My hair is ...sticky?
January 10, 2019 2:26 PM   Subscribe

My hair used to be sleek and shiny and like wouldn't knot ever, like a hair commercial. I could tie my hair in a literal knot and it was just go NOPE and slide apart. BUT for the past year and a half ish it's gotten more and more disagreeable. It's tangly, what my stylist calls "sticky." Like it just WANTS to bond and interweave with itself. We're at a standstill in our troubleshooting. Ideas?

Talking to my stylist, she's recommended vinegar rinses because of my very mineral-y water, and I've switched to a sulfate free conditioner.

My hair is otherwise happy and healthy. Minimal split ends. I don't use products or heat to style. I have shoulder-blade length straight hair. Fine, but lots of it. I understand that hair can change over time, but I'd love to have my shiny sleek locks back!

I have also within that time moved to a considerably dryer climate, which could be a factor.

Open to affordable products and treatments, or dietary advice.

I'm not going to start blow-drying my hair or styling it. I'm a wash-and-wear gal, but I would spend some time on like a hair mask if you have one to recommend.
posted by Grandysaur to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
considerably dryer climate, which could be a factor.

Yep, certainly so.

Also, you’re older, and hair generally gets different (and ‘worse’ in youth-obsessed cultures) as we age.

I’d recommend a leave-in oil product.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:47 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

You might have a mineral buildup that vinegar isn't sufficient to remove, especially if your new climate also includes new water. Try using filtered or distilled water and a chelating shampoo to wash and rinse your hair.

If you have no luck with changing your water and shampoo, look into the possibility of protein overload. Many "moisturizing" shampoos contain proteins which can build up and cause dryness and stickiness. If your shampoos and conditioners have any proteins in them, switch for a couple of months to protein-free moisturizers.

Finally, if you've switched from a silicone to non-silicone conditioner, switch back and see what happens.
posted by windykites at 3:02 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Also, this ‘stickiness’ is about the condition of the cuticle; smooth cuticles slide against each other, rough cuticles catch and make frizz and felt and dreadlocks and yarn etc.
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:05 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]

Oh also! You might actually need the sulfates from time to time, to adequately cleanse your hair. Try and see.
posted by windykites at 3:05 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Climate and water, for sure. Maybe age, but when I went back east for the holidays my old hair magically came back!

I'd recommend a shower head filter; we have one similar to this and it's greatly improved the shininess of my hair (and the itchiness of my skin!). You might also consider a hard water shampoo; I use it every three shampoos and I haven't noticed it stripping my color if you're worried about that.

Finally, as much as it sucks in the winter, finish your shower with a cold water rinse on your hair. For me that makes a huge difference in how shiny my hair is.
posted by stellaluna at 3:06 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]

Hair has a grain to it, you can tell which way is with the grain (cuticle) or not. Dry climate may be making the grain lift. I use a silicone based shine product in my very frizzy hair; it coats the hair and makes it slipperier, also shinier, which is nice. Those tv ads where the model's hair flows like silk? Silicone. Don't go overboard our it will feel greasy.
posted by theora55 at 3:06 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]

Have you added deep conditioning to your routine? Also look for high-protein repair treatment products. Most often they're loaded with keratin and can help repair a damaged cuticle. I love the old-school Joico K-Pak Reconstructor. Products geared toward repairing damaging chemical processing (like heavy bleaching or perming) is what you want to look for. I've also heard great things about Olaplex from friends who have damaging hair color processing. Repair and deep condition before you start having breakage!
posted by quince at 4:00 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

I tried using sulfate-free, silicone-free products for a while and my hair threw a fit about it--they're supposedly "better" for your hair but most of them make my shoulder length hair completely unmanageable (also fine but lots of it). I have had good luck with either L'Oreal Everpure products (which are sulfate-free) or Herbal Essences Bio:renew (which definitely have sulfates). I also like to do a deep conditioner once a week or so, look for moisture-based instead of protein-based formulas--you only need protein-based formulas if you have been damaging your hair with color treatments, bleach, heat, etc, otherwise you want to avoid using protein as it will make your hair feel drier. If your hair strands aren't breaking or stretching what you need is moisture, instead.
posted by impishoptimist at 4:06 PM on January 10

I like this Trader Joe's hair mask; as others have said, it is likely that your hair cuticle is lifted and your hair is a bit dry.
posted by assenav at 4:25 PM on January 10

I wonder if you have hard water at your new place. That can really rough up your hair. You can get a test kit to find out, and if so, you may want to consider adding a water softening device to your shower.
posted by ananci at 4:45 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

I am at a certain age (I'd say this started around 39, but even then my hair slipperiness was obviously lower to me than it was in my early 30s) where I have to dye my hair to get anything like that texture, and it's really obvious when my haircolor has gotten old and it needs to be done again.

