THIS SPRING, teased-hair styles are making a comeback. Reminiscent of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy's bouffants, they are neat and sophisticated. But unlike the '60s, a vast assortment of styling products now makes the voluminous look possible without the torture of sleeping on wire-mesh rollers or back-combing hair into knots.
As convenient, however, as gels, mousses and sprays are in producing desired fullness and control, these easy-to-use fixatives also can result in a bad case of buildup--that stubborn residue of waxes, oils and plastics that make hair dull, limp, brittle and resistant to dyes and perm solutions.
Avoiding buildup is a challenge, considering that as many as three styling products may be necessary to create a hair style. Take, for example, the technique of Phillip Wilson, the international artistic director of L'Anza, a hair-care-products firm in Irwindale. Wilson first applies a styling product to wet hair, then blows it dry, coaxing it under at the ends. Next, he gently teases the back for fullness, leaves the sides and top smooth and adds a gel for control and extra shine. He finishes with a spray. "Unless you're using products that don't build up or you're removing the buildup, your hair will eventually droop and lose its natural sheen," Wilson says.
The term \o7 buildup \f7 was first used in the mid-1970s when balsam additives were all the rage. Although balsam initially gave hair a soft and silky look and feel, the ingredient formed an unwanted coating on the hair that shampoos couldn't dissolve and rinsing couldn't remove. In the days of long and full Farrah Fawcett manes, droopy hair was an easy-to-spot aesthetic problem. When women recognized that the balsam products were weighing down their hair, they switched to other products.
Now that daily shampooing, followed by the application of gels and mousses, is a common grooming ritual, buildup is much more difficult to detect. These days, products that can cause buildup keep the hair artificially shiny and full; thus, dullness and limpness are no longer telltale clues. The only obvious signs are extensive breakage, perms that don't take properly, and dyes that fade too quickly.
But there is a solution. New shampoos that remove buildup are being formulated. Neutrogena Shampoo and Dep's Everyday Shampoo dissolve most accumulations of waxes and oils. Other deposits, such as those that result from fixatives containing plastics and from heavily chlorinated water, are stubborn and demand special treatment. Mastey's Le Remouver, Joico's Phine and L'Anza's Pree, all products sold in hair salons, are antidotes to buildup that must be massaged into the hair before it is shampooed. Once these treatments break down the chemical bonds that hold the particles onto the hair shaft--a process that takes from one to five minutes--the shampoo washes them away. Redken's Hair Cleansing Creme is a one-step product that is used like shampoo.
Once buildup is removed, the trick is to keep it from coming back. The labels on gels, sprays and mousses usually state which products are shampoo-soluble and are thus less likely to result in buildup. Still, how to go about shopping based on labels alone has become a matter of some debate.
"Looking for specific ingredients or the absence of specific ingredients is useless," says Sharon Hayashi, president of Hayashi For Hair in Valencia. "There's no one additive that causes buildup--it's the combination of ingredients."
But Joico president Steve Stefano places the blame on the cheap synthetic polymers, or waxy plastics, that, he says, many manufacturers include in their shampoos, conditioners and fixatives. "It's expensive to develop a spray with just a minimum of polymers--too expensive for mass-market products," he says. "Once those plastics harden, the hair breaks easily."
For people who don't shampoo on a daily basis, other new styling products--such as Hayashi's Gelplus Fixative or Joico's I.C.E. Mist--need be applied only once between washings. They can be reactivated by spritzing the hair with water, thus ending the product-on-top-of-product cycle.
The message is, then, that with a little effort, buildup--once remedied only by harsh solvents in salons--now can be dissolved, or even prevented, at home.
Hair and makeup: Sari; model: Melody / Wilhelmina West