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Why Does My Hair Feel Waxy? After Washing? After Drying?

Sun-kissed black female with curly hair follicles and an oily scalp standing outside.

If you have ever wondered why your hair feels waxy, you’re certainly not the only one. Waxy hair can prevent you from feeling and looking your best – it may even be an indication of a serious underlying condition.

In this article, we will look at some of the most common causes of oily, greasy, and waxy hair and their potential solutions.

Why Does My Hair Feel Waxy? 8 Reasons

The first step in getting rid of waxy hair is pinpointing what might be causing it. Several factors could cause that waxy gunk on your strands, and we’ll take a look at all of them below. Let’s get right into it.  

Lady standing outside with a naturally curly hair type recently washed with dry shampoo.
  1. Product buildup. Hairstyling products can collect on your hair and leave behind a waxy residue. Product ingredients like silicones, polymers, and oils are water-resistant and cling tightly to each strand of hair. This buildup can make your hair feel waxy, brittle, or greasy even after washing. 
  2. Health issues. An underlying medical condition might be the culprit behind the waxy buildup on your hair. Common causes include:
    1. Hormonal imbalances
    2. Skin conditions
    3. Fungal or bacterial infections
  3. Certain medications. Some medications can cause your hair to become waxier. Medications like steroids, blood thinners, and birth control can cause your body to produce too much oil. This excess oil coats your hair, making it feel stiff or waxy.
  4. Damaged 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 you notice a waxy film, it may indicate damaged hair.
  5. Environmental pollution. When your scalp is exposed to high levels of pollution, it may start secreting more oil as a way to protect itself. Some forms of air pollution can even bind to your hair and cause a waxy film to develop.
  6. Hard Water. Many homes in America have hard water. Hard water contains high levels of dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium. These minerals can collect on your hair and leave behind a residue that feels waxy or sticky.
  7. Stress.Stress impacts nearly every part of your body, inside and out. High levels of stress cause your body to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol. And excess cortisol can lead to higher levels of sebum (scalp oil) production, which can produce a wax-like hair coating. 
  8. Improper washing. Washing your hair with piping hot water, not fully rinsing away conditioner or shampoo, and using the wrong type of cleansing products can all contribute to waxy buildup. Doing so could leave products and oils behind or signal your scalp to produce more oils. 

Get Rid of Waxy Hair Fast

Cute black girl with oily hair wearing a dressy short set while leaning against a tree outside.

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.

Note: Clarifying shampoo can be used more frequently on straight or fine hair because the scalp’s natural sebum is more likely to “coat” the entire hair strand. However, if you have wavy or curly hair monitor your usage of clarifying shampoo very carefully. For textured hair types, too frequent hair washes can lead to excessive dryness.

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.

Young black girl wearing a stylish dress sitting outside on a park bench.

Change Your Hair Products 

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

Attractive black female with curly fine hair and a waxy scalp squatting outside for a photo.

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

Black girl with wavy limp hair due to a hormone imbalance poses for a photographer.

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.

  1. Baking soda rinse. Baking soda is made up of a naturally clarifying compound called sodium bicarbonate. To use baking soda as a hair treatment:
    1. Mix 2 parts baking soda with 1 part water. 
    2. Saturate your hair with warm water and spread the paste over your hair in a thick layer. 
    3. Leave the paste on for up to half an hour before rinsing your hair thoroughly with warm water. 
    4. Shampoo and condition your hair as normal.
  2. Apple cider vinegar rinse. Due to its acidic nature, vinegar is able to cut through waxy buildup. Because apple cider vinegar is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, it can also treat the root cause of your waxy buildup. To do an apple cider vinegar hair rinse:
    1. Mix 2 parts water to 1 part apple cider vinegar. 
    2. After shampooing, saturate your hair and scalp with the vinegar solution by pouring it on or using a spray bottle. 
    3. Let the mixture sit on your hair for up to five minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
    4. Follow up with your normal conditioner, and style your hair as usual.
  3. Dish soap. Dish soap is known for its ability to cut through tough grease and waxy buildup. To give it a try:
    1. Apply a quarter-sized dollop of dish soap to soaking wet hair and work it into a lather. 
    2. Once your hair is sufficiently lathered, rinse the soap off with warm water and follow up with your preferred conditioner. 
    3. 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.

Note: Dish soap can be extremely drying and strip your hair of its natural oils. Only use this method if you have a stubborn buildup that resists the other methods, and do not use this method more than once a month. Click here to learn more about how to use dish soap within your natural hair regimen.

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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.

Related Articles

Waxy buildup on your hair can be unpleasant and lead to significant hair damage over time. Luckily, it’s rarely permanent and can usually be prevented by making small changes to your hair care routine.

We hope this article has provided you with the tools needed to identify and treat the causes of your waxy hair.