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No More White Flakes! 5 Tips to Keep Product Residue Out of Your Hair

Avatar • Jun 5, 2014

by Elle of Quest for the Perfect Curl

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Flaky hair is probably the natural woman’s biggest nightmare…well, at least mine (that and dry hair). I’m not talking about “my leave‐in and styler didn’t mix and now I have white chunks” flakes. I’m referring to, “my hair looked like thebomb.com while it was drying but I touched it once it dried and now my shoulders look like the North Pole,” flakes. I find these flakes much more offensive because they show up when you think your style is already in the clear. You’re ready to go out and look fly, then decide that one final hair fluff is all you need and… flakes!

Izzy (my hair), is known to have this issue on occasion, which has resulted in me becoming a master in the art of stealthy bathroom applications of oil and/or water to my hair. After one particularly painful episode, I decided that I needed to get to the root of the problem so I could take the proper preventative measures and never have to wipe my leather jacket with a damp paper towel again. Here’s what I found out.

Basically, you get white flakes due to the polymers (e.g., PVP) in your gel reacting with other products, but also with the air (which is why you may see more issues during winter or in very dry climates). I’ll spare you the super scientific explanation. In a nutshell, it’s possible to avoid white flakes if your product ingredients are balanced (yay, more ingredients research!). It may sound like a pain, but it’s really simple. Since I’ve adopted the following practices into my regimen (and remain cognizant of them), I’ve been flake free!

  • Rinse your cleanser and rinse out conditioners thoroughly. Sure, this seems obvious, but how many times have you left that last little bit of conditioner in your hair because it felt so good? Or you’re just in a hurry and realize that you didn’t rinse as well as you thought you did when you get to styling. Avoid the later rework and hop back in the shower to rinse completely.
  • Give your leave‐in some time to settle, especially during winter, so you aren’t layering products one instantly after the other. I’ve found it beneficial to apply my leave‐in in the shower and let it sit for about ten to fifteen minutes before applying my gel.
  • Cleanse properly! If you are a regular gel user, you may need more than a conditioner rinse to properly cleanse your hair. There are plenty of gentle cleansers, like Ouidad Curl Cowash, Coco Curls Hydrating Shampoo, and B.A.S.K. Fatty Coconut Cleansing Hair Froth (some of my recent faves) that should get the gunk out without drying your hair.
  • Look for lighter hold gels with more flexible polymers than PVP, such as PVP/VA copolymer or acrylates copolymer. These are supposedly more balanced ingredients that will give your hair the proper hold without flaking. So if you’re having troubles with Ecostyler, try a more natural alternative or make your own flax seed gel.
  • Work product into hair thoroughly and don’t use too much. While smoothing product down my strands, I often twist my hair (not a two‐strand twist) from root to tip, which helps distribute product so I don’t feel like I need to use more.

Hopefully the above tips will have you waking up flakeless, but if you see some white gremlins pop up from time to time, remember that you can use a light oil to help absorb the flakes or lightly wet your hair. Just make sure you aren’t walking around with uber greasy or dripping wet hair when applying these quick fixes.

So, what are your tips and tricks for avoiding flakes?

About Elle: Elle is the owner and editor of Quest for the Perfect Curl, a collaborative YouTube channel and blog dedicated to promoting healthy hair through research and the sharing of information. A former product junkie, Elle promotes the importance of product ingredients, knowing your hair properties, and your climate when choosing what products to use on your natural hair. She also frequently explores healthy hair care practices and methods to achieve the “perfect curl,” which to her is big, healthy hair.

 

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Miss Mo
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Miss Mo

I can’t stand white/gray residue or flakes in my hair. And that white/gray cast I get from some products make me cringe. Arrrrghhh.