(It's still never the shiny gloriousness of my early 30s, though.)
posted by Lyn Never at 4:48 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Have you changed medications or supplements lately? I know my friend says Metformin makes her hair greasy, for instance.
posted by mermaidcafe at 6:54 PM on January 10

I had this problem and when I switched to a silicone free shampoo, it went away. My shampoo does have sulphates in it, but not silicones. There are a million different ingredients that end in -cone that are all basically the same thing.
posted by mai at 8:22 PM on January 10

I have fine straight hair and use pretty unfriendly hair products (trying to manage my rogue scalp). Recently I've been applying a couple of drops of hyaluronic acid and then a small amount of Moroccan Argan Oil treatment while it is still wet after washing, mainly to the ends. The treatment has a lot of silicone in it,
and I'm not sure if the Hyaluronic Acid really makes a difference (hair is dead, after all), but the combination makes my hair manageable and beautifully shiny.
posted by Cheese Monster at 9:20 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

If you don't want a leave-in oil, a pre-wash oil treatment once every week or two can work wonders. I use Dabur Amla oil, but plain olive oil warmed in the microwave works well too - apply an hour or two before hair washing, put on a cap or just put your hair up and be careful not to lean anything, add an extra shampoo cycle to wash it out.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:55 PM on January 10

I had this happen recently (over the last two years) and discovered it was due to a few reasons:

Using conditioners and hair products with protein.
Iron deficiency.

There's nothing I could do about the perimenopause (I'm in my mid-40s), but I used a clarifying shampoo to strip the protein buildup first and then stopped using shampoos and conditioners with protein and it helped a ton. You have to really scan the ingredients because there are some different terms that get used: hydrolyzed collagen, wheat protein, quinoa protein, soy protein, rice protein, silk protein, keratin, oat flour, amino acids. I'm a very careful label reader now, and the hair care products I use are moisturizing instead.

When I discovered I had iron deficiency I started taking a supplement. That too has helped a lot. However, aging and hormones have definitely made my hair more wavy, drier, and less shiny than it used to be.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:25 PM on January 10

However, I have discovered one product that has made my hair much more manageable: Davines' OI Oil. Drawbacks: it's expensive and I'm not crazy about the scent. But the scent fades enough that I can live with it, and as for the expense, one bottle lasted me two years of daily use with two pumps per day (my hair is bra strap length). So you won't need to buy it constantly. It does have a type of silicone in it but I don't use shampoo with sulfates, and even so it's never built up on my hair.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:38 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

For the disagreeable and tangly part maybe No Poo. You don't product and don't style and don't blow and are wash and wear. Neither do I. It takes a couple of weeks to work, but just baking soda and cider vinegar make my hair lovely soft and fun to touch.

It may or may not be your thing. I travel with baking soda and vinegar because shampoo and conditioner make my hair sound like yours now. Not sure about the shine and shimmer part but the WTF is my hair doing to me bit goes away with not using shampoo/conditioner. YMMV.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:05 AM on January 11

Sticky, velcroey hair = build up, both product build up (could even be from your conditioner!) and hard water build up, which is why your hairdresser suggested a vinegar rinse.

Sulphates are detergent agents found in shampoos, so I think you're talking about a silicone free conditioner. Silicone free conditioners are fine, but they won't do much for your hair if your hair is all gunked up from hard water and product build up.

Get yourself a clarifying shampoo, like Neutrogena. You'll need to use a pretty rich conditioner afterwards, but it'll actually condition your hair once you get rid of the build up. In the medium-term, using vinegar rinse (I just put a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar in a coffee mug, fill it up with shower water after shampooing, dump over my head, then rinse again) will help with the hard water issue.

If you're using sulphate free shampoo, I'd strongly suggest using a sulphate-y clarifying shampoo once every week or so (depending on how often you wash your hair) to keep the buildup at bay.
posted by nerdfish at 2:37 AM on January 11

On the hard water note: I used to go to a curl-only hairdresser and her stance was "don't buy a single product I'm selling in here until you've gotten a filtering showerhead because hard/city water ruins everything". This was back when the only couple of options were not necessarily going to fit the rest of one's showerhead preferences, but now you can buy inline filters so you can you use fixtures of your choice and the water just passes through it on the way.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:53 AM on January 11

I've tried bunches of remedies for my dull hair problems, including vinegar, yogurt, honey, clarifying shampoo, deep conditioners, glossing at the salon. The best by far has been a salon keratin treatment (Brazilian Blowout). I've had them done at a salon for about $300/treatment. The effects last several months. The treatment is very good for your hair, too. I started doing them at home with great results. There is a small amount formaldehyde and when you blow out your hair the fumes can get pretty strong, so makek sure you have a window open, exhaust fan on. I even put a big floor fan in the bathroom to really move the air out the window. I would recommend you get one at a salon first and if you like it you can try it yourself at home. That way you can see how it's done. I've been doing them for about 5 years, I've got long hair, and my hair is very silky and shiny :D
posted by waving at 6:44 AM on January 12

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