Hair Routines & Growth

Why Does My Hair Feel Waxy & Sticky After Washing?

why does my hair feel waxy after washing

We’ve all had it happen: You take extra time and effort to wash and style, hoping that your hard work will result in great hair for at least a day or two, only to find your hair strands waxy and greasy to the touch after just a few hours.

Or maybe you washed your hair in the shower, but you’re still left with waxy feeling greasy hair and an oily scalp.

You may find that it sometimes takes multiple shampoos to get hair feeling truly free of any wax or grease.

While there are many ways to fight product buildup on the scalp and hair, I wanted to understand what causes that waxy buildup on the hair in the first place.

There seems to be a lot of conflicting advice when it comes to what is and isn’t good for hair, so I’ve found all the real reasons for you, from excess oil production and the overproduction of sebum to the effects of hard water and product buildup—to answer the question “why does my hair feel waxy?” once and for all.

Related Post: 25 Tips For Length Retention Of Your Natural Hair Growth

Why Does My Hair Always Feel Waxy?

Before trying to fix waxy hair, it’s important to identify its possible cause.

Several factors could contribute to this issue, and it’s possible that multiple factors are at play.

Each cause requires its specific solution, so it is important to pinpoint the exact reason behind your waxy hair. Here are the most likely causes:

Product Buildup On Hair

Product buildup is one of the most common causes of waxy hair, especially because some hair care products contain wax!

If your hair feels like it has a waxy film on it, even after you’ve just washed it, you may have wax buildup. You may also notice the waxy buildup gives you sticky feeling hair after drying.

If you find yourself asking, “Why does my hair feel waxy after washing?”, this is most likely the cause.

There are a few different reasons why product buildup can cause waxy hair, so here are some of the main reasons and tips for dealing with them:

You’re Using the Wrong Ingredients

One of the most common causes of waxy-feeling hair is the ingredients in the hair care products we use—including literal wax.

Waxes are primarily found in products such as conditioners and repair masks along with styling products, gels, and blow-out lotions.

While a number of product labels will claim that these ingredients are water soluble, they do require a shampoo or chelating shampoo to remove them.

Ingredients like resins, silicones, dimethicones, plasticizers, and polyquaterniums 7, 9, 12, 14 are potential waxy-feeling culprits, as they are designed to adhere to the hair shaft to create the illusion of shiny, smooth hair.

While these ingredients can enhance the initial appearance of hair, they ultimately build up on the hair shaft and compromise healthy hair over time.

Ingredients such as dimethicone and beeswax can take a little extra effort to clean from the hair and can accumulate on hair strands and in the scalp when used frequently and not removed entirely.

There is no need to avoid these ingredients if you love them and they work well for your hair, but you will have to put in that extra effort to cleanse them out

Using a good clarifying shampoo weekly will help remove any product buildup and reset your hair. 

Related Post: Ingredients To Avoid For Low Porosity Hair

You’re Using Too Many Styling Products

This one might seem obvious, but sometimes hair feels waxy not because of what product you used but because of how much you applied.

Every head of hair is different, and in the age of online hair tutorials, it’s easy to find that the amount of styling product one creator uses for their hair leaves yours feeling heavy and greasy.

Unfortunately, it often takes trial and error to find the right ratio for you, but it’s important to start slow—especially with any products that are known to cause wax buildup.

With heavier ingredients, it’s generally best to use a small amount of product to avoid weighing hair down. You can always add more product later, but it’s almost impossible to remove buildup without fully washing your hair.

Related Post: The Best Wash & Go Hair Products For Natural Hair

You Didn’t Follow the Instructions

In the same vein as knowing how much product to apply, it’s also important to read product labels to understand their intended use.

Product instructions often have recommendations on how much product to use, as well as where on your head the product should be applied.

The perfect example of this is conditioner. Many people automatically apply conditioner the same way that they apply shampoo—all over their scalp and hair.

However, most conditioner bottles do not recommend all-over application. Conditioner should be applied from the ears down, not directly to the scalp.

This is because it often contains heavier ingredients that help to make hair feel silky, but that can immediately cause waxy feeling hair as well as heavy.

Applying products like conditioner incorrectly can often render them unhelpful as they create new problems like grease and product buildup, so it’s best to follow the guidelines provided by the hair product’s label.

You Don’t Rinse Properly

Once you’re in the shower and cleansing (or even double cleansing) your hair, it’s important to allow enough time for the hair care products to rinse out.

