What To Do About Extreme Product Buildup in Locs?

I am sure you have heard this before— “buildup is NOT something that you want in your locs!” This includes lint buildup, biological buildup and especially product buildup. But what you don’t often hear is that you can get product buildup in your locs from even the most natural ingredients. Many people assume that product buildup is a result of using unnatural products, but really it is a result of improper usage. Take a look at this image:

starter locs coated with product buildup

Photo from Instagram


This photo of starter locs coated with, for lack of a better word, gunk, is an example of extreme product buildup. And guess what?! One of the main products used here was natural shea butter. And to add insult to injury, as the saying goes, extra hold styling gel was also used. *insert face palm emoji* But the good news is that, even if you’re facing extreme product buildup like this, there are solutions!

3 Ways To Remove Extreme Product Buildup

These solutions are in no particular order, however I would highly encourage you to develop a treatment plan that will work best for you if you find that you have extreme buildup in your locs. Using any of the suggestions that I mention below without professional guidance are at your own risk.

Loc Detox. This a a very common solution to removing product buildup from locs. A detox will help to pull products, oils, dirt and debris to the surface of the locs or break them down enough to be washed away. I go into full detail about detoxing locs in this article “Frequently Asked Questions About Detoxing Locs”. What is most important to note here is that there is more than one technique for successfully detoxing locs. The ingredients and application of the detox will make the difference between beneficial and damaging. I share several recipes for detoxifying locs in the “Detox Your Locs Recipe Guide”.

RELATED ARTICLE: Why I Detox My Locs, Even Without Seeing Buildup


Detergent vs. Soap vs. Shampoo. Another solution to removing buildup in locs is during the cleansing process. Hence, why I always recommend the usage of a clarifying shampoo, at minimum, whenever you wash your locs. However when you are facing extreme buildup you may have to pull in some heavy hitters— like detergent or soap. Specifically, I am referring to Dawn Dish Liquid and Castile Soap. I know, I know you’re like WTF?! But to be clear here, I do not recommend the use of either of these on a regular basis, only extreme cases may benefit from their usage. I won’t get all scientific here but if you’re trying to remove buildup that is heavy enough to clog a sink drain [see image below] shampoo is not going to cut it.

product buildup clogging the salon sink drain

Photo from Instagram


RELATED ARTICLE: Using Dawn Dish Liquid As A Shampoo


Renewal. Lastly, if you are experiencing extreme product buildup and you’ve tried solutions to no avail or don’t feel like doing the work to remove it, you can restart. Trust me, it feels so much better. Restarting your journey knowing what you know now is such a great feeling— probably why I’ve done it twice before. Please know though that if your locs are weighed down with product buildup it may be difficult to comb them out and retain length, instead cut them off at the healthiest/product-free area and start from there.

Moving forward, I encourage you to use your products with purpose and avoid the use of heavy products on your locs. PSA: just because a product worked well in your loose natural hair, it does not mean that it is acceptable for your locs. You can avoid all of the different types of buildup by being intentional about what you’re using on your locs and when. As always, if you need support with your regimen, you can always reach out to me to schedule virtual consultation.

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Jocelyn Reneé

Jocelyn Reneé is a Licensed Cosmetologist, Loctician and Textured Hair Educator. She was born and raised in the Washington DC area and is a graduate of the Aveda Institute Cosmetology Science program. With over 14 years in the Hair Care Industry, from Salon Assistant to Natural Hair Blogger to Professional; Jocelyn is passionate about cultivating healthy hair.

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