Clarifying Shampoo: What You Should Know Before Using it

You heard the rave about using a clarifying shampoo and how amazing it is! And you wonder if it’s worth incorporating into your hair care routine or has any particular benefit? I have all the answers to your questions right here!

Clarifying Shampoo
Instagram / @olaplex

Clarifying shampoos are primarily used to remove build-ups from the strands caused by everyday styling product usage. Clarifying shampoo removes product buildup, dirt, excess oils, minerals, and anything else that can cause your hair to become weighed down. It is a more extensive approach to washing your hair than conventional shampoo or washing conditioner.

Clarifying shampoos also aids in emollient removal. Most hair products contain emollients, which help to retain moisture and are suitable for our hair. However, excessive sealing causes the hair shaft to suffocate and lose its ability to absorb moisture, which results in internal drying, brittle ends, and damage to the hair.

Clarifying addresses several scalps and dry hair issues, making it extremely different from shampooing. Clarification is the first step if your hair has been damaged, straightened, treated, or generally unhealthy, and you want to restore its natural curl pattern.

Chelating vs Clarifying Shampoo

The chelating shampoos are a different type of clarifying shampoo; ordinary clarifying shampoos can only remove product buildup and cannot remove the minerals. Minerals don’t merely wash off; they bond to the hair, which calls for a chelating shampoo.

Chelating chemicals, such as EDTA, are found in certain clarifying shampoos, but they are often utilized in other shampoo compositions as preservatives or pH balancers. Because ingredients can be misleading, look for chelating shampoos that specifically state that they are made to either chelate or lift mineral deposits.

Chelating shampoos remove ionized mineral deposits and other random particles from your hair (mainly in hard water situations). It is occasionally employed as a preliminary to a chemical procedure to help loosen the cuticle and achieve a more effective result.

There’s a common misconception associated with clarifying shampoos: they contain much stronger cleansing ingredients capable of removing product buildup. However, that isn’t necessarily the case; it contains our dear friend’s “surfactants.”

Therefore, if you can’t find a clarifying shampoo, you can avoid using a shampoo containing sulfates. The main disadvantage is that there are many different types of surfactants, ranging from strong to gentle, and your typical shampoo may contain a sulfate type, which is less stripping and wouldn’t clear as much.

Typical surfactants to look out for in a clarifying shampoo:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth sulfate 
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate
  • Disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate
  • Disodium Laureth sulfosuccinate
  • Sodium coco sulfate
  • Sodium cocoyl isethionate
  • Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate
  • Sodium C14- C16 olefin sulfonate

Signs that you need to Clarify

Clarifying Shampoo
Instagram / @jamilynne

How do you tell when it’s time to clarify? There are so many telltale signs that your hair needs some clarification, but we often ignore those signs or misread them as protein deficiency or hair damage. Here are a few signs that tell your hair needs some clarifying:

  1. You swim in the sea or a saltwater or chlorine-filled pool.
  1. It seems your products are no longer effective because you aren’t getting the same results with the same products as you used to.
  1. Conditioner and other moisturizing treatments are no longer being absorbed, and hair feels heavy.
  1. Your hair is fine and low density, and you only co-wash.
  1. A dry, flaky scalp and itchy scalp with frizz and dandruff. In addition to being brought on by a lack of moisture, frizz can signify buildup.
  1. Even after using a co-wash or low poo, oily and greasy roots
  1. You’re losing more hair than usual. The buildup of product inside the hair follicles may prevent growth and result in hair loss.
  1. Hair breakage and curls that lack definition and bounce and look limp and lifeless.
  1. Your hair is getting more straw-like and drier.
  1. Your hair is not very porous. This type of porous hair develops puffers from product buildup more frequently. Low porosity curlies must be clarified regularly for the hair to function adequately.
  1. If the cuticle is coated with oils or other substances, the treatments may not work as well while you are getting ready to color, highlight, low light, or use chemical procedures on your hair.
  1. Hair no longer clumps or takes up moisture quickly.

How Do You Know If You Need To Chelate Or Clarify?

The main distinction between the chelating and clarifying shampoo is the presence of independents like the EDTA complex. To make the best choice, you must first identify the necessary clarifier and then carefully examine the bottle.

Chelating shampoos are only necessary if you use no-lye formulations, swim, or have hard water. Since they are typically more potent shampoo formulas, they can also clarify because they are designed specifically to extract mineral deposits from the hair. The Kenra Clarifying Shampoo is an example of a clarifying shampoo that also chelates.

Limp, weighed-down hair is frequently the result of regular, old product buildup. It also tends to feel dry, and there might even be some breakage, but not as much as with hair that is mineral-rich. Mineral build-up causes faded colors (especially for color-treated hair) and even some brassy weird tones on natural hair colors. It also causes hair to be dehydrated and straw-like despite conditioning followed by breakage. 

Your water may be hard, and you may need a chelating shampoo if it generally lathers poorly with soap and shampoos. Additionally, you probably have hard water if your skin feels dry after a shower or a bath.

Hence, you don’t require chelating shampoo if you don’t swim, don’t use lye, or don’t have hard water. All you require is a clarifying shampoo. If your water is hard, a clarifier won’t function very well. Therefore, if your shampoo isn’t lathering effectively, you’re clarifying, and your hair still feels coated, color also has an odd cast and feels scratchy and “tangly” in the shower, you likely have bad water. A chelating shampoo might be helpful for you.

I’d recommend using a chelating shampoo once a month or every few months for maintenance if you don’t fulfill the criteria for one and are unsure if you have hard water.

The Benefits of Clarifying Shampoo

using Clarifying Shampoo
Instagram / @bhblounge
  • Gets rid of product buildup on the scalp and hair.
  • Resets hair to its original state: After the buildup is removed, your hair will be much more similar to how it feels and looks in its natural state.
  • Removes green tint from chlorine exposure: When our hair turns green from exposure to hard metals during a swim, a clarifying shampoo will eliminate that brassy look.

The Drawbacks

  • After applying a new color, refrain from using clarifying shampoo for at least a week. Using a clarifying shampoo too frequently will hasten the fading of your hair color because its purpose is to remove any deposits from the hair.
  • When using clarifiers, people with eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, or seborrheic dermatitis should exercise caution because they could make their conditions worse.
  • Surfactants present in the clarifying shampoos are excellent cleansers and would strip hair of its natural oils and moisture, resulting in hair dryness and brittleness. As a result, it is recommended not to clarify too frequently.

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