Failure to rinse hair completely can contribute to product buildup on the scalp and hair, especially if your regular shampoo contains silicones or waxes.

This can then be compounded by not rinsing your conditioner out properly either.

It may be worth sectioning your hair in the shower with a wide-toothed comb to ensure that the shampoo has been totally rinsed out.

If you don’t fully rinse the shampoo before applying conditioner, remnants of the shampoo suds can prevent the conditioner from doing its job to soften your hair strands.

Related Post: 20 Best Shampoos & Conditioners for High Porosity Hair

You’ve Chemically Treated Your Hair

Chemical processing and heat can damage your hair cuticles, making them appear dull or waxy. If you have a history of relaxing, bleaching, using heat tools, or coloring and notice a waxy film, it may indicate damaged hair.

Harsh chemicals like colors and perms can make your hair dry, brittle, and waxy. That’s because the structure of the keratin in the hair shaft is broken down by repeated color treatments or perms, leaving you with sticky hair.

If this is why your hair feels waxy, you may need to take a break from chemical treatments to give your hair a chance to recover.

Sticky Hair From Hard Water

All your hard work to avoid waxy ingredients and cleanse as often as you need to to avoid product buildup can be lost if you live in an area with “hard” water with waxy deposits.

Mineral and iron deposits can be found in your shower water, which can then build up on your hair and result in rough- or waxy-feeling hair.

Many shower heads on the market include a filter for these minerals and deposits to limit the amount that ends up in your hair, like the AquaBliss High Output Revitalizing Shower Filter ($36). This is a renter-friendly option to reduce the concentration of these minerals in the water you use to wash your hair.

You’ll know you have hard water if you see a white buildup on your faucet or white spots on your glasses when they come out of the dishwasher.

As well as using a chelating shampoo to remove the mineral deposits from your hair, installing a shower head filter is an inexpensive way to reduce the mineral levels in the water.

Improper Washing Routine

why does my hair feel waxy after washing

Regular hair washing is essential to prevent waxy-feeling hair.

It helps eliminate excess oil or product buildup from your scalp and hair. However, over-washing or using very hot water can lead to scalp issues, prompting the sebaceous glands to produce more natural oils, resulting in greasy hair.

It’s important to find a balance in your washing routine. Washing your hair too frequently or using harsh shampoos can make oily hair and scalp worse.

Opt for a washing frequency that suits your hair type, whether it’s every other day or twice weekly. Ensure thorough rinsing to prevent shampoo and conditioner buildup.

Consider the number of times you cleanse during each wash, especially if washing less frequently.

Double-shampooing may be necessary to remove all products and waxy buildup effectively, as the first wash may not fully eliminate residues.

Avoid washing your hair with hot water, as it can contribute to waxy buildup. Proper rinsing to remove all traces of conditioner and shampoo is essential.

Using the appropriate cleansing products for your hair type is also crucial to prevent waxy buildup and excess oil production.

Related Post: How Often Should You Wash Natural Low Porosity Hair?

Environmental Factors

When you’re enjoying a swim in the pool, be aware of how environmental factors can affect the feel of your hair.

While chlorine and pool water are major culprits for that waxy texture on your hair, other environmental factors can also contribute to waxy-feeling hair.

One common environmental factor that can leave your hair with waxy residue is hard water.

Hard water contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can build up on your hair over time.

This mineral buildup creates a waxy residue that leaves your hair feeling rough and coated.

Consider using a chelating shampoo or installing a water softener in your home to combat this issue as I mentioned above. Additionally, apple cider vinegar rinses can help remove mineral deposits.

Excessive exposure to sunlight can also cause your hair to feel waxy.

UV rays from the sun can strip away natural oils from your hair, leaving you with brittle and dry hair.

In response to this dryness, your sebaceous glands may produce more oil than usual, resulting in that waxy texture.

Protecting your hair from the sun by wearing a hat or using hair care products with SPF can help prevent this issue and maintain healthy hair.

Another environmental factor to consider is pollution. When pollutants like dust, dirt, and smoke accumulate on your scalp and hair strands, they mix with natural oils and create a sticky feeling.

This waxy residue not only makes your hair feel waxy but also weighs it down and makes it appear dull.

Regularly washing and conditioning your hair will help remove these pollutants and keep them from building up.

