How to Prevent Product Flaking in Natural Hair

March 12, 2014
How to Prevent Product Flaking

I love snow.  I actually really miss it, living where I live in the land of the humid!  But as much as I love the sight of white rolling hills and the feel of crisp winter air; I have no desire to see white rolls of crisp product falling from my hair!  Not even a little bit.

You wake up and drag yourself out of bed to begin your day.  It’s winter, and there’s a chill in the air so you turn up the heat.  Your morning routine usually starts off slow; but you make it through your shower routine, get dressed, and put on your makeup.  Now for the hair – your wash day was yesterday and you found a new product to try for today’s twist out.  You take off your satin cap and begin to untwist.

All of a sudden you are taken to a vast place where only white can be seen for miles; flakes fall down on you like a blizzard and form snowballs on your shoulders.  You shiver, thinking it must be this winter weather; until you come back to realize that you are still standing in your bathroom and the flakes are not snow.  They are… well… flakes falling from your hair!  What the snowballs?!  You can’t believe this!  A perfectly good style ruined by flaking.  And not dandruff, either… flaking from the products you used in your hair.  You don’t have time for this!  What’s a natural to do?

How many times has product flaking happened to you?  There is nothing more infuriating than spending lots of time on your natural hair style, only to discover that you are left with flakes and buildup when you’re done.  And if you’re like me, wash day means that I don’t plan on having another for at least a week or two.  Well, this happened to me quite recently – over the Christmas break as a matter of fact; and I originally named this post

Walking in a Winter Wonderland: Product Flaking in Natural Hair

but since I’m all late with the holiday posts, I have renamed it.  I also did some research to figure out how to prevent future flaking outbreaks from happening again!

How to Prevent Product Flaking in Natural Hair

In the past I tried the Curling Cream from Cantu’s Natural line and actually liked it.  I never purchased it again, only because I am addicted to the Shea Moisture and Curls lines.  But I was wandering around Walmart one evening and saw that Cantu had a leave-in and a curling custard.  My product junkyism kicked in and I grabbed and purchased them before I had time to talk myself out of it.  My rationale?  Well I’m staying with my mom for Christmas and I didn’t bring my trusty hair products; I need to buy this so I can twist my hair.

And I did… cowash, condition, and then applied the leave-in and then the curling custard on my damp hair, twisted, covered, and went to bed.  I kept it under wraps the next day since we weren’t going anywhere.  The next evening, however, I went to take my hair down so I could stretch out the twist out for my New Year’s date with my boyfriend.  As I untwisted, I notice some flaking.  My attention was divided between him and the television, so I didn’t notice now much flaking until I was completely done and covered in white.  Covered.  From my shoulders to my pants, and the whole couch around me.  Co-vered.

I. Was. Livid.

I had planned the hairstyle down to the hour before we left for our date and I didn’t allow time for a redo!  This made me so angry, he even asked me if I was okay when I went back to my bathroom to inspect the damage and got too quiet for his comfort.  Actually, looking back, I think he thought I had just cut it all off since I’m always threatening to chop again.  LOL  I needed evidence so when I contacted the company I could show them the pictures, and he helped me take pictures of my fingers, the comb, my clothes, and the couch (and even him!).

Even thinking about it now bring steam to my ears!  ::breathe in::breathe out::

So how could I have prevented this from happening?  After thinking about some of my past flaking mishaps and how I got to that point, I came up with

Seven Reasons for Product Flaking in Natural Hair

  1. You’re using too much product.

    I know I say this all the time: ‘I have to use more product because my hair is so thick!’ But that is not always the case.  Most times, a little goes a long way, and we only need to use a little bit to get the results we want.  Too much gel or curling cream on one section can keep the hair from absorbing the product and then it has no where to go.  So when it dries, it falls because there is nothing holding it on the strands!

  2. You’re using too many products.

    When I try a new product from a new line, I like to use all the products that come in that line to achieve the style I want.  For example, instead of just trying III Sisters of Natural Hair Lengthening Creme, I also purchased the Shampoo, Deep Conditioner, Leave-In Conditioner, and Gel, going all product turbo!  So when I finally got to the Lengthening Creme and then went to apply the gel over it, I got a sticky, tacky mess.

