How To Get Gum Out Of Hair: 4 Remedies From Hairstylists Who Have Seen It All
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Ever get gum stuck to your tresses when you were a kid? Perhaps the roles are reversed, as your little one reveals a wad of gum tangled in their soft strands. Or maybe your own long mane becomes caught in a bubble, resulting in a rather, uh, sticky situation. It happens.
No need for a teary-eyed trim, on both accounts: We tapped hairstylists for the best ways to get gum out of hair, sans scissors.
How to get gum out of hair.
Yes, it's possible to slide gum out of the strands without an impromptu haircut. Here are four tried-and-true home remedies, from hairstylists who have seen it all:
"Anything that's oil-based tends to work really well," explains texture specialist and artistic director at Matrix Michelle O'Connor. That's because most chewing gums are hydrophobic—meaning they repel water and stick to oil-based substances. The science is similar to that of oil cleansing: Oil dissolves oil, so coating a hydrophobic substance with another can effectively lift it off the strands.
That said, take a look at your oil arsenal (olive, coconut, jojoba), and work it through those strands. Perhaps do a full hot oil treatment while you're at it: Oil contains fatty acids1 that can condition your hair and even add shine.
Don't have any nourishing oils on hand? Not to fret: You can even reach for nut butters (peanut butter may be best, says O'Connor) as the oils in those spreads can work just as well. Perhaps opt for creamy versions so as to avoid lodging chunks of, uh, peanuts in the hair.
When you've got your product, simply isolate the hair that's tangled in the gum, working the nut butter through those strands. Let it sit for a moment—the hydrophobic properties of both the oils and gum will stick to each other. After a few minutes, the gum should stiffen up and become easier to remove from the strands.
If the thought of coating your hair with peanut butter sounds a little too messy, celebrity hairstylist and artistic director of Matrix Nick Stenson says you can use ice to "freeze" the gum off the strands. To do so, just apply ice cubes (or an ice pack) to the gum for a few minutes until it hardens. Once frozen, it should be easier to peel off of the strands.
Stenson also mentions vinegar as an effective way to remove gum from hair, as the acidic nature can dissolve the bonds between the gum and whatever it's stuck to (in this case, a tangled mane). Simply coat the hair in the solution for a few minutes before coaxing the gum out of your hair with a wide-toothed comb.
You may want to proceed with caution here, especially if the gum is stuck close to your scalp: Vinegar has AHA properties that can increase the chance of scalp burns and sun damage. It can also be a bit drying on the hair itself, so if you have especially dry hair, you may want to opt for oil or ice.
Does it depend on hair type?
In terms of which adventure you choose, it mostly depends on what you have on hand in your kitchen. However, as we touched on above, vinegar can be a bit drying on the strands. So if your tresses are already feeling parched, perhaps vinegar might not be the best plan of action; oils may be a better fit to simultaneously hydrate the hair.
On the other hand, Stenson mentions thick nut butters might not be best for fine hair, as the oils can weigh down the strands. "You may want to opt for ice or vinegar to avoid this," he notes. While you are eventually washing out the sandwich spread (no need to go about your day smelling like peanuts), some oily residue might linger and make fine hair feel a bit greasy.
Just because you've got gum in your hair doesn't mean you have to resort to an unfortunate haircut. Rather, consider one of these four methods to remedy the sticky situation. And after the gum is gone? Perhaps slather on a hair mask—a little extra hydration never hurts.
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Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.