Due To Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal imbalances can contribute to a waxy texture in your hair, so it’s important to maintain a healthy hormone balance for healthy hair and a healthy scalp.

Hormones play a crucial role in the overall health of our bodies, and when they are out of balance, they can affect various aspects, including our hair.

One common hormonal imbalance that can lead to waxy hair is an excess of sebum production.

Sebum is the natural oil produced by our sebaceous glands to keep our hair moisturized. However, when there is an overproduction of sebum due to hormonal fluctuations, it can make your hair feel greasy and waxy.

Thyroid dysfunction is another hormonal imbalance that can affect your hair texture. The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism and growth.

When there’s an imbalance in thyroid hormone levels, it can result in dryness or excessive oiliness in the scalp, leading to waxy hair.

Additionally, hormonal changes during puberty or menopause can impact the texture of your hair.

These transitional phases come with significant shifts in hormone levels, which may cause changes such as increased oil production or dryness. As a result, you may experience waxy-feeling hair.

To address hormonal imbalances affecting your hair texture, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional who specializes in endocrinology or dermatology.

They can help identify any underlying conditions causing these imbalances and develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

This may include lifestyle changes, a balanced diet, or specific hair care products such as sulfate-free shampoos and deep cleansing shampoos to manage excess oil and waxy buildup.

Using natural shampoos and avoiding harsh chemicals like lauryl sulfate can also help maintain healthy hair.

Incorporating products like apple cider vinegar rinses or chelating shampoos can assist in removing product buildup and mineral deposits from hard water, further preventing a waxy feeling.

Ensuring proper rinsing of hair care products with warm water, and using soft water if possible, can also make a significant difference in how your hair feels.

You Don’t Have A Balanced Diet

A balanced diet is vital for healthy hair. Junk food and fatty foods contain saturated and trans fats, which can cause inflamed and oily skin, leading to excess oil production on your scalp and contributing to greasy hair and a waxy texture.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet and drinking enough water will help your body regulate sebum production and promote a healthy scalp.

Incorporating natural products and essential oils into your hair care routine can also support hair health and reduce the risk of waxy buildup and oily hair.

You Have A Medical Condition

Medical conditions that can cause a waxy buildup include:

  • Fungal or bacterial infections
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis

Certain medications like steroids and birth control pills can cause your sebaceous glands to increase sebum production.

Additionally, high levels of stress can cause your body to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, leading to an increase in natural oils on your scalp.

If you’ve ruled out every other possible cause, your general practitioner, a dermatologist, or a trichologist may be able to find and treat the cause of your excessive oil production and waxy-feeling hair.

It’s essential to address any underlying medical conditions to maintain healthy hair and prevent issues like product buildup, greasy roots, and a waxy texture.

How To Get Rid Of Waxy Hair Fast!

Not only is waxy hair unpleasant to touch and look at, but the buildup prevents water from penetrating your hair.

As a result, you may find your hair becoming more dry, brittle, and prone to breakage. Here are a few different ways to address waxy hair:

Use a Clarifying Shampoo

Clarifying shampoos, also called purifying or deep cleansing shampoos, are among the most effective ways to treat waxy hair or greasy hair.

They are specifically designed to cut through product buildup and leave behind hair that is soft and clean.

Because they’re much stronger than regular shampoo, they are usually used only once or twice a month to remove significant buildup.

Related Post: 33 Best Clarifying Shampoos for Natural Hair

Change Your Diet

Healthy hair starts from the inside out.

Unhealthy and fatty foods can cause your scalp to produce excess oil (sebum) that leads to a waxy buildup.

Avoiding junk food, getting enough water, and eating more healthy fruits and vegetables can help your body better regulate its sebum production and maintain a balanced diet for healthy hair.

Change Your Hair Products

If your hair products are leaving behind a waxy film, consider using fewer products or switching them out entirely.

When applying hair care products, remember that less is usually more.

Use only the recommended amount, usually a coin-sized dollop, to prevent unnecessary product buildup.

You can also switch to lighter, water-based formulas and avoid additives like silicone, petroleum, heavy oils, and wax.

Wash Your Hair More Thoroughly

The first step to shampooing properly is to make sure your hair is fully saturated with water.

Once your hair is soaking wet, apply shampoo to your entire scalp and crown and gently massage it with your fingertips.

If you use a lot of leave-in conditioner or other leave-in products, you may want to consider shampooing your hair twice in a row.

