why removing the buildup and keeping it from returning is an excellent way to keep your scalp and hair healthy and looking fabulous.

What Causes Scalp Buildup?

In order to understand how to get rid of your buildup, you need to know what is causing it in order to reduce the amount of buildup your hair accumulates and keep your scalp as healthy and clean as possible in the future. There are numerous causes of scalp buildup, according to Dr. Fomsky, a medical doctor and an expert on hair, skin, and weight. These causes include what you are putting into your hair, environmental issues, and even one related to your genes.

Dry HairProducts like shampoos and conditioners are meant to wash away the dirt and minerals that can build up in your hair but can actually add to the problem if they are not completely washed out of your hair when used, leaving a residue that can weigh down your hair and make it look greasy. Hair products, such as hairspray, gels, and waxes can all create buildup as well. This is because these products are meant to stay in your hair and keep your style so even with a regular shampoo, they are difficult to remove.

This issue is due to the silicones found in numerous hair products. Silicones are not water-soluble, which is why they will not wash out of your hair easily and require a more thorough cleaning than normal shampoos can handle. Co-washing is all the rage these days, but conditioner alone will not remove buildup of any kind because even cleansing conditioners do not contain strong enough cleansers to remove water-insoluble products.

Chlorine and hard water minerals will also contribute to buildup as can dirt and dust flying around on a windy day. Just walking down the street can affect your scalp and hair and ensure you need to give it a bit of extra care to keep it looking great. Those with non-porous hair will also suffer from scalp buildup because this hair type doesn’t allow anything to penetrate it, which means styling products will stay on the hair no matter how much you wash it unless heat and deep conditioning are used to clean it up.

How to Remove Scalp Buildup

If you’ve noticed buildup forming on your scalp or just that your hair is starting to look flat and dull, there are a few different ways you can deal with this issue, says Margrit Bradley, a licensed cosmetologist and hairdresser. Clarifying shampoos are the most common treatment for scalp buildup. They are designed to remove buildup by completely stripping your hair, returning it back to its natural state. Be sure to follow-up with a conditioning treatment as these shampoos may leave your hair a bit dry.

Since clarifying shampoos strip away more than just buildup, you can only use them once a week or a couple times a month. The rest of the time, you should be using a proper shampoo and conditioner to keep your hair as clean as possible in between. These should contain safer ingredients, preferably natural or organic ones to keep damage to a minimum as they wash out the junk. Avoid those that contain sulfates, parabens, and silicones. These can add to the residue and may cause damage in the process.

Hair Care ProductsUsing astringent is also an option that those outside hair care professionals may not know. Simply put some on a cotton ball and apply it to your sectioned hair starting at the scalp and working your way down to the tip of the strand. Then rinse and condition. Natural products like baking soda can also be used to combat scalp buildup. Simply mix equal parts baking soda and your regular shampoo into a paste and then apply it to your hair and scalp. Leave it on for five minutes and then rinse it out and add your favorite conditioner.

Both white and apple cider vinegar can be used in a few ways to clarify your hair, including alone on the hair and scalp before shampooing and conditioning, mixed with shampoo, and after shampooing before you condition. Whichever you choose depends on your preference. If you have an excessive amount of buildup that won’t come out with any of the products listed here, you can seek the help of a licensed cosmetologist who will provide you with a professional treatment to clean out the buildup as shown on this video by master stylist Jcarlos Pimental.

Lemon juice is also an option when trying to get rid of scalp buildup. It helps get rid of dandruff at the same time. If you’re also dealing with flakes, this is one of the best options out there. Simply mix it with water, then apply it to your hair. Leave it for about ten minutes, comb it through your hair, then rinse it away. You need to be careful with lemon juice, though, as it can lighten the hair if left on too long. It can also be a bit drying, so be sure to condition your hair after using this treatment.

Keeping your hair free of knots won’t stop residue from building up. But it will help reduce the buildup by giving it fewer tangles to cling to. The smoother the strand, the easier it is for the buildup to wash away when you shampoo. You should also make sure you’re brushing your hair properly. One hand should be on the top of the hair as you run the brush through it. This prevents pulling on the roots, which can cause irritation, increasing oil production, which then adds to the mess.

How to Prevent Scalp Buildup

Though you may never be able to prevent scalp buildup completely, there are a few things you can do to help reduce it, so you don’t have to suffer through the dryness and unmanageability needlessly. If possible, avoid styling products altogether or at least change the way you use them. Spread them on your hands before applying to give you more control during placement in order to avoid clumping. Don’t apply them to your scalp and never use more than you really need.

If you have noticed that you’re prone to buildup, it may be necessary to shampoo your hair more often, doing a more thorough job each time. Try shampooing your hair twice, once to loosen up the products clinging to the strands and scalp, and again to clean the hair and scalp beneath the buildup. Then condition your hair as usual.

Honey for Scalp BuildupUsing water-soluble products is a good option as well, according to the experts at the Salon Success Academy. Avoid those that can’t be washed out easily in favor of more natural ones, such as those containing shea butter, honey, or olive and avocado oils. If you’re unsure which products are best suited to your hair, do some research or seek the help of a dermatologist. With a dermatologist’s help, you can determine how to best treat your hair type, so you aren’t adding to the problem by using the wrong products for your daily styling.

Scalp Buildup Final Thoughts

At some point, everyone will suffer from scalp buildup because of the environment, styling products, and type of hair. With the information in this article, you should be able to combat the issue of scalp buildup. If you are battling scalp buildup for a long period of time, please discuss the issue with a specialist. If you are looking for more hair care articles check out our blog and our hair care buyer’s guides.