By Terez Howard

product build up locs

Click to see my build-up

Product build-up.  Yuck.

I don’t have much build-up, but I hate to see my few locs in the back with gunk stuck in them.  Because I’m currently braiding and banding, I haven’t done much to remove the build-up in them.  I feel that since the locs are braided when I wash, I cannot hone in on the build-up.  Once I get the OK to stop banding my curly ends, I am going to try a few things to rid myself of this little bit of build-up.

That’s me.  This is about you.  Here’s what you can do to get rid of product build-up.

Clarifying products that get rid of product

It’s funny when you say it like that… using a product to get rid of product.  Anyways, the best products clarify your locs.  That word clarify means to strip away dirt and residue left behind by other products.  These two shampoos do just that. 

Terax Latte Clarifying Shampoo – This very gentle clarifying shampoo deep cleans the hair, lifting build-up, dirt and smells from locs.  It does all this without stripping the hair of natural emollients.

Avalon Organics Lemon Clarifying Shampoo – The acidic properties in lemon remove residue.  It removes excess oils and product build-up, restoring hair’s natural sheen.  Know that this product includes shea butter, a product that some locked heads use and other don’t.

Home remedies that help remove product build-up in locs

Hot boiling water – Boil water and soak your locs in the water.  This method will only work with long locked hair.  Obviously, someone with my length would have a hard time bending over a pot of scalding hot water.  But, if you have build-up near the ends of long locs, you can dip them in boiled water.

Bentonite clay – I talked about bentonite clay in my post about getting rid of lint.  Bentonite clay lifts all the lint, dirt and product build-up from natural hair.  It will not cause any build-up as long as it’s rinsed out thoroughly.

I love Koko’s Loc Chronicles’ videos on how to mix it and how to apply it.  You mix equal parts of bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar in a non-metal bowl with a non-metal spoon.  If your mixture is too thick, add a little bit of lukewarm water to make a creamy consistency.  Let it set on your locs for 20 to 30 minutes.  Then, rinse, rinse, rinse out all the build-up.

Vodka – Add a bit of vodka to your current shampoo to remove product build-up and minerals in water.  Why vodka?  Alcohol, which is a solvent, removes organic and inorganic matter, such as butters and waxes, from your hair.  So, if you have a combination of different types of build-up, add a small amount of vodka to your shampoo bottle.  Be sure to squeeze this mixture into your locs.  A simple rinse with the vodka will not be enough.  Then, thoroughly rinse.

Quotidianlight recommends alternating your methods for removing product build-up.  I think this is particularly effective if you have a ton of embedded build-up.  Try a clarifying product one week, vodka one week, another clarifying product another week and bentonite clay the next.  Yes, it might take a whole month to remove product build-up.  In between time, take special care to not add a bunch of product to your hair.  You’re trying to remove product, so don’t add to your problem.

Also, keep in mind that sucking all of the product out of your locs might also suck moisture from your locs.  I recommend using water to infuse moisture back into your locs.  A daily spritz should suffice.  You should realize that it might take a couple months for your hair and scalp to recover from the product removal treatments.  But then you will have gorgeous product-free locs.

Techniques that prevent product build-up

Wouldn’t it be nice to not have product build-up in the first place?  Here are a few things to keep in mind so that you won’t have to deal with build-up in your locked natural hair in the future.

  1. Prolonged rinsing.  Spend several minutes rinsing every trace of shampoo out of your locs.  Use hot water for at least a portion of the rinse to be sure everything is out.
  2. Apple cider vinegar rinse.  A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with a cup of water after a shampooing will lift leftover residue.  Since we can’t see those locs in the back, this rinse with apple cider vinegar, which is a solvent, will lift what we can’t see.  I recommend doing an apple cider vinegar rinse once per month.
  3. No butters, waxes or gels (except for natural aloe vera gel).  These thick products are exactly what get trapped in locs.  Test your products by putting a dollop in your hand and running it under hot water.  If it doesn’t rinse easily, then it probably isn’t good for your locs.
  4. Don’t over condition.  Too much conditioning will lead to build-up.  Conditioner leaves behind residue, and residue can create build-up.  Condition mature locs every 2 to 3 shampooings.
  5. Don’t feed your inner product junkie.  When I started wearing my natural hair, I wanted to try every product out there, from a product for best twist-out to a product for the softest wash and go hair.  With locs, you cannot put product over product over product because your locs will hold onto all of those product and show them off in a nasty, pasty form.

Tell me, how do you remove product build-up in your locked natural hair?

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