Great tips. Thanks much. 🙂

reese
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reese

I can definetly relate to 1 and 3 in the above article. Not rinsing out my conditioner thoroughly causes flakes especially on my temple areas. Also not cleansing thoroughly‐ like co‐washing instead of shampooing (because I forgot all the products I used in my hair for the last week +) has the potential to make my wash n’ go -go south quick.

zawadi
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zawadi

Oooh I hadn’t thought of that (flakes caused by co‐washing first).. I prefer co‐washing coz I live in a very dry climate, but I’ll remember to do an ACV rinse first before using my flax seed gel on my next wash day.. which is tomorrow! 🙂

kukua
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kukua

Dear friends pls i need your help.i have a hard time moisturizing my hair. I did the porosity test and my hair floated meaning low porosity besides products and oils just sit on my hair making it dry and cruncy but the problem is my hair drys reali fast.after i wash and condition within an 30mins my hair will be dry. I heard low porosity takes forever to dry once the moisture is in? I use warm water,steam and baggying to moisturize my hair it will be nice and soft bt it drys super fast and the softness doesnt last… Read more »

Dananana
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Dananana

I don’t know my porosity, but I don’t believe in the sink‐or‐float tests because of this write‐up Jc of Natural Haven did: http://www.thenaturalhavenbloom.com/2013/01/junk-science-hair-porosity-tests-float.html Constantly dry hair can happen for a multitude of reasons (e.g. diet/meds, lack of clarifying, protein sensitivity, etc.), so it might take you a bit to figure out what exactly is causing you woe : Try changing one thing at a time in your regimen for a period of at least a week to see if you can ferret out the culprit. Since you may be lo‐po, I would check your product labels and take a break… Read more »

Miss Mo
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Miss Mo

Hi Kukua, Awww you sound so not happy with your hair moisture. Well here are a few tips I recommend based on what I read: Try Prepoo‐ing with coconut oil or shea butter for 2hours — overnight before you shampoo. Use Apple Cider Vinegar mixed with water to rinse your hair instead of shampooing periodically When you shampoo use sulfate‐free shampoo Reduce your shampoo usage. Co‐wash more often. You may shampoo with warm water but rinse out conditioner with cool/cold water. Use leave‐in conditioner before you apply oils or styling products. Do deep conditioning weekly or bi‐weekly with heat for… Read more »

Persistence
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Persistence
Bri
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Bri

Kukua, I used to have this same issue when I first big chopped my hair. I began to make a mixture of my normal conditioner (Pantene‐for relaxed hair: I already had this so I didn’t want to buy a new one) and water and put it in a spray bottle. I used that mixture and spritzed it on my hair 3 or more times a day. It really added a lot of moisture to my hair. Now, my moisture levels are great and I only use my conditioner/water spritz in the morning to freshen my curls and at night before… Read more »

Christine O
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Christine O

I also have low porosity hair and the thing that has helped me SO much and made a serious difference is the Maximum Hydration Method. Been doing it for 8 months‐ never going back. It’s the basis of my hair care. If I don’t do this, I’ll go back to rockin’ a fade cut.

Krystan
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Krystan

U have some type of hair damage like heat chemical or shedding and u need to cut your hair asap no hair products will fix it

Gillian
Guest

I agree with “Cleanse properly!” I tried solely co‐washing for a period of time. Initially my hair was very moisturized but eventually I had produt buildup. I was called out by a friend who said my hair looked “dusty.”

Womp womp. She was right though. I now make sure to shampoo once a week to prevent buildup.

I also prefer gel‐based products. They don’t seem to leave a residue like cream‐based styling products.

db
Guest
db

Someone did a video about this. If you’re using multiple products, you can rub them together on your hand to see if it starts to form clumps and flaking.

Jave
Guest

Great tips. Lately I’ve been applying a moisturizer in between my leave in conditioner and gel layers. I find this helps with any regular conditioner residue.

Natasha
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Natasha

For some reason, I’m more likely to get flakes if I use a hair dryer rather than air drying. Maybe it has something to do with giving the product time to settle into your hair (as mentioned). IDK.

Erin
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Erin

Thank you for your help. I have been having problems( it is winter by the way) and now I feel better that I know what is going on thank you so much for your help

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[…] refreshing my curls I do  use a leave in conditioner at times but  you have to look out for flaking.  Flaking can occur from  over layering your products through out the week. My solution for […]

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