Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why is everyone so concerned about build up of products on hair?

It seems that every hair based community I visit and all the blogs touting the no shampoo, baking soda, or conditioner washing programs talk about avoiding build up...but what exactly is build up?

Some of this is originally from this post on build up from May 22, 2010...
Build-up doesn't have a specific definition, but it's understood to be when our hair has a sticky, gummy, or coated feeling. It is also generally understood to take more than one usage of the ingredient or product to cause build-up, although it can happen (theoretically) with one washing. Anything that is substantive to our hair has the potential to cause build-up - which is why we use them - meaning cationic quaternary compounds (like BTMS or cetrimonium bromide), silicones (like dimethicone and amodimethicone), and cationic polymers (like polyquat 7 or honeyquat)

What causes build-up? Some ingredients we use can cause build-up, and this isn't helped by the water we use to bathe. One of the main culprits in the feeling of build-up is calcium in our water. It can make hair feel dull and rough. This is one of the reasons we see EDTA in commercial shampoo: EDTA is a chelating ingredient that binds to ions in hard water (sodium, calcium, and other metallic elements) and keeps it from depositing on our hair and scalp. We can include EDTA in our shampoo at up to 0.20%.

Cationic quaternary compounds like BTMS or cetrimonium bromide can potentially leave build-up on our hair if we are using too much, for instance, using intense conditioners as every day or leave in conditioners, and this is increased by the usage of fatty alcohols, like cetyl alcohol or cetearyl alcohol, in said conditioners as they can increase substantivity and conditioning (note: substantivity and conditioning are good things that can be bad if they lead to build up).

We use cationic quaternary compounds because they offer conditioning properties - reduced friction, static, and impact of combing forces, and improved lubricity. The problem arises when we can't remove the conditioner from our hair when we wash it, generally because we aren't using a well formulated, mild, surfactant based cleanser.

Cationic polymers can build up on our hair over time, but if we use a good surfactant based cleanser, they'll be rinsed out during the next washing. If we're using the cationic polymers in a shampoo, they can form a negatively charged complex with excess surfactant that will resist removal. This is one of the reasons we use the surfactant levels we do in a conditioning shampoo - too much excess surfactant can cause this problem - and the reason we don't use a ton of cationic polymers! This negatively charged complex increases with SLS, for some reason, which is another reason to formulate with more gentle surfactants. (Polyquats 6, 7, 10, 11, and 16 are more likely to resist removal than the other polyquats.)

Silicones can build up on your hair if you are using a lot of it in a few different products. The worst culprit is amodimethicone as it is more substantive to your hair than dimethicone or cyclomethicone. Using 2% dimethicone in a shampoo, then 2% in a conditioner is unlikely to cause build-up, and you really have to be using a lot to get any sort of true build-up from silicones. (And remember, 2% cetrimonium chloride gets rid of silicones - even a lot of them!)

This is a pretty important aside - you cannot get build up if you aren't using a product. For instance, let's say I use 5 grams of my anti-frizz spray on Monday. I have 100 grams of product, and 20 grams of this is dimethicone. Using 5% of this product means I get 1 gram of dimethicone on my hair. If we tested my hair on Tuesday, you'd see I have slightly less than 1 gram of dimethicone on my hair. If you tested my hair on Wednesday, you'd see that I have less than 1 gram of dimethicone on my hair strands. If I don't wash my hair or put any extra products on it, I will never have more than the original 1 gram of dimethicone in my hair. Walking around, going to work, teaching craft groups, eating food, and so on will not make me have more than 1 gram of dimethicone in my hair. The only way to get more dimethicone in my hair is to add it to my hair via a product. The dimethicone can't replicate on its own and cause more build up on my hair! So you aren't going to get build up over time unless you use a product containing an ingredient that could potentially build up on your hair.

The more damaged your hair, the more potential build-up of the conditioning agents - damaged hair has a higher negative charge, and we know the more negatively charged your hair, the more conditioner is deposited. You want more deposition, but you also need to remove the conditioning agents when cleansing your hair the next time. If you're using intense conditioners or tons of styling products regularly, make sure you also use a clarifying shampoo (no conditioning agents or silicone) and include some cetrimonium chloride in your creations!

A final aside...I recognize that my personal experiences don't constitute data, but I have been using conditioner with at least 7% BTMS-50, 2% cationic polymer, and 2% dimethicone; a leave in conditioner with at least 2% BTMS-50, 1% Incroquat CR, and 2% dimethicone; and an anti-frizz spray with 10% dimethicone for the past six years. I have never seen anything on my hair that remotely resembles the definition of build up. My friends and family all use my products and not one of them reports that they are suffering from build up on their hair. (My mom and best friend use a lot of silicone based styling products, too.) My products have much higher levels of conditioning agents, cationic polymers, and silicones than store bought products, and you would think that we'd all be experiencing build up, especially in a town with hard water, but nope, none. Build up really isn't as common a phenomenon as people would have you think...

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Clive said...

Hi, Swift - what do you think of polyquaternium-60? I'm thinking of using it at 0.1% in a shampoo. I'm a beginner at formulating shampoos, I'm going to try my first formulation using sodium trideceth sulfate and sodium cocoamphoacetate.

Clive said...

Sorry, I meant quaternium-60

DuhBe said...

I agree with this statement 100%!!!

"The problem arises when we can't remove the conditioner from our hair when we wash it, generally because we aren't using a well formulated, mild, surfactant based cleanser."

I also use products loaded with cationics and quats, and silicones. The ONLY time I get a greasy buildup is when using a 2-in-1 conditioning shampoo that is putting more conditioners on my hair than it's taking off. If products are correctly formulated, the conditioners are not a buildup problem.

Mychelle said...

I never understood all the hubub about build up either - until I started making my own hair products! If I do too much experimenting I get major build-up and have to use a clrifying shampoo and start all over. It has been good for me to see what contributes to build up in my hair and what doesn't. Silicones are never an issue for me, but anything I use more than once or twice in a row with cationic guar or Polyquat 7 is coated-hair-grossness-city for me. If I keep my products simple and mostly use my shampoo bar and daily conditioner my hair is great. Too many days playing with my intense conditioner, leave-in, and serum all at once and my hair is icky. All in the name of science, right? :)

Aljonor said...

I agree with your statement, Susan. I have listened to that same concept of build-up and it cost me a hair length. Everyone has ideas, but it is the science that is needed behind everyone's thought. I did not use silicones for two years and struggled with my hair. After purchasing and reading Susan's e-book, I grew up and no longer interested in most videos as they confuse me. Just recently, I decided to follow add silicones to my hair. WoW! I can work better with my hair and it is smoother. Everyone is complimenting on my hair now and I don't experience build-up and my hair is not gummy. It is good to get information, but much better to get true information. Thanks Susan

Anonymous said...

i think that build up its more a concern of hair stickness, when the fibers get sticked together n that doesnt happen with a lot of substances we put in our hair, but it happens a lot with oils n other things, theres the ratio od desorption too that does not allow a forever build up in the fiber, stickness n desorption will be the key words in this matter :)