Why + When You Should Clarify Your Hair (2023)

Clarifying is one of the biggest differences between my Curl Maven Method, and Lorraine Massey’s Curly Girl Method. So here’s why and when you should clarify your hair, with product recommendations too.

Most of the issues people experience with their hair products, routine and results is simply because they’re not clarifying correctly, often enough or worse still – at all! If you’re not sure if you should be clarifying, read this post on 35 Signs You Need To Clarify Your Hair.

So in this post, you’ll find out what a proper clarifying shampoo does. The key ingredient to look out for to effectively remove metal and mineral deposits from your hair. Why it’s important, when and how often you should clarify your hair and the best product recommendations.

If you avoid sulfates because you’ve got coloured or highlighted hair. Or you’re a strict follower of the curly girl method, clarifying is the game-changer you’re missing from your routine!

If your hair is dry, dull and frizzy, limp, lifeless and lacking definition. Unable to soak up hair products no matter how much you use, or how long you leave them in. This post will change everything!

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Why You Should Clarify Your Hair

Clarifying shampoos are one of the most misunderstood hair products! They have a bad reputation for drying out the hair because they contain sulfates and don’t have many emollients or moisturising ingredients.

But that’s what you want in a product that’s designed to deep clean your hair! You just need to follow up with a deep conditioning treatment or hair mask to restore the loss of moisture.

The whole reason why you should clarify your hair is to give it a deep clean and detox. So your hair can absorb all the other products you use, such as conditioners, hair masks and styling products. Resulting in better shine and hydration, retention of moisture and reduction in frizz.

Another huge reason why you should clarify your hair, is scalp issues and hair growth. Healthy hair (that grows) starts with a healthy scalp.

So many scalp issues are caused from not clarifying using the right product, or often enough. Which not only leads to dry, itchy, irritated scalps. Greasy, oily scalps or flaky dandruff, but also prevents healthy hair growth and shine.

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What is a Clarifying Shampoo?

Think of a clarifying shampoo like a reset or refresh button for your hair. It’s a way to wipe the slate clean, and start over with a clean canvas.

Clarifying shampoos deeply cleanse and detox the hair and scalp by removing stubborn dirt, grease, oil, product build up and metal and mineral deposits.

It doesn’t matter what hair type, colour, density, pattern, texture or length – you need to clarify your hair! But it’s especially important if you live in a hard water area, or swim regularly.

If you have grey, coloured or highlighted hair rr if your hair that is dull, dry, frizzy, unable to soak up or absorb hydration and moisture.

Knowing why and when you should clarify your hair – and using the right product – will help remove all of the build up and deposits from the hair.

Not all clarifying shampoos are chelating. You need a chelating shampoo to remove metal and mineral deposits, such as chlorine, limescale and colour build up.

Clarifying vs Chelating

When I use the term “clarifying shampoo” I’m referring to a proper chelating, clarifying shampoo. Clarifying is just easier to say than chelating (pronounced key-lating). And it makes more sense to say you’re clarifying your hair, than chelating it.

Clarifying shampoo is like regular shampoo on steroids. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it contains sulfates or is drying on the hair. Bounce Curl Gentle Clarifying Shampoo is a perfect example of this. It’s sulfate-free, colour-safe, gentle enough for regular use and doesn’t dry out the hair.

Chelating shampoo is like a turbo-boosted clarifying shampoo on steroids – and does contain sulfates! As well as other key ingredients required to effectively remove metal and mineral deposits on the hair that clarifying shampoos don’t! I’ll list product recommendations further in the post, but those key, chelating ingredients are:

  • Disodium EDTA
  • Tetrasodium EDTA
  • Sodium Citrate / Trisodium Citrate
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When Should You Clarify Your Hair?

I recommend clarifying your hair with a proper chelating shampoo once/month – which is suitable for most hair types. If you live in relatively soft water, you can stretch that out to once every six weeks.