    So my last mistake was thinking, ‘oh, well, I’ll just finish this and then let my hair dry… maybe it’ll go away when it dries.’  No. It didn’t.  Keep it simple – just use one styling product.  There is no need to pile product upon product, even if it is made by the same company.  Unless the label specifically tells you to mix and match, don’t.

  3. You’re mixing product lines.

    Most times you can use a shampoo from Shea Moisture, a conditioner from TresEmme, and a Gel from EcoStyler.  In fact, I have done this.  But sometimes one product brand shouldn’t be mixed with another product brand because if you use the leave-in from one company underneath the gel from another and then a moisturizer from yet another, you may have a white fuzzy mess to clean up.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when the product of one company refuses to work with products from another.  Especially the expensive ones that want you to buy a whole line of $25.00 each jars and bottles.  Uh, not happening!  If I have just one product that won’t play nice with the others, I put it in time out.

  4. You’re not rinsing completely.

    Dear curly girls, not every conditioner on the shelves is made to leave in.  Unless it says so, you probably shouldn’t.  On the same hand, if you have not completely rinsed out your shampoo and conditioner, and then you pile product on top of that, you may experience slight flaking from the leftover suds.  Make sure you are rinsing your hair completely before moving on to the styling phase of your routine.

  5. You’re mixing product with oil.

    The night I did my fourth big chop, I was so excited to try EcoStyler so that my short cropped curls would be popping the next day for work.  I did a protein treatment, moisturizing deep conditioner, and then a regular conditioner.  Then I applied coconut oil to my curlies and Eco Styler on top of that.  Oh, the flaking!  So much white on so little hair!  And I was so baffled, I recorded a video so I could test the possible reasons why.  Not all oils mix with gels… or creams… or curling products.  Especially heavier oils, or moisturizing oils like coconut.  If you must use an oil, try jojoba – it is the closest to our own natural scalp sebum so there shouldn’t be any issues.

  6. You’re mixing product with butter.

    The statement above applies here – Shea butter, mango butter, etc. may be too thick and may not mix well with gels and other stylers.  In fact, because Shea butter sits on top of my hair I will not even look at it when I want to rock a wash & go.  Twists?  Sure.

  7. You’re using a styling product on dry hair.

    If the label says to use on wet or damp hair, use it on wet. or. damp. hair.  Sometimes we get lazy and don’t want to wash our hair, but want a wash & go look from dry hair.  No bueno.  First of all, you shouldn’t apply gel to dry hair, and second of all, the company generally knows best how to use their products.  After all, they are the ones who created and tested it, right?  Plus, you never know what can be on your hair from a previous style that may cause the product to flake.  Read your labels.

Be Aware of the Products You’re Using and How You’re Using Them.

I found a video on YouTube by The Creative Lady showing how to test products in your hand before applying them to your hair.  Makes perfect sense!  Watch it here.

And of course if you’re in a hurry and taking down twists or knots for work that result in flaking, slick it back in a bun without manipulating it to much, and rock a bun.  No one should be close enough to you to notice a little flaking.  No, seriously, from an HR standpoint, NO ONE in your workplace should be that close to you!  LOL

Oh, and P.S.: I had to cut some stuff out the next morning, but I was able to wash, condition, and blow my hair out for the new year.  I wore it in a bun that night to stretch it out and the blow out is still going strong 15 days later!

What do you do to prevent flakes?

34 Comments

  • Reply Anisa October 22, 2016 at 5:03 AM

    So I’ve learned from this article that my problem is I’m using products made for wet hair on my dry hair lol. And I knew that the product was made for wet hair but I was lazy and didn’t think it was a big deal if I used it on dry hair. Thank you for the advice! This morning I woke up with so much flakes in my hair my head looked white. I thought it was dandruff then realized it was the Cantu Leave in conditioner. Thanks again!

