Washing your hair comes as second nature, but it's clear that not all shampoos are created equally. No doubt it's easy to just grab a bottle from the drugstore and hope for the best, but if you're looking to improve your hair's wellness, it could be time to up your shampoo game. In particular, your clarifying shampoo game.
Clarifying shampoos act a bit like a power wash for your precious strands. They help dislodge product buildup, shoo away impurities and rinse off oil and unwanted sebum to leave hair looking clean, healthy and full of volume. But they're not without controversy. Use the wrong formula the wrong way, and you could end up with brittle, dry ends and an itchy, irritated scalp.
If your hair needs a serious deep clean, but you don't know where to start, VEGAMOUR has spoken to the experts to find out what's what when it comes to clarifying shampoo.
What Is a Clarifying Shampoo and Who Should Use One?
"Clarifying shampoos can help restore the hair and scalp to its natural pH-balance," said Sally-Kate Duboux, an expert bridal hairstylist and wig maker based in Hockley, Essex, UK.
"A clarifying wash or shampoo is a neutralizing and highly concentrated product, designed to remove stubborn product buildup, excess sebum and general dirt and grime that collects day-to-day," she said.
Using a clarifying shampoo is a good idea if you live in an area with hard water. Hard water contains a buildup of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, which can leave a light film on your strands after every wash. A good clarifying or detoxifying formula will help lift the light film away. You could also benefit from adding a filter to your showerhead.
If you're addicted to styling products, and you love piling on the dry shampoo between washes, your hair care routine might benefit from the deep clean a clarifying shampoo offers. For a more gentle approach to clarifying, pick a nourishing, plant-based dry shampoo that will leave you feeling fresh, not weighed down.
What's the Difference Between Clarifying Shampoo and Regular Shampoo?
A revitalizing shampoo will help cleanse and restore your hair without stripping it of its natural oils. A daily shampoo's focus is usually to clean the hair and scalp, but clarifying shampoos take things one step further.
Clarifying treatments are known for encouraging a squeaky-clean vibe. Think of them as your regular shampoo, but a souped-up version that's extra-effective at removing unwanted impurities, product residue and even hard water buildup from your 'do.
Is Clarifying Shampoo Good for Your Hair?
While they might seem like a total wonder product, some clarifying shampoos have a reputation for being a little harsh — especially if you have a sensitive scalp or dry hair. If you struggle with dandruff, psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis, certain surfactants in the formula could worsen these conditions, dry out your scalp and trigger the underlying cells to produce more oil.
You could also run into trouble if you have color-treated hair. Crystle Jones-Bond, a licensed cosmetologist, cosmetic chemist, instructor and author based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, explained, "Be cautious about using this shampoo if you have color-treated hair, especially red color. Remember, clarifying shampoo is made to strip your hair of everything. Red hair color is the hardest pigment to keep in because it's such a big molecule to keep locked in the hair cuticle. That's why it fades so fast — using clarifying shampoo will make it fade faster."
But clarifying shampoos are not all bad, and when used the right way, a product made with nourishing ingredients could help you hit the reset button on your luscious locks.
Ingredients to Watch Out For
What really sets a clarifying shampoo apart from a regular shampoo is its ingredients list. To shift the bad stuff from your strands, clarifying hair products often contain a high level of surfactants, which help lift away the unwanted gunk. The bad news? Some of these ingredients can actually be pretty rough on your hair.
Also: Does Shampoo Expire?
Sulfates are a type of surfactant or detergent for your hair. Sulfates give your hair the foaming, soapy lather when you