Even with thick, shiny hair, some people can have plastic-like buildup hiding in plain sight.
In March, Boston-based hairstylist Daleen Jordan posted a video on Instagram of one of her clients who had been using an inexpensive drugstore shampoo for years. In the now-viral video, according to Today.com, Jordan uses a technique with scissors to slowly scrape off the buildup from her client’s hair.
“This is build up from waxes silicones and parabens. Silicone is almost like rubber or plastic and is used as a sealant against water and even air.”
“[Silicone is] not a natural ingredient and its side effects are bad for our hair,” she wrote on the social media site. “It gives your hair the illusion of shine, but it’s not the shine we want.”
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She added that when we add heating tools to the mix, it “laminates” the hair. “It’s also not allowing your natural oils and/or the ingredients in a proper shampoo to penetrate to the core center of your hair, it’s just sitting on top of that build up causing greasiness, flat, lifeless hair. ”
Speaking with Today.com, Jordan said this client, in particular, was using shampoo with certain types of silicone for 30 years.
“A lot of those shampoos include dimethicone, which is a silicone that is not water-soluble. When I’m shampooing someone’s hair or blow-drying it, I can literally feel the buildup.”
What buildup does to our hair
Frederic Bataclan, a senior stylist and colourist based in Toronto, told Global News that over time, this type of buildup creates a barrier for other hair services.
“It won’t allow salon chemical services like keratin treatments, colour or any salon services to penetrate deep into the hair,” he said. “The person will not receive the full effect of the salon service.”
He added hair will also lose its natural shine if there is too much buildup, “due to the silicone blocking the proper salon treatment to go in and do its job. You will be receiving false shine with your hair.”
According to Self magazine, silicone is a very commonly used hair care ingredient.
“While often maligned, silicones are actually one of the most effective ingredients in both hair and skin care products. Silicones work by covering hair with a thin hydrophobic (waterproof) coating,” author Shannon Romanowski wrote.
She added silicone can reduce the porosity of hair, reduce moisture loss and lubricate the surface. There are also different types of silicones that react differently with hair. Cyclomethicone is one of the commonly used ones, she added.
“It’s a volatile silicone, which means it evaporates and won’t build up on your hair. It gives a silky, smooth feel and leaves the hair with incredible slip when wet and is found in both leave-on and rinse-off products.”
She argued the ingredient has more benefits than negatives, as long as you wash your hair.
“Silicones are very effective conditioners, provide great shine and can help smooth and straighten hair.”
Other experts noted silicone itself is not harmful to hair.
Michelle Tasios, professional development manager at L’Oréal Canada, added this type of buildup can come from different avenues, not just shampoo: “Environmental factors, hard water in the shower, improper cleansing of styling or leave-in products, and ‘mass market’ products that use a heavier concentration of silicones and waxes.”
How should we be shopping for shampoo?
Bataclan said one of the biggest mistakes people make with hair is using just any type of shampoo.
“Do not use products that target all hair types,” he said. “Every person is different and has different hair needs. Read the ingredients. The ones on top of the list is what it’s mostly filled with.”
While he recognized salon products, in particular, are more expensive, for some people, it may be worth it.
“As I’ve always said to my clients, ‘Invest in your hair, it’s your crown.'”
Shampoo type and treatments will also differ if you are a black woman, according to Essence — it is always important to ask a stylist the best treatment that will work for you.
“It is important to have a proper analysis from someone who can see, feel and examine your hair in order to diagnose the best system for you.”
And depending on the client, Tasios said, a weekly or monthly clarifying shampoo can help to remove thick residue, but it is important to ask an expert first.