Regardless of texture or length, the unavoidable side effect of hair styling is buildup. Whether you’re reapplying an itch spray to box braids or extending the length of beach waves with a sea salt spray, the scalp ends up littered with a mix of the product and whatever natural sebum (oil) is produced. If it weren’t for product buildup products, we’d be drowning in gook and washing our hair everyday.
Though apple cider vinegar has long been a remedy for zapping bacteria and delivering anti-fungal properties to the skin, its popularity within hair care has skyrocketed in recent years. Understandably so, it does a lot. Not only is it rich in the vitamins our strands need for a brighter shine; its natural acidic levels can also aid in balancing the scalp’s pH levels without over-drying. Now, with an innumerable amount of ACV formulas out there–from hair rinses to dry shampoo–it would be easy to assume that it’s the only solution for product buildup.
However, for those who find ACV to be irritating or off-putting, there are indeed other equally effective options. Like this all-natural, DIY-friendly ingredient, charcoal is also a detoxifier that relieves itchiness and literally acts as a magnet for dirt particles. Witch hazel, whose feel is similar to ACV, is ideal for soaking up excess oil like it does for the face. And let’s not overlook the number of oils, such as tea tree, that can provide the clarifying effects of a shampoo in between washes. If you’re not quite buying into the ACV hype, here are some alternatives that work just as well.
amika Reset Pink Charcoal Scalp Cleansing Oil
If you’re addicted to dry shampoo, consider this a mid-week pick-me-up. Infused with pink clay and charcoal, the oil-to-foam formula will sop up whatever buildup is sitting at your roots.
$25 at amika
Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment
If you’re dealing with an incessant itch on top of buildup, this serum literally does it all thanks to a wide-ranging mix of ingredients. The key ones however are Binchotan charcoal for eliminating buildup, peppermint and spearmint oils for itch and tea tree oil for inflammation.
$32 at Briogeo
DevaCurl Buildup Buster Micellar Water Cleansing Serum
A revolutionary find for curly hair, this serum is basically a gentler version of a clarifying shampoo for giving dull hair a dose of mojo. The micellar water is what’s drawing buildup away from the scalp, while abyssinian seed oil and jojoba returns moisture.
$28 at DevaCurl
IGK First Class Charcoal Detox Dry Shampoo
On the other hand, if you’ve yet to add a dry shampoo to your regimen, we recommend starting with this clarifying option. When applied to the roots, its charcoal powder-infused formula will lift dirt from the scalp while white tea powder calms irritation.
$27 at IGK Hair
Bumble and bumble Bb. Scalp Detox
This lightweight foam is the pre-cleanse treatment you need when styling products have wreaked havoc on your hair and scalp. While micellar water cleanses the scalp, salicylic acid removes dead skin cells so you can truly start fresh.
$34 at Bumble and bumble.
Not Your Mother’s Naturals Activated Bamboo Charcoal & Purple Moonstone Scalp Scrub
For those who enjoy the feeling of a physical exfoliant, this gentle, pre-shampoo option is the buildup buster you need. In addition to the jojoba wax beads which supply that scrubbing feel, there’s also charcoal for eliminating excess grease.
$8.99 at Ulta
Ouai Scalp & Body Scrub
We stan a multi-tasker! This hair and body product doesn’t contain charcoal or AVC. However, it does contain sugar crystals for exfoliation, coconut oil for hydration and a probiotic blend to protect against future inflammation.
$38 at Ouai
Act + Acre Cold Processed Scalp Detox
This weekly detox treatment includes basil leaf, a natural source of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
$42 at Violet Grey
SheaMoisture Purifying & Hydrating Build-Up Blaster
No rinse required when you use this micellar-like formula to lift dirt and absorb oil (charcoal) while also delivering hydration (green coconut) and nourishing the scalp (white tea).
$11.49 at Ulta
Unwash Balancing Scalp Serum
Though the main job of this leave-in treatment is to reduce flaking, its formula also contains tea tree oil and citric acid, two ingredients that aid in removing bacteria and dead skin cells respectively.
$22 at Ulta