Beating the Build-Up Blues

It is a glorious time to be curly! But can all these texture-friendly products and trending curl care methods be too much of a good thing? Have you found that your waves or curls have started to respond negatively to all of your well-meaning attention? Instead of hair nirvana, have you found yourself burdened with a simultaneous feeling of dryness and oiliness, dullness, and flaking? Chances are, you’ve got a case of the Build-Up Blues.

What is build-up? 

Simply put, build-up is a gradual accumulation of products on the hair strands. Accumulated build-up prevents the necessary moisture, oils, and other nutrients to penetrate your hair, resulting in dry, dull, flat hair.

What causes build-up? 

Occlusive Ingredients

If a product contains an excessive amount of occlusive ingredients (that create a strong barrier around the hair shaft), it can be difficult to remove with regular washing. These ingredients are not necessarily harmful in and of themselves but can become so if used excessively. With the notable exception of heat stylers, which need strong film-formers and occlusive ingredients to protect the hair, products should not contain ingredients primarily composed of occlusive agents such as petroleum derivatives, lanolin, or heavy silicones.

Excessive/Incompatible Products

No matter how great the ingredients, if a product doesn’t moisturize your hair on Day 1, re-applying it throughout the week will not improve the situation. In fact, it will dry your hair out and weigh it down with a coating that remains on the outside of the hair shaft rather than penetrating to the interior of the hair where moisture is needed.

Hard Water

Well or hard water will deposit minerals on the outside of the hair which blocks moisture and product from penetrating the hair shaft. Hair that’s been washed with hard water generally feels grainy and waxy but also straw-like and dry.


Although co-washing is viewed by many as a gentle alternative to washing with harsh shampoos, it does not completely remove most leave-ins, gels, and oils. Over time, this will lead to build-up and dryness.

How to Beat Build Up:

Embrace the Cleanse

Regular cleansing with a sulfate-free shampoo, such as Get Fresh! or Get Clean! will remove excess product without stripping natural oils.

Rinse & Repeat

Conditioners aren’t designed to be left in the hair (unless it’s labeled as a leave-in conditioner). Be sure to rinse your conditioner out to leave your hair receptive and open to the moisturizing leave-ins you apply during your styling routine.

Find the Right Product

Hair isn’t one-size-fits-all. Given the number of products on the market, the search for the right product can be overwhelming. We wanted to help, so we created a diagnostic hair typing system that goes beyond curl pattern to consider all of your hair’s unique characteristics. Together, these attributes create an accurate picture of how your hair looks, feels, and behaves (in a word, its “Personality”) and allows us to prescribe the optimal products for your unique Hair Type Personality™. Visit to take our science-based quiz and to unlock your personalized product recommendations or visit the Original Moxie Salon to experience this unique hair assessment with one of our multi-textural experts.


The majority of your product application should occur on freshly washed and conditioned hair. You should not have to repeat a full product application day after day. The right product combination will keep your hair moisturized and defined until the next Wash Day. If you need to refresh mid-cycle, selectively re-wet, rather than re-styling all of your hair, and defer to gels or oils rather than re-applying your moisturizer.


Even a clarifying shampoo may not be sufficient to remove heavy build-up. While DIY methods abound, we strongly recommend leaving this job to professionals. Many of the at-home treatments to remove build-up can wind up further damaging the hair. For chronic or severe build-up, we offer two detoxes at our Flagship Salon: the Moisture Detox™ and Scalp Detox™. 

Are you concerned that you might have the Build-Up Blues? The good news is that there is a cure. Once build-up is removed, moisture can penetrate the hair shaft, the hair becomes softer, curls pop, and frizz abates. Et voila! Happy feeling restored.

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