We’ve all had it happen. We finally find our Holy Grail styling product or conditioner. It gives us the shiny, defined ringlets we’ve longed for. Then, overnight, it stops working. Your curls turn to frizz. Your hair feels like straw.

Has your hair become immune to the product?

The unanimous answer is no. If a product isn’t giving you the same results it once did, the culprits could be product buildup, hormonal changes, environmental damage and even the weather.

“There are many reasons why products can seem to stop working,” says curl expert Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue.

A major culprit is product buildup, and improper cleansing.

“You can have too much of a good thing, especially with products designed to control and give weight to curls,” says Ethan Shaw, a curly hair specialist at Ann Kelso Salon + CitySpa in Austin, Texas. “Eventually they can leave a substantial film on the hair.”

A clarifying shampoo. or a vinegar rinse, should be used once or twice a month to remove buildup from products. Products that contain oil, silicones and waxes are especially susceptible to buildup, creating a barrier that can prevent products from doing what they are supposed to do.

Jonathan Torch of the Curly Hair Institute in Toronto, Canada, says protein can also affect how products work over time.

“Some proteins can cause the hair to become brittle, and can cause breakage if they build up,” Torch says. “The smaller the protein molecule, the deeper the penetration into the hair. The larger the molecule, the easier it is for it to buildup as the protein adheres to the outside of the hair shaft.”

Seasonal changes can have a major impact on the effectiveness of products.

“The weather does have a huge effect on how your looks, and how products seem to work,” Shaw says. “Humidity, or lack thereof, can give or take away curls.”

Many times, people may not realize their hair texture has changed over time. It may become coarser, curlier or thinner. Hair tends to change every seven years.

In some cases, the length or style of the hair may change over time, requiring different types of products. A light gel that may have worked perfectly in a short curly style may not be heavy enough for longer ringlets.

“Just think of how different your hair was compared to when you were a kid,” Shaw says. “It’s natural for your hair to get more or less curly, and more or less coarse, especially with gray hair.”

Because of that , the formula of a person’s styling products will have to change as well as the way she uses them, Christo says.

If you’ve been using the same products for several years, and have noticed a change in how they work, consult with your stylist. There may be different products better suited to the changing needs of your hair.

Ouidad, of the New York curl salon Ouidad, believes it’s a fallacy that people need to change their products over time — a creative marketing strategy perpetuated by product manufacturers trying to sell more products. She said she constantly tests her products on her clients and on herself, and she believes good products continue to perform over time.

“When there is a change in the way it works, it is most likely from an extenuating circumstance, such as a medical conditioner or a chemical process such as color or straightening,” Ouidad says.

Michelle Breyer

Michelle Breyer

As co-founder of NaturallyCurly.com, a website for curly hair she began with her business partner and friend, Gretchen Heber, Michelle Breyer helped create the leading community and resource for people with curly hair. Frustrated by the lack of information on curly hair and the limited products available in the marketplace, the duo launched the site in 1998 with the help of a 14-year-old web designer. When Procter & Gamble called three years later to advertise to the NaturallyCurly.com® audience, Breyer knew they had indeed created a force in the industry, providing helpful information and unparalleled expertise for what was then considered a niche market.

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