If you swim regularly, I recommend reading my Summer Haircare post. Where I give recommendations on how often you should clarify, depending on how often you swim. And how to minimise the drying effects regular swimming – and clarifying – can have on the hair.

If you haven’t clarified before or it’s been a long time since you did. Your hair is over-moisturised or you’re starting a new hair routine. If you’re just starting out with curly girl friendly hair products. Or you’ve been using products which contain silicones, waxes, rich emollients, moisturising ingredients, oils and butters.

You may need to clarify more than once to fully remove all of that build up from your hair. For example, use a clarifying shampoo for 2-3 washdays in a row. Then switch to your regular shampoo and clarify once/month going forward.

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Should I Clarify if I Have Coloured or Highlighted Hair?

The short answer is yes, absolutely! Chelating shampoos are the only thing that will remove metal and mineral deposits from the hair. It’s these metal and mineral deposits that cause the grey, coloured and highlighted hair to look green or brassy, yellow, orange or copper.

The whole reason people apply toners, or use blue and purple shampoos between colour appointments is because of those metal and mineral deposits on the hair.

When what you actually need to do isremovethe deposits from the hair, that’scausingthat colour build up in the first place. And you do that by using a chelating clarifying shampoo.

Recommended Reading: Understanding Hair Products and How to Maintain Healthy Hair When Colouring

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And here’s the other thing: blue and purple shampoos can build up on the hair too! All that build up leads to damage, breakage, uneven colour application and banding.

Due to the strong cleansing agents in the ingredients, chelating shampoos are labelled as not colour safe. They will cause your colour to fade if you use them too often.

However, that doesn’t apply to how I recommend you use them in the content on this website, and the advice I give in Curl Clinics.

They will brighten grey or highlighted hair, but fade darker coloured, dyed hair. It won’t fade naturally dark hair, just add shine.

Top Tip:always clarify before your colour appointment so the colour adheres to the hair better, applies evenly, is more vibrant and lasts longer.

If you have coloured or highlighted hair, here’s some good indications of how often you need to clarify. How often you get your colour done, how often you find yourself booking an appointment to get a toner applied. And/or how often you notice a brass/copper hue to your hair and reach for your blue or purple shampoo.

I’d still recommend clarifying once/month, and on the washday before you colour your hair. This is perfect if you only colour your hair a few times a year, or once every eight weeks. If you get your roots or colour done every six weeks, I’d recommend clarifying once every three weeks.

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Product Recommendations

Clarifying Shampoos that are sulfate-free, colour-safe, non-drying and suitable for regular use:

Chelating shampoos which contain sulfates, the necessary chelating ingredients, and not suitable for regular use, but suitable for monthly clarifying:

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Natural Alternatives

There are natural alternatives to the harsher chelating ingredients. But in my opinion, through research and personal experience, as well as recommendations in Curl Clinics. They just aren’t as effective at removing metal and mineral deposits as EDTA ingredients.

However, if you want something stronger than a gentle clarifying shampoo, but not as drying (or effective) as a chelating shampoo. Then I recommend using a natural alternative, but no more than once a week or every two weeks.

ACV (apple cider vinegar), phytic acid and charcoal are a little less drying than a chelating shampoo, but not nearly as effective. Bentonite clay and baking soda are also natural chelating ingredients, but I find them very drying on my hair.

I had a really bad experience with baking soda a few years ago and caused so much damage to my hair, I had to cut 8-10 inches off! So if you’re going to use a natural alternative, I always recommend using a (tried, tested and safe) product. Here are some great options:

Natural Chelating Shampoos & Hair Masks:

Was this post helpful? Did you know you should clarify your hair? Have you been using the right products and clarifying as regularly as you should? Comment below what your “ah-ha” moments were. Definitely check out my post on the 35 Signs You Need To Clarify Your Hair.

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Feeling overwhelmed?

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Then I highly recommend you book in for a Curl Clinic, which is a 1:1 consultation where I do just that! You canfind out more info here, orread lots of reviews and book here.

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