Monday, October 7, 2013

Polyquat build-up

If you're the kind of person whose hair reacts badly to hair styling products sometimes, often something like polyquaternium is to blame. These ingredients provide hold, may reduce frizz and can condition the hair. But they also bond to the hair and do not rinse or wash off easily. They don't build up for everybody - so I want to show you what it might look like if they build up on your hair.

This is wavy hair on day one with a hair gel containing Polyquaternium-4.
Day one with polyquaternium-containing gel.

The same product was used again for the photo below, probably just rinsing the hair in between.

But the second use revealed the ugly side of polyquaterniums. Everything was done the same as the day before. But the result was quite different. Stringy, crunchy, less volume, dull, less wave definition, kind of sparse and a little frizzy.

Second use of polyquaternium-containing gel.

So now you know. If this happens to you and your hair gel (or shampoo or conditioner or mousse or styling cream) contains polyquaterniums, you might want to avoid them and see if your hair behaves more nicely.

It doesn't always happen on the first or second use, this is a cumulative process. They all build up for me right away. No sleuthing necessary.

To find out more about which polyquats and other similar ingredients *may* build up on hair, refer to this post. 


  1. Wow, I'd heard some people say that they didn't like polyquats, but there's nothing like photos to make it clear! Thank you so much for taking those! (And also, I love how your hair looks in the first photo! So pretty!)

  2. Ha! Thanks, I felt the same way about photos and I know it's difficult to tell what build up looks like - or to figure out if something else is going on. Glad to help.

  3. The day 1 photo isn't showing up. Would love to see the difference.

    1. Hello Lynne,
      The photo is there - or at least I'm seeing it using Google Chrome.

  4. Is a sulfate-free shampoo enough to remove polyquat buildup? Or do polyquats bond so tightly to some people's hair that they would need a sulfate cleanser to get them off?

    1. Hello crazycatholic,

      I have a blog post just for you: