Why Does My Hair Feel Waxy After Washing

Megan Dominion

The quick answer: It’s probably silicone build-up! Victims of silicone build-up are usually people who wash their hair less often and use styling products. That sounds like just-about every curly-haired friend we have!

Silicone products have so many benefits and actually aren’t harmful or toxic to your hair at all! The bad news is that the build-up can make your hair feel greasy, heavy, dirty and dull-looking. It can also cause your hair to weaken and break, so it’s definitely something that you need to pay attention to. Waxy hair cannot be left unchecked!

Remember, silicone is actually an ingredient in a LOT of hair products, especially primers and masks, so even if you aren’t using a “silicone” product, you’re probably still putting it in your hair in one way or another – even via the conditioner you use!

Don’t worry, if your hair feels waxy or greasy; it’s not damaged. It’s actually a pretty quick fix and we know some tricks that can help prevent the build-up, too.

What is the silicone in hair products?

So silicones are created from a mineral that is actually found in the earth’s crust. This is called Silica. If you’re trying to avoid silicones completely, then check labels for any word that ends in “cone” or “siloxane”.

They’re usually called: Dimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Amodimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Phenyl trimethicone or Cyclopentasiloxane. You get the point!

Why do manufacturers put silicone in hair products?

Remember, they aren’t toxic. Silicones actually can’t penetrate your hair, they just leave a coating on the cuticle of your hair. This is especially useful for people who have high hair porosity which makes them prone to a frizzy hair texture.

Silicones can:

  • Temporarily soften your hair
  • Make your hair appear shinier
  • Protect your hair from heat styling
  • Smooth your hair’s texture
  • Flatten or seal split ends
  • Make hair styling easier
  • Make your hair easier to manage

It’s actually a big trick for manufacturers to add silicones to conditioners to make you think that your hair is a lot softer and shinier than it is… until it isn’t. It becomes a cycle of needing the conditioner to obtain the same “healthy hair” look, and then a few weeks later your hair feels like it won’t come clean, no matter how many times you wash it – even when removing conditioner from your hair care routine entirely! For most people, silicone also leads to a loss of hair volume, too! It’s a scary situation to be in.

How do you get rid of waxy build-up in your hair?

It’s pretty easy! There are three trusted methods you can try.

1.  Use a shampoo that contains Surfactants.

We love gentle and mild shampoos, but sometimes we just need a bit of chemical assistance to eat away at the product residue in our hair. Surfactants will break down and remove any unwanted silicones and oils that are hiding on your hair’s cuticle. You need to read your labels, though! Ensure that the shampoo you’re purchasing has either Surfactants, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, or Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Double check that the label doesn’t show any silicones as listed above. It would be a toal murder-suicide for your hair-restoring efforts. You can even use this shampoo only when you feel it’s needed, and go back to your favourite shampoo in between uses, or swap out your usual shampoo for one with surfectants.

2. We love a good Clarifying Shampoo – use one for silicone build-up!

A clarifying shampoo is just a fancier, stronger and more expensive shampoo. And it works! They contain stronger and even more Surfactants than your every-day shampoos. They’re also super safe to use, but you shouldn’t use them too often. Think of it as a total re-set of your hair for a fresh start. You can usually purchase them from your local hairdresser or salon, too. We would recommend using a really good conditioner or treatment after the clarifying – just to put some love and moisture back into your hair. Remember – if you are using products with silicone – you need to be clarifying regularly!

Read more about Clarifying, what it is and how to do it.

3. A soap scrub. Rub-a-dub-dub!

We’ve seen a lot of our hairfluencers rave about a really good Hard Soap Scrub. It’s the old-fashioned way of thoroughly cleaning your hair and especially your scalp – and has some exfoliating benefits, too! Look, it’s not meant to replace shampoo. You would shampoo your hair first, and then literally scrub your hair with a bar of soap or lathered curd soap for at least 2 minutes. We’ve even seen some hairfluencers rave about bars of dish soap. Anything is worth a try if the other methods aren’t working, right? This will be quite harsh on your hair, so try to deep condition afterwards.

How to prevent waxy hair and silicone build-up

Depending on your hair type and hair care routine, you can try the following tips and tricks to help prevent future build-up in your hair:

  • Wash your hair as often as required. Generally you can wash your scalp and hair once a day to once a week, depending on your hair’s needs
  • Use a clarifying shampoo as required to help detox, deep clean and re-set your hair
  • Clean your hairbrushes and styling tools as often as possible
  • Avoid your hair’s roots when using a conditioner
  • Thoroughly clean your towels, hats, beanies, pillowcases etc
  • Read labels to see how many of the products you use contain silicone, and try find alternatives if required

Hair Tools

If none of these options or methods work for you or your hair, then it might be time to speak to your hairdresser, doctor, dietician or dermatologist about any underlying conditions you may have that might be causing changes in your hair. These can be hormonal or medical, so please seek professional healthcare advice if you’re still concerned about your hair or if you have any other related symptoms that you want to get checked out.

Have a happy hair day, everyone!

Megan Dominion

Megan Dominion is SILKUP's Managing Editor. She's been down both the curly hair and skincare rabbit holes many times and loves that there's always something new to learn; a new science, method, product or personal experience.