Gummy or Sticky Hair

Hair product bottles
Q: Hi there! I'm hoping someone can help me with this problem I've been having for a few months: I'm 33 yrs old and have naturally-curly, graying hair. Most of the gray is on the top of my head and I've been using Nice 'N Easy for the past few years. I also blow dry my hair straight a couple times a week (and avoid the flat iron at all costs). My problem is that suddenly I've developed a "gummy" feel to a small section of my hair located on the top of my head, above the bang area.
I wash my hair thoroughly and when I start to blow it dry there's still a film and gumminess to the hair. And this is without using any styling product either. My stylist even used a clarifying shampoo on it and it was still there. It almost feels like hair color residue on it, but there's nothing I can see on the hair. It's bizarre and making me mad because after I finish straightening my "clean" hair, it looks kind of greasy in that small section.
I don't know if it's the hair color because the rest of my hair is fine and soft. I also tried not using conditioner and that didn't do anything. Should I switch shampoos? I currently use a tar shampoo once a week and then Walgreens brand Pantene the rest of the time. Do you have any words of advice?

A: From what you've said in your letter, I think we can rule out residue given that you explain the problem persists through clarifying shampoos at your salon.
What concerns me is that it COULD be a sign of cuticle damage in that area due to the repeated color treatments and stresses from styling. However, I would expect to see more than just a small area of damage if this were the case.
There are some fungal infections that can cause the hair to feel gummy or sticky and if your usage of the tar-based shampoos (which are typically meant to treat fungal issues like dandruff) isn't resolving the issue, you may need to talk to your doctor about it and have him take a look. (Many fungal infections - especially persistent or serious ones - can lead to hair loss.) You should ESPECIALLY see the doctor if you are having any irritation, sensitivity, or numbness of the scalp in that area.
The solution depends on the exact cause of the problem. If it is fungal, increasing the frequency of usage of the tar shampoo may be called for. If it's simply a tenacious residue issue, you might try using a final rinse of 1 part Apple Cider Vinegar and 6 parts water on your hair after you shampoo. The apple cider vinegar acts as an astringent and clarifier for the hair (and is a homeopathic treatment for dandruff and minor fungal scalp infections). Use the ACV rinse every time you shampoo and condition for at least a week.
Photo: TB Studio/Shutterstock
See also:
Damaged hair
Hair problems
Hair diseases