Build-up does a number on your hair and scalp. Perhaps the most well-known side effects are those that affect the latter: Excess build-up in the area can cause issues ranging from flat roots and flakes to skin inflammation and even hair loss. And while build-up tends to accumulate on the scalp more easily, build-up on the strands is also a particularly frustrating issue, and one not to be ignored.

Why You Should Care About Build-Up On Your Strands

Build-up on your strands comes from styling products, leave-ins, and even some conditioners. These products work by coating the strand in order to help coax the cuticle to lie flat, seal in moisture, and increase manageability. These are all good things, mind you. But as with most things in life, using these too much or not correctly can lead to unintended damage.

To explain further, applying hair care and styling products often leaves a thin film on the hair, and it’s this film that does much of the work. But if we don’t wash our hair diligently enough, this film can start to layer over itself, one layer after another. When this happens, any good-for-you ingredient you try to apply can’t penetrate the barrier. (Think of it like trying to apply a face serum without first washing your makeup off.) You may see the sneaky effects of this: It can lead to dullness, brittleness, dehydration, and flat texture.

How the Aztec Clay and Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Mask Can Help

What are we to do about this situation? Well, this is where clarifying shampoos and treatments come into play. “I love that these new shampoos are healthier for your hair, but the problem that many stylists are seeing now, is that they are so gentle that people aren’t properly cleaning their hair or scalps,” says certified trichologist Shab Reslan. “If you want to stick with your low-lather shampoo, you absolutely should, but you might need to do a weekly clarifying shampoo or treatment.”

However, not all options are created equal – nor work the same for everyone. There are traditional clarifying shampoos, which rely on strong sulfates to clean the hair. Then there are clean versions, which use botanicals and gentler cleansing agents to get the job done. You can also make your own DIY version like the one below:

DIY Bentonite Clay and ACV Mask

Bentonite clay contains natural minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron; which is extremely porous and absorbs gunk effectively, holding on to it before you wash it down the drain. “Calcium bentonite is also gentle and provides the body with lots of minerals,” says holistic skin care expert Samantha Story, M.S., LAc.

What makes this option additionally so great for hair is the apple cider vinegar. ACV has long been used as a hair ingredient, notably for apple cider vinegar rinses, as the acidic nature can help balance your scalp’s microbiome. It also naturally seals the cuticle, adds shine, and gives strands a dose of vitamins and nutrients.

As curly hair influencer Curlsbykeish recently shared on her TikTok, this recipe is quite simple to make.

  • Mix equal parts of the clay and your ACV of choice.
  • Place an old towel around your shoulders – this will get messy.
  • On bone-dry hair (it won’t work otherwise), divide hair into manageable sections. For those with fine hair, you’ll likely only need to create four quadrants. If you have dense, thick hair, you may need to make smaller sections across your head. Put each section in its own bun.
  • Taking each section one at a time, coat the hair with your paste from root to tip. Be sure to rake the mix through thoroughly to get all strands. When you finish one section, twist the lock and put it back into a bun. Repeat for all the sections.
  • Let the mask sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Carefully take your hair out from the buns and rinse the mixture off in warm water.
  • Follow up with your natural, silicone-free conditioner of choice.
  • Dry and style as usual.

The Takeaway
If your hair needs a bit of a refresh, reach for a clarifying treatment. While there are plenty of clarifying shampoos on the market, this DIY version can help bring hair back to life in no time—and does so gently and with natural ingredients.