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Tackling ​Congested Scalp and Hair


First, I need to explain what I mean by this term. It's not a medical term – nor something I found on the internet. Congested Scalp and Hair (CSH) is a condition I have found that happens with my own natural hair, and can cause all types of problems. But it can be reversed and prevented if you know how to do it.

Remember back in the days of Blue Magic and Sulfur 8 when greasing the hair and scalp was a ritual? We were told that by greasing up we were preventing dandruff, moisturizing our skin and hair and stopping them from dryness and breakage. What we were actually doing was layering a coating of petroleum on the scalp and hair, creating a temporary smooth and shine but smothering our tresses, locking in what moisture was already there but also locking out moisture or oxygen. And also making sure that any dust or dirt in the air stuck to it.

What ensued if the coating was left on too long, or layered up with multiple grease sessions was dandruff, funky scalp and dusty dull hair. So we would wash the stuff out with a  harsh, sulfate-based shampoo that cuts through grease like Dawn Dish Detergent, stripping the product and the natural sebum from our hair then greasing it up all over again. 

Now that we have entered the "Natural Hair" age, we know better – so we do better. But do we?

We use more natural products, we take care to clarify and we pay attention to the condition of our hair and scalp yet still, I get emails and questions asking why when doing all the right things, hair is still dry, breaking, hard, doesn't seem to grow and dandruff is still happening. Oftentimes, this is because of scalp and hair congestion.

The good stuff:

Plant-based Hair Butters – shea, coconut, mango, aloe... all are great natural ingredients found in hair butters, shampoos and conditioners. They all benefit our hair, adding moisture, shine and elasticity.

Lush Oils – olive, Amla, apricot– these oils and more can lock in moisture and work well with the butters mentioned above.

Waxes/Esters - jojoba, coconut, beeswax – aid in pliability and in the case of jojoba, help to balance the scalp and regulate sebum production.

The bad stuff about the good stuff:

These products build up. Not as quickly as petrolatum products and not as completely, but they still do. With daily use they will coat your hair and your scalp and causing what I call "congestion." Your crown may be congested if it you have been using these types of products regularly and:

  • Your scalp itches or is irritated
  • Your hair and/or scalp feels sticky
  • You can lift a dark waxy substance from your scalp or hair with your fingernails
  • Your hair won't hold a twist
  • Your texture changes
  • Your hair has a musty scent
  • Your shampoo does not lather (if it is a lathering shampoo)
  • Water does not penetrate

If you think you may have Congested Scalp and Hair , here is what to do about it

Remove the buildup.

You don't have to use a harsh shampoo or a clarifying shampoo, but you need to shampoo thoroughly and I recommend using a castile shampoo. Use a generous amount of the shampoo on dry hair and lather it up well, making sure you use your fingertips to get the shampoo onto your scalp. Squeeze the lather through to your ends. Let it sit for 2 minutes to do its work.

Rinse thoroughly with hot (but not too hot) water and repeat the process. The second time, use warm water to rinse out. If you used a good quality shampoo and have not been using products with petrolatum or mineral oil, this method should remove the product buildup from your hair and scalp.

Your hair will now be ready for a lush conditioner and your usual styling routine. I don't recommend doing an ACV rinse after this process.

Prevent Congested Scalp & Hair

  • Do not use heavy butters every day. Try alternating with a lighter product.
  • Repeat this wash process at least once every 2 weeks and more often if you see symptoms of CSH.
  • Check your product ingredients. Not all "natural" products are natural and healthy.
  • Steer clear of products containing waxes for daily styling.
  • Opt for clear-hold gels, (not sticky glue gels) for edge control.
  • Invest in a shower filter to stop impurities and chemicals the water from settling on your hair

Good luck and let us know if this  method works for you. We'd love to hear your stories.

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