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5 Natural Ways To Remove Hair Product Buildup

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Product buildup is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a gunky film that coats your scalp, making it appear flakey and oily. This film is produced by hair product residue that slowly collects on the scalp over time. Product buildup is one of those sneaky problems that can happen without us realizing it. Ironically, it is caused by products that supposedly work to improve the texture and look of your hair. For these reasons, many of us fail to recognize product buildup in the scalp until it’s severe enough to show side effects. 

The key to tackling product buildup is being proactive instead of reactive. There are many great ways to prevent product buildup from happening to you. The first step is finding a good shampoo and conditioner for your hair. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how you can get rid of buildup on your scalp and why the natural way is best!

How To Get Rid Of Buildup On Scalp?

girl running fingers through her hair.

brush your hair daily to reduce product buildup.

Hair product buildup and excess sebum often go hand in hand. Sebum is an oily substance that is produced by the sebaceous glands. Its purpose is to moisturize your skin and hair follicles. While sebum is essential for proper scalp function and hair growth, excess sebum can lead to scalp buildup. Excess sebum also leads to oily hair and clogs the pores and hair follicles. In severe cases, clogged pores and hair follicles may lead to hair loss. Not to worry, there are many easy ways to reduce sebum buildup on the scalp! 

Brushing your hair is the easiest way to eliminate excess sebum and product buildup. Sebum and residue from hair products are less likely to get stuck in your hair when it is free of knots and tangles. Additionally, tamed hair allows products to work more effectively; thus preventing buildup. Using the correct shampoo can also help reduce scalp buildup. Now, you might be asking yourself, “if there is a right shampoo to reduce buildup, does that mean that some shampoos can cause buildup? And that brings us swiftly to our next point: why does shampoo build up on the scalp?

Why Does Shampoo Buildup On Scalp?

Ironically, shampoo is a common cause of buildup. Unfortunately, many shampoos contain harmful chemicals that damage your hair and skin. This is why it’s best to switch out your regular shampoo with a clarifying shampoo that detoxes your scalp. However, your regular shampoo routine should not be totally replaced with a clarifying shampoo. Clarifying shampoo helps cleanse the scalp, but it contains harsh detoxing properties that irritate your skin when used daily. Instead, use a clarifying shampoo once per month to safely eliminate product buildup. Clarifying shampoo may be needed weekly for swimmers or people who experience daily exposure to chlorine and hard water. Aside from this exception, clarifying shampoo can generally be a monthly practice that should not replace your regular shampoo. 

That being said, your regular shampoo may also be causing you problems. As many shampoo products contain harmful chemicals, it’s important to understand which ingredients to avoid. Silicone is a common shampoo ingredient that should be avoided at all costs. Many describe Silicone as a shield that keeps your scalp from absorbing bacteria and chemicals. While silicone prevents the scalp from absorbing harmful substances, it also prevents the scalp from absorbing healthy nutrients. Oftentimes, lacking essential nutrients and moisture in the scalp can result in problems more severe than those produced by the chemicals you were trying to avoid. Skin irritation, clogged pores, and product buildup are common reactions to products containing silicone. 

Sulfates are another popular shampoo ingredient that should be avoided. Sulfates are commonly used in shampoo because of their chemical reaction with water and sebum. When mixed with water, the sebum in your scalp sticks to the sulfates and follows your shampoo down the drain. This helps eliminate excess oil and buildup on the scalp. However, sulfates are extremely powerful chemicals that can damage your hair when used daily. Products containing sulfates contribute to product buildup and make your hair feel frizzy, brittle, and dry when used daily. 

With this knowledge, let’s take a deep dive into 5 natural ways to remove hair product buildup, so your hair can live its healthiest life. 

5 Natural Ways To Remove Hair Product Buildup

DIY remedies are great for eliminating product buildup. They are fun to make and help protect you from the harmful chemicals that hide in store-bought products. When dealing with your skin, it’s nice to know that every ingredient is natural and safe. 

1. Remove Hair Product Buildup With Lemon Juice

Woman biting into a lemon.

Use lemons to remove buildup.

Lemon juice is great for removing product buildup because it’s highly acidic. The acidity of lemon juice helps to balance the hair’s PH levels and break down excess oils and sebum in the scalp.  

Directions: In a small bowl, mix the juice of two lemons with one liter of water. Then shampoo your hair and rinse as normal. Before conditioning, take half of your lemon mixture and massage it into your scalp – store the rest in a spray bottle to use at a later date. You can apply the mixture using your hands, a spray bottle, or a brush. Let sit for three minutes before rinsing. Lastly, finish with a normal conditioner. 

2. Remove Hair Product Buildup With Apple Cider Vinegar

Similar to lemon juice, apple cider vinegar is great for removing product buildup because of its acidic qualities. The apple cider vinegar loosens the built-up residue in your scalp, making it easy to rinse away in the shower. 

Directions: In a bowl or spray bottle, combine half a cup of apple cider vinegar with one cup of water. Then shampoo your hair as normal and rinse thoroughly. Before conditioning, gently massage the vinegar blend into your scalp and hair. Let sit for two to three minutes and rinse with cold water. 

3. Remove Hair Product Buildup With Baking Soda

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A spoonful of baking soda.

Baking soda is a great exfoliating agent for the scalp. It is made with the chemical compound Sodium bicarbonate, which is a natural clarifying agent. This makes it great for eliminating oils and sebum from the scalp, but you should only use it once a week. If your hair is naturally dry, baking soda may not be for you. Instead, you might want to try using honey and cinnamon. 

Directions: In a small bowl, combine one tablespoon of baking soda, three tablespoons of water, and five to seven drops of essential oil. Mix together until the ingredients form a paste. Apply the paste to clean wet hair and leave for three minutes. Rinse and finish with a standard conditioner. 

4. Remove Hair Product Buildup With Honey and Cinnamon

Honey and cinnamon is a dynamic combination that is perfect for removing product buildup. Raw honey has natural soothing properties that moisturize the scalp and reduce inflammation. Honey also includes a wide range of antioxidants and vitamins that fend off dandruffand prevent hair loss. Cinnamon helps with product buildup because it has a grainy texture to aid in exfoliation. Exfoliating with cinnamon helps to increase circulation and stimulate hair growth. 

Directions: In a medium-sized bowl, mix together one tablespoon of raw honey, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, and one tablespoon of coconut oil. Using your hands, gently apply the mixture to your scalp and hair. Wait 15 minutes and rinse with cold water. 

5. Remove Hair Product Buildup With Salt 

Salt in a bowl surrounded with salt.

Use coarse salt to remove buildup.

Sea salt is a natural way to dissolve the residue and dirt in your scalp. It has a grainy texture that is perfect for exfoliating the scalp and scraping away dead skin cells. 

Directions: In a medium-sized bowl, mix together half a cup of sea salt, two tablespoons of coconut oil, and two tablespoons of lime juice. Knead the mixture into your scalp and let sit for thirty minutes. Rinse with warm water and finish with a normal shampoo and conditioner. 


When you think about it, the skin on your scalp is no different than the skin on your face. Aside from the fact that it’s covered with hair, your scalp contains the same skin cells and sweat glands as the rest of your body. Consequently, it’s important to care for your scalp as you would care for the skin on your face. You would never skip washing off a full face of makeup, right? 

Well, cleansing and exfoliating the scalp should have that same level of dedication. Make an effort to avoid harmful chemicals in shampoo and remove product buildup. Consider some DIY remedies like lemon or  ACV if you are looking for cheap and easy methods – trust me, your scalp will thank you later!