When you move onto your conditioner, focus on the mid-lengths and ends of your hair. Your scalp doesn’t actually need conditioner because it produces its own natural oils.

Most importantly, pay extra attention and don’t rush through rinsing your hair. You want to make sure you’re removing as much shampoo and conditioner as possible.

Related Post: How To Clarify Curly Hair & How Often You Should Be

Get a Filtered Showerhead

If you think hard water is the culprit behind the waxy buildup on your hair, consider installing a filtered showerhead.

The filter will trap or neutralize the buildup-promoting minerals before they have a chance to settle on your hair.

Over time, you’ll notice an improvement in the look and feel of both your hair and skin.

Try a DIY Treatment

DIY treatments can be an affordable and gentle way to address waxy buildup. Here are some of the more popular and effective treatments for waxy hair:

Baking soda rinse:

Baking soda is made up of a naturally clarifying compound called sodium bicarbonate. To use baking soda as a hair treatment:

  • Mix 2 parts baking soda with 1 part water.
  • Saturate your hair with warm water and spread the paste over your hair in a thick layer.
  • Leave the paste on for up to half an hour before rinsing your hair thoroughly with warm water.
  • Shampoo and condition your hair as normal.

Apple cider vinegar rinse:

Due to its acidic nature, vinegar is able to cut through waxy buildup. Apple cider vinegar is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, which can also treat the root cause of your waxy buildup.

To do an apple cider vinegar hair rinse:

  • Mix 2 parts water to 1 part apple cider vinegar.
  • After shampooing, saturate your hair and scalp with the vinegar solution by pouring it on or using a spray bottle.
  • Let the mixture sit on your hair for up to five minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
  • Follow up with your normal conditioner, and style your hair as usual.

Dish Soap (Total Last Resort!)

Dish soap is known for its ability to cut through tough grease and waxy buildup. To give it a try:

  • Apply a quarter-sized dollop of dish soap to soaking wet hair and work it into a lather.
  • Once your hair is sufficiently lathered, rinse the soap off with warm water and follow up with your preferred conditioner.
  • You may want to use a deep conditioner or let your normal conditioner sit for an extra 10 minutes to help compensate for any moisture loss.

Related Post: 15 DIY Protein Hair Masks & Treatments For Damaged Hair

Seek Medical Advice

If your waxy buildup is caused by a medical condition like seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis, your best course of action is to contact a qualified medical professional.

Reach out to a dermatologist, a trichologist, or your general practitioner to help identify and treat the cause of your waxy buildup.

They can help manage scalp conditions, hormonal imbalances, and other factors that might be contributing to your hair issues.

FAQ: Why Does My Hair Feel Waxy & Sticky After Washing?

Why does my hair feel waxy right after washing?

Waxy hair after washing is often due to leftover residue from shampoos or conditioners. Ensure you thoroughly rinse out all products.

Can hard water cause my hair to feel sticky?

Yes, hard water contains minerals that can stick to your hair, making it feel waxy. Using a water softener or clarifying shampoo can help.

Is product buildup a reason for my waxy hair?

Absolutely. Over time, heavy products like gels, creams, and sprays can build up, leading to a sticky or waxy feeling.

Could my shampoo be the culprit?

Sometimes, yes. Shampoos with heavy silicones or other ingredients can leave a residue. Switching to a lighter, clarifying shampoo might help.

How does infrequent washing affect my hair texture?

Washing your hair infrequently can allow oils and product buildup to accumulate, causing a waxy texture. Regular washing can help maintain a cleaner feel.

Does improper rinsing cause waxy hair?

Improper rinsing can definitely leave residue in your hair. Make sure to rinse thoroughly to avoid this issue.

Can my hair type influence how it feels after washing?

Yes, some hair types are more prone to feeling waxy, especially if they are fine or prone to oiliness. Tailoring your hair care routine to your specific hair type can make a difference.

Does using too much conditioner make my hair waxy?

Using too much conditioner or not rinsing it out completely can leave a waxy residue. Use a smaller amount and make sure to rinse well.

Are there any home remedies for waxy hair?

Apple cider vinegar rinses can help remove residue and restore shine. Mix one part vinegar with three parts water and rinse after shampooing.

Should I avoid certain hair products to prevent waxy hair?

Avoid products with heavy silicones and waxes. Opt for lightweight, water-soluble products that won’t build up on your hair.

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