    • AskMeAboutMyHair
      Reply AskMeAboutMyHair October 24, 2016 at 2:46 AM

      Awesome that you found the solution… sorry about the flakes. Isn’t that really annoying? So did you try the right products for the right wetness? lol How has your hair been lately? I’m glad this could help you 🙂

  • Reply Renee August 8, 2016 at 6:23 PM

    So I just did the big chop 3 days ago, and in my haste to become a styling diva I mixed wrap set foam and Cantu curling custard on my very short hair. This morning I had more flakes than hair and i’m now at work looking like a hobo lol. Thanks for the advice. I’m about to go home and wash my hair and try again.

    • AskMeAboutMyHair
      Reply AskMeAboutMyHair August 9, 2016 at 7:32 PM

      Oh no! I’m sorry that happened to you – one of the biggest thrills aaaand also disappointments of the natural hair journey is finding the right products for your hair. Don’t give up, though! You will find your staples and then you’ll be able to mix and match like a pro… Thanks for reading. Let me know if there is anything else you would like to see 🙂

      • Reply january August 30, 2016 at 4:57 AM

        have you ever made your own flaxseed gel? Ive had NO success with it, the flaking!

        • AskMeAboutMyHair
          Reply AskMeAboutMyHair October 24, 2016 at 3:07 AM

          Right… and me too! I have tried, but I’ve never been fully satisfied with the results or how it behaves in my hair. I started thinking that maybe flax seed gel wasn’t for me; but since I have a hard time giving up, I’ll try it again in the future and see what I can do after some more research. Let me know if you try it and have success! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Reply Harriet M Wyatt July 14, 2016 at 8:31 PM

    I have been using Design Essentials Leave In, Daily Moisture Lotion and Creme Gel and I have small brown flakes. Too much product perhaps?

    • AskMeAboutMyHair
      Reply AskMeAboutMyHair August 9, 2016 at 7:36 PM

      Hmmm… I think so. Perhaps you don’t need to use both the creme gel and the lotion if you are going to use the leave-in. I think they may be piling up on your hair in the form of rebellious flakes and not doing what they were ‘designed’ (pun intended!) to do. Don’t groan, you know that was funny 🙂

      Try just a leave in and the gel and see how that works. If you still have flakes, you may need to consider your hair’s porosity, which will tell you whether you are better matched with a cream gel or a gel-gel for complete product absorption.

  • Reply Mariah June 30, 2016 at 4:31 PM

    Thank you so very much for this article. This is my first time going natural and after a couple of days, I notice the flaking. I use olive oil,black jamaican castor oil and coconut oil before I apply the EcoStyler gel. I might be using to much of the oils. I will decrease the amount and try again. I will hope for the best 🙂

    • AskMeAboutMyHair
      Reply AskMeAboutMyHair August 9, 2016 at 7:41 PM

      Hi Mariah! Do you use all the oils at the same time? Okay, I need you to put them down and step away from the oil overdose! You may be an addict 😀

      Seriously, you only need one oil at a time. BUT it depends on why you’re using that oil. Not all oils are created equal – some are for sealing, others will moisturize (a very few), but most will not moisturize you hair alone. You have to combine them with something.

      And, as with sweet Harriet in the other comment, you may need to discover your hair’s true texture (porosity, density, etc.) to see which oil is best for you.

      If you are using the oils as a moisturizer, then try only coconut oil and then eco-styler. I did not have a ton of success with coconut oil mixed with ecostyler, but I found out years later that it was because my low-porosity hair does not absorb oils easily, nor would it have done so because at the time I was using cold water to rinse my hair and it was closing my cuticles, not allowing any product to absorb. Olive oil is a bit closer to your sebum, but jojoba oil is the closest; so you can use this oil with more success.

      It’s hard to really say without knowing your hair type, though. Have you had success with either since posting this?

  • Reply lorna Twinomugisha March 13, 2016 at 6:32 AM

    Am reading this as I to the bathroom I noticed the flakes 4 days after my beautiful twistout.Am in a meetup we are only two ladies a team of 23 gys there I had attention on me and its snowing not white but dandruff color flakes. very embarrassing. and yes i used alot of product and i mixed oil with the styler.
    thank u this was helpful

    • AskMeAboutMyHair
      Reply AskMeAboutMyHair March 17, 2016 at 12:43 PM

      oh no! I am so sorry this happened to you. I’m glad you found this post helpful. Have you been able to identify the source of the flakes? Did you have to change your product?

  • Reply Shawnyce January 30, 2016 at 2:57 PM

    I was so sick of flakes I was getting from my EcoStyler gel I was about to throw the gel out. Now I see what I was doing wrong. Thanks so much!

    • AskMeAboutMyHair
      Reply AskMeAboutMyHair February 1, 2016 at 4:45 AM

      I’m so glad I could help! EcoStyler is awesome when used with the ‘right’ products. The thing is that you have to find that ‘right’ for your hair and in conjunction with your other favorite products. It worked best on my hair only dripping wet and with conditioner. Anything else would flake and crust. not. cute. lol

  • Reply Shanelle January 16, 2016 at 12:24 AM

    I never thought I would find a reason and solution for this white build up I keep getting after trying to style my hair. I love this article! It helps so much. I use Cantu products as well but sometimes it does not mix very well with Ecostyler gel (olive oil). There’s been days it would look great and other days im forced to wash my hair again before work or just have flaky hair. I know what you mean by winter wonderland lol. I’m going to try to use less products or don’t mix. Thank you for this article!!!

    • AskMeAboutMyHair
      Reply AskMeAboutMyHair January 18, 2016 at 8:15 PM

      I’m so glad y=this article helped you, Shanelle! And girl. I’m shaking my head at those flakes from the product – every time I think about it I want to cry. But natural hair is all about learning your hair and what works and does not work with it. Keep me posted on some of your product mixes! 🙂

  • Reply Kmache January 12, 2016 at 7:14 PM

    I’m about 5 months natural and about at this very moment I’m sitting at work with a cute dress, some cute boots and a head full of little white flakes, Lol! Just trying to make it until quitting time :)/ I was getting the a routine down where I was deliberately using just a little product when a friend gave me a bag of Miss Jessies stuff. I had to try it all-right? Wrong. Well I think I violated all of the rules you mentioned above . I’m going back to my minimalist routine so I can get back to enjoying my new twa–that’s now getting a little bigger.

    • AskMeAboutMyHair
      Reply AskMeAboutMyHair January 13, 2016 at 5:22 AM

      LOLOL!!!!! Girl you have me rolling over here! I so understand and have lived that struggle. Let’s repeat together: Less. Is. More.

      Okay, now that we got that out of the way, tell me about these boots! Oh, and that TWA! What are your favorite products?

  • Reply Breanna October 25, 2015 at 6:36 PM

    So what did you use to stop the flaking with the cantu custard? I also have that product and was wondering if there was any way to prevent it.

    • NappyGoddesse
      Reply NappyGoddesse December 1, 2015 at 4:54 PM

      Hi Breanna, I simply stopped using it. I got rid of it and found something else. Sometimes your hair just won’t like a certain product. I think my hair hates Cantu, unfortunately.

    • Reply Jamie Braxton April 13, 2016 at 4:39 AM

      You can prevent the flaking by using the products that they suggest you use on the front of the container, which are either the Cantu coconut curling cream or the Cantu curl activating cream. You’ll never see those nasty flakes again

      • AskMeAboutMyHair
        Reply AskMeAboutMyHair August 9, 2016 at 7:50 PM

        Thanks for that, Jamie 🙂

        I will be honest, though, Breanna; even when following the suggestions on the containers, sometimes your hair just will not like a product. [Most] Companies, with all of their good intentions, don’t consider true hair types when creating/marketing/selling or giving instructions for the use of their products. They don’t take into account whether your hair strands are fine, or coarse (texture), whether you have high or low density, or whether your strands will absorb products easily or not (porosity). This means that although Cantu works for Jamie’s gorgeous hair, it may not work for mine. And it does not work for mine because my low porosity hair hates thick creams and butters. Always has. But at the time I just thought there was something wrong with the product (false) or my hair (false).

        It’s a journey – you’ll figure it out. Breanna, try my posts on “Beyond Hair Texture” where you can find out about texture, density, and porosity – I hope they help you!

        Finding the right product means knowing your hair and what your hair likes and doesn’t like.

        • Reply SuzySue August 18, 2016 at 8:48 PM

          Ooh thank u for this valuable info.
          I just got a friend to texturise my and then we used kerra care products the twist and lock etc all the stages and the my friend insisted we use ecogel because from past experiences the ecogel makes the curls last longer. …
          Ooh my!! As soon as she was taking out the perm rides after I got outta the dryer… there!!! Flakes all the way through…
          Then she used an oil based moisturiser. But the flakes are still on…
          Now I know. Thanks to u.
          Ps: I have also watched the video on how to test products to see if they blend… so I will get on top of things and follow on.

          • AskMeAboutMyHair
            AskMeAboutMyHair October 24, 2016 at 3:08 AM

            sweet! I’m so glad you figured it out! How did it turn out?

  • Reply Kelli October 19, 2015 at 12:43 AM

    I went googling for an article like this after experiencing the same thing more than once with…drumroll please…Cantu Curling Custard! Same product same results multiple times. I will say this last time I was guilty of a few of these rules, but I am starting to think it is this custard as well.
    Anyway, thanks for this article and the tags definitely helps!

    • NappyGoddesse
      Reply NappyGoddesse December 1, 2015 at 4:53 PM

      Hi Kelli! I have since stopped using Cantu – I won’t even look at their new products! lol In fact, I don’t use anything really except a little oil and stuff I can find in my kitchen… I’m glad you found this post useful – thanks for visiting my site!

  • Reply Erika October 1, 2015 at 4:09 PM

    Hi

    Was reading your review. I too purchased the same products before seeing this post and had twisted my hair for work the following day. However when I awoke an untied it was still damp but had huge white globs everywhere in my hair with an hour left to prepare for work. I was fuming and had to go to work that way . Nonetheless upon further investigation I noticed when sampling the products together (Cantu Shea Butter Leave In Conditioner and Cantu Curling Custard) in my hand they lobbed together instead of forming a smooth emulsion.
    As I result I have concluded that not all products made by the company can be used together. I think it’s problem they need to rectify.

    • NappyGoddesse
      Reply NappyGoddesse December 1, 2015 at 4:52 PM

      I totally agree, Erika! Companies should make products that can be used together.

      Thanks for visiting my site! 🙂

  • Reply Pammy August 22, 2015 at 5:07 PM

    Reading your article this morning gave me the laugh I needed as I washed the avalanche of white flakes out of my hair and the info I needed so, hopefully, it won’t happen again. Thanks!

    • NappyGoddesse
      Reply NappyGoddesse August 25, 2015 at 10:01 AM

      Hi Pammy! I’m glad you enjoyed it. How did your hair turn out? Visit again soon!

  • Reply Tonya July 7, 2015 at 8:45 PM

    Thank you for the laugh. I took out 1 twist this morning and almost died. I was like, “LOOK AT THIS WHITE MESS”. I am soooo happy that I work from home but I will be going on a business trip next week so I will wash my hair tonight and try again. I’m hoping it is not the product mixing I’ve been doing or maybe it’s the build up. Sighhh. Well, I’ve taken down 4 of the twist and am walking around my house like this. My husband hasn’t noticed the white and neither has my son. I am keeping them far away until I wash this mess tonight.

    • NappyGoddesse
      Reply NappyGoddesse July 17, 2015 at 4:09 PM

      Hi Tonya! Thanks for visiting – it is funny in hindsight, but when it happened… girl, I was hott! lol

      LOL @ you keeping your husband and son away! What did you use on your hair? Sometimes products just don’t mix and instead of letting you know up front, they like to wait until you put it in your hair and are ready to wear it the next morning. The struggle…

  • Reply Shaneka April 29, 2015 at 3:32 PM

    Haha I enjoy your humor. This was an interesting read. I believe this has helped me.

    • NappyGoddesse
      Reply NappyGoddesse April 30, 2015 at 7:12 PM

      I’m so glad! It is funny looking back on it. At the time, my whole face was made up! 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

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