How To Remove Glue From Hair (Interview with Cataanda)

The words glue and hair don’t seem like they belong in the same sentence, but the connection, literally, between the two is more common than you’d think. Hair glue can be used to secure several protective styles, including wigs and weaves, but it’s not just any old adhesive. It’s a very specific kind of glue that’s less harsh if it comes in contact with your hair or skin.
Cataanda James, a Senior Technician at L’Oréal USA says: “Hair glues typically are latex-soluble. They contain a high amount of latex for the rubber effect.” Soluble means that the glue is able to dissolve easier than other types of adhesives, like fabric and hardware glues.

James also notes that hair glue in particular is tested for the specific purpose of making contact with skin. Therefore, many of the more harsh chemicals that you may find in household glues are generally not present in hair glue. “Other glues have a lot more toxic ingredients and chemicals in them,” she says.

Of all the hair products in your natural hair care lineup, glues require the most care for both application and removal. Before diving in with the wrong tools and tips, read on to find out which ingredients work best as a hair glue remover, and exactly how to get the glue gunk out of your hair with ease and without damage.

What Is The Easiest Way To Remove Hair Glue?
According to James, the easiest and least abrasive way to remove glue from hair is with an oil. “You’ll need something that will break down the glue,” James explains. “Oils have a tendency to break down sticky textures, so I recommend using [one] to start the removal process.”

Once you have your oil of choice selected, you’ll want to apply it to dry hair. Wet or damp strands can tangle and become matted, which when topped off with glue, makes for a detangling nightmare. So, always start your glue removal on dry hair.

Removing glue before you shampoo also helps. It’s best to remove glue from soiled hair that’s a bit greasy and oily. James explains that this is beneficial because your sebaceous glands will have already pushed through the natural oils from your scalp onto the track of the weave weft and the glue that’s holding it in place. These oils are going to help soften the glue for easier removal.

However, while your natural scalp oils can help jumpstart the breakdown of any tackiness where the weave or wig track meets your own hair, you’ll still need to use an additional oil to further assist. Apply the Goddess Strength 7 Oil Blend Scalp & Hair Oil to the track band and base where the glue is and let it sit. “Sometimes, you only need to let it sit for 10 minutes, depending on how much your natural oils have already emulsified the glue. Sometimes, you’ll need to wait 30 minutes,” James adds.

Once the oil settles in, you can start to gently massage the points where your hair and the glue meet to see if they’re ready to separate. If you feel like you have to put too much tension or effort into getting the extension or track loose, then it’s not ready. Add more oil and let it sit a bit longer. James further explains that when she reaches the point where the glue has softened and the extension track starts to slide out, that’s when she adds a creamy conditioner. She then uses a wide-tooth comb and gently rakes through the hair from the roots to ends until the track is removed.

The key to a minimal fuss, stress-free glue removal that results in minimal damage is patience. “If you feel like you’re going to have to rush, wait until you have time to actually sit, let it marinate, and start to break down itself,” says James.

What Household Items Can Help Remove Glue From Hair?
According to James, you can pretty much use any hair oil or natural oil that you have on hand at home to start your glue removal. Olive oil, almond oil, even cooking oil are all effective hair glue removers if you don’t have any other kind available. So if you’re asking yourself, does coconut oil get glue out of hair? The answer is yes. Coconut oil is slightly thinner than other natural oils, but it’s efficient in helping to emulsify hair glue.

What Shouldn’t You Use To Remove Hair Glue?
Avoid more viscous emollients like petroleum jelly, which can be trickier to wash out once you reach the shampoo stage. James also warns against using rubbing alcohol as a hair glue remover. There’s a common practice among wig wearers of using alcohol to remove glue from hair along the hairline—particularly with lace front wigs. However, James says that while alcohol does in fact break the glue down a lot quicker than the oil, it can potentially irritate the skin where it’s applied. It’s also known to be drying on fragile baby hairs.

If alcohol is your preferred method of glue removal, James recommends using a combination of alcohol with an oil. The oil will help with any irritation that might occur from the alcohol.

Dab an alcohol-filled cotton swab across the glued area, and then gently tap the pasted parts that connect the wig or extension piece to your skin. Once it’s loose and separated, go back over the area with a light oil like the Monoi Oil Sacred Strengthening Serum to help calm the skin.

When attempting glue removal while shampooing, avoid using a clarifying shampoo. James notes that these types of formulas, which are typically made to break down dirt and oil, can work against your efforts by making the hair too clean to the point where the glue won’t emulsify. Clarifying hair cleansers can also be drying, especially when used after alcohol. With that said, once all of your extensions or your wig have been uninstalled, you can certainly use a clarifying shampoo to deep clean your roots and hair—just avoid doing it beforehand.

How Can You Care For Your Hair After Removal?
Your hair may be more fragile after removing a protective style that involves glue, so start a restrengthening and moisture replenishment mission in the shower. Use a hydrating shampoo and conditioner, like the Monoi Repairing Sulfate Free Shampoo and Monoi Repairing Conditioner, as your first post-glue removal step. Follow it with a deep conditioning treatment like Almond Milk Ultra-Nourishing Hair Mask.

James also notes that sometimes damage caused by hair glue can stretch beyond the scalp. It can affect the hair itself; using a shampoo that has more cleansing properties than it does hydrating or moisturizing benefits after glue removal can lead to hair breakage. “Your hair has gone through so much. It’s been through the tension of having that glue attached to the scalp and on the hair for however long you’ve had the style. Then, it has tension of your trying to remove it. So, you want to make sure that you’re not adding any more dryness or tension,” explains James.

Consider adding a hair steamer to your routine alongside your hair treatments on the days that you’re removing glue. This is an easy way to help the moisturizing ingredients that your hair will crave aprés glue to sink deeper into each strand to make them stronger and more hydrated.

While you’re in the zone of hair health, learn How to Stop Hair Breakage next.