Hair Webbing: What You Need To Know

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While achieving perfect hair is a dream for every one of us, we know it’s not always realistic.

No matter the hair type, our tresses go through a multitude of issues so often that we have become very familiar with the typical concerns that affect our locks.

We know about frizz, split ends, dryness, flyaways, breakage, dullness, and more.

But what do you call it when strands clump together or stick together after washing?

A woman is combing her hair with a comb.

That is what is known as hair webbing, and if you have fine or curly hair or both, it’s something you may have already experienced.

So what do you do about it, and more importantly, how can you prevent it?

Let’s find out.

What Is Hair Webbing?

Hair webbing refers to hair that sticks together either at the roots or along the shafts. The strands cling to one another and form tangles that seem to branch out, much like a spider web.

An easy way to check whether you have hair webbing is to take at least two inches of your hair when it’s dry and see if you can pull the strands apart.

If they cling to each other instead of separating, they’re webbing.

Why is it important to know if it’s hair webbing or something else?

Knowing the right type of hair issue that you’re experiencing is important to troubleshooting its cause and finding the right treatment option.

Hair Webbing vs. Hair Matting/Knotting

It’s common to confuse hair webbing with other types of hair issues, the foremost of which is hair knotting

Hair knotting occurs when strands that are supposed to fall get tangled up in your locks, creating a mess that can get bigger over time.

Additionally, individual hair strands can wrap around themselves or nearby strands to form knots. 

And sometimes, rubbing your hair against materials like towels or pillowcases can lead to matting/knotting.

How does knotting differ from hair webbing?

Hair webbing involves hair strands that haven’t shed yet, while knots are often created by hair that gets tangled up along the hair shafts as it’s shed.

Also, hair webs can form at the roots and branch out, while hair knots are more commonly found farther along the hair shafts, particularly toward the ends.

Hair Webbing vs. Stringy Hair

It’s also easy to see hair stuck together like glue and think it’s stringy hair when it’s actually hair webbing.

Stringy hair is often fine hair that has turned greasy, which causes it to clump together at the ends. While it’s clean, it can look oily and dirty.

It’s markedly different from hair webbing because stringy hair resembles lifeless pieces of string; hair that has webbed, on the other hand, looks more like tangled knots.

What Causes Hair Webbing?

For hair webbing, there are several factors that can result in such a problem.

If you’ve ever woken up in the morning and looked in the mirror only to gasp, “My hair sticks together, what do I do!” chances are one of these reasons below applies to you.

A woman is holding her curly hair while watching her comb.

Your Hair Needs Hydrating or Moisturizing

One of the biggest contributors to hair webbing is a lack of moisture.

Dry hair has damaged, raised cuticles, which cause rough strands that don’t lay flat; this is why hair sticks up and snags on the surrounding hair strands. 

And if you have dry hair, you’ll want to look at these potential reasons:

  • Environmental conditions. External factors like humidity can do a number on your tresses, as can frequently swimming in salt or chlorinated water or spending too much time in the sun.
  • Hair care practices. How you treat and care for your hair may also predispose your strands to dryness. Examples of harmful practices include using products with sulfates, regular heat-styling, and regularly changing hair colors.

Regardless of the cause, dry hair needs to be hydrated or moisturized or both to fight hair webbing. 

Hydration makes sure that your tresses get the moisture that they need; moisturization keeps that moisture from escaping.

In most cases, dry hair will require a bit of both to stay healthy.

Your Scalp Has Product Buildup

Another reason for hair webbing is product buildup.

Product buildup is the accumulation of residue from substances that are typically applied to the hair. 

And it often comes from film formers in shampoos, conditioners, and styling creams/gels/mousses that contain any of the following:

  • Mineral oil
  • Waxes
  • Heavy oils
  • Non-water soluble silicones like dimethicone and amodimethicone

When these products aren’t properly washed away from your scalp and hair, the good stuff from your hair care products that encourage hair health will find it difficult to effectively reach your locks.

As a result, your hair can suffer from various effects like scalp irritation, dull and dry hair, breakage, and yes, hair webbing.

You Have Split Ends

Split ends are among the most obvious symptoms that your hair needs some extra loving. And they can also lead to hair webbing.

Split ends are caused by several factors, including the following:

  • Improper use/choice of shampoos and conditioners
  • Frequent application of heat to your tresses
  • Overbrushing
  • Abrasive drying techniques 
  • Protective hairstyles

You Wear Protective Hairstyles for Too Long

And speaking of protective hairstyles, wearing them for too long also carries some potential for hair webbing. 

Protective hairstyles are essential components in curly hair care, and for good reasons. They’re important in safeguarding natural hair from the damage that the elements can do to it.

They do this by tucking away the ends of your tresses so they don’t get subjected to humidity, wind, rain, etc.

And they come in various types to fit different styling goals:

  • Braids
  • Buns
  • Flat twists
  • Cornrows
  • Faux locs
  • Chignons

However, the problem with protective hairstyles is that some people forget to take them out. 

And when they’re worn for an extended period of time, they might contribute to hair issues, such as hair webbing.

What Hair Webbing Means for Hair Health

While hair webbing isn’t a hair emergency, it also still deserves a lot of attention as it has various negative implications for your hair health.

  • It signals the need for better hair care. Hair-webbing fine hair, in particular, should be taken care of as soon as possible as fine hair is more susceptible to damage.
  • Hair webbing makes fine hair look limp and lifeless. And sure, there are root lifters that can help with that, but if hair webbing isn’t addressed at the root, then it’s just going to persist. 
  • The tangled mess gets bigger. Hair that sticks up has a tendency to wrap around other hair strands. When this happens, breakage becomes almost an inevitability.
  • Frizz is another issue. With hair webbing, you get raised hair cuticles that can create unruly frizz. For some people, wet frizz even happens.
  • It can be uncomfortable or painful to detangle webbed hair. 

Hair Webbing Treatment: Tips and Recommendations

A young african american woman looking up at her hair.

Want to know how to stop hair webbing? 

Consider these tips!

Make Sure Your Hair Is Hydrated AND Moisturized

Hair stuck together creates a web that needs to be hydrated and moisturized to ease dryness and help your strands to lay flat. 

Use Sulfate-Free Products 

One of the most important things that you can do to ensure that your hair gets and keeps moisture is to opt for shampoos, conditioners, and creams that don’t contain sulfates.

Sulfates, while effective surfactants, can strip your hair of oils and dry out your tresses. Not only that, but they may also trigger scalp irritation.

When shopping for products, make sure that you don’t find these ingredients:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium laureth sulfate
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate

Co-wash Your Hair

It’s also a good idea to consider co-washing your hair or skipping the shampoo and instead going straight for the conditioner.

When co-washing, feel free to use your favorite conditioner. But if you can, opt for a product that’s free from sulfates, silicones, and alcohol.

To supplement co-washing, the Curly Girl Method-approved routine is also considered to be beneficial to moisturizing your locks, especially as shampoos can be drying. 

The method has also been found to

  • improve curl definition for those with curly hair,
  • strengthen hair and reduce the risks of breakage, and
  • encourage fewer washings, which might be beneficial to hair in the long run.
A woman is washing her hair with shampoo.

Moisturize and Seal

Step up the moisture content in your hair by moisturizing it and then sealing it.

This starts with a leave-in conditioner to prep your locks for better moisture retention, then follow it up with an emollient to seal moisture in.

Emollients are ingredients that leave a protective film on your skin, making them perfect for the job.

Examples include the following:

  • Glycerin
  • Shea butter
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Cocoa butter

Clarify at Least Once a Week

Using a clarifying shampoo can help reduce hair webbing as it’s specifically formulated to target product buildup and wash it from your tresses.

Without the accumulated residue left by styling products, your hair can get the nourishment that it needs to shine, get volume, grow long and strong, and generally aim for optimal hair health.

Experts recommend using a clarifying shampoo at least once a week or once every two weeks (if your hair type can’t handle weekly use).

Just make sure to deep-condition afterward as this product can strip moisture from your tresses.

Get a Trim

The most immediate (and still effective) way to manage split ends is to get the ends of your hair trimmed.

And when frayed ends are chopped off, you can mitigate the Velcro effect that comes with hair webbing.

Trimming is recommended at least once every three months; however, if you regularly heat-style your hair or subject it to chemical processes, you might have to do it more often.

Check Ingredient Labels 

One of the most helpful things that you can do to not only minimize hair webbing but also generally improve your overall hair health is to read ingredient lists carefully.

There are several substances, in addition to sulfates, that you don’t want in your hair products, regardless of your hair type.

Some of them are as follows:

  • Parabens
  • Synthetic fragrances
  • Formaldehyde
  • Phthalates
  • Mineral oil

Brush and Dry Your Hair the Right Way

Also, remember to follow recommended brushing and drying techniques for your specific hair type.

Brushing and drying play essential roles in distributing the natural oils produced by the scalp throughout your locks and controlling how your hair looks once it has dried.

If you have curly hair, for instance, there are certain tips you need to remember in order to dry and brush your hair successfully. 

And it’s the same for other hair types; look into the best practices for your hair condition and incorporate them into your routine.

Limit Your Use of Heat-Styling Tools 

Also, try to minimize your use of heat-styling tools as much as you can.

These accessories don’t just dry your locks, they can make them weak and brittle too.

If you must use heat on your tresses, work with lower settings. Or use a heat protectant.

Don’t Overextend Protective Hairstyles 

Lastly, don’t forget to take your hair out of its protective style after six to eight weeks.

The longer it stays in, the more buildup it generates.


Is It Normal When Hair Clumps Together?

Hair can sometimes clump together, especially after you have just been in the shower, and that’s normal.

It’s not normal when it dries and is still clumped or when it forms knots or webs.

How Do I Prevent Wet Frizz and Hair Webbing?

To make sure that your hair doesn’t suffer from wet frizz and hair webbing, moisturize and seal your locks.

Also, clean product buildup by using a clarifying shampoo at least once a week.

Does Hair Webbing Affect All Hair Types?

Hair webbing can happen to anyone, but people with fine hair are especially prone to it.

A young woman with long brown hair is shocked while holding her hair.

How To Stop Hair Clumping Together

If you don’t want to see your hair sticking up and forming webs, it’s best to take a long, hard look at your current haircare practices to see where you might improve.

Careful product selection grounded in getting proper hydration and moisture, as well as keeping your tresses clean and conditioned, is key to optimal hair health.

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  • Kat

    Kat brings a seasoned voice to our beauty blog with 13 years of dedicated writing experience. Her deep-seated passion isn't just limited to words; she's always on the pulse of emerging makeup trends. Beyond her articles, Kat crafts hand-made crochet swimwear and sundresses, and effortlessly steps in as a muse for beauty photoshoots. Kat holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.

  • Jessica Hoelscher

    With thirteen years in cosmetology, Jessica Hoelscher is a seasoned stylist recognized for her modern techniques. A graduate of Paul Mitchell the School in St. Louis, her expertise has been showcased on Fox Two News and in People Magazine. Self-employed at Salon Lofts, her work has graced TV screens, styling for renowned events and Ole Miss cheerleaders.

One Comment

  1. Wow! thank you! I did not know that about hair webbing! Thank you!

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