Sticky Hair

Woman with problematic hair
Q: I'm really hoping you can help me solve my problem. I'm not sure if it's a combination of factors, but somehow I have managed to get my hair sticky. I have a history of highlighting my hair, but for six months now have gone back to brunette.
For a couple of months, I used a conditioner provided in the dye boxes daily. For a really long time, it made my hair beautiful and healthy. The sticky hair situation began soon after I had begun an Aquafit class. I bought chlorine removing shampoo about two weeks into the swimming.
The color started fading from my hair about the same time as it started becoming sticky. I've stopped swimming and using the deep conditioner for about three weeks. I've already tried a home-remedy of baking soda and water to remove the stick. Please help me, I've tried everything yet I still can't run a brush through my hair!

A: My concern here is that your hair's sticky condition is a sign of severe damage. Between the history of bleaching for the highlighting of your hair, the recent additions of dark hair color and the exposure to chlorine, I am concerned that your hair has been damaged to the point that it needs some real attention or you may start experiencing breakage.
Forget brushing your hair for the time being. My first suggestion is that you find a salon you trust and see a stylist for an evaluation of your hair's condition. Seriously damaged hair will usually feel harsh and straw-like when it's dry, and spongy and sticky when it is damp.
If your hair is sticky when it is dry, it may be a reaction of the hair color and chlorine combining, or possibly a deterioration of the cuticle layer of the hair. This is why I recommend - strongly - that you see a stylist as soon as possible for an evaluation.
If you strongly feel that the problem is not damage to the hair, and that the stickiness is a surface problem, here's is the proper way to the remove sticky residue from the hair with baking soda: Mix 1/4 cup of baking soda with baby shampoo until you form a paste. Gently pat the paste on the dry hair and allow it to sit for about 20 minutes.
Add small amounts of warm water (not cool and not hot) and gently stroke the hair away from the scalp until you can create a lather. Do not rub the hair too much or massage it, or else you risk breaking the hair. Rinse the hair thoroughly with warm water. Dry the hair by blotting it with a clean, dry towel. DO NOT RUB, simply press the towel against the hair and let the fabric absorb the moisture.
Afterward, spray the hair with a detangling spray and carefully comb through with a wide-tooth comb. I also suggest using a smoothing serum (anti-frizz serum) to help you comb through the hair.
If this doesn't resolve (or at least help) the stickiness, you should still see a stylist to determine if there is a more serious problem.
Photo: Cherries/Shutterstock
See also:
Damaged hair
The effect of chlorine on hair
How to protect hair from chlorine when swimming
How to recognize hair breakage