by Elle of Quest for the Perfect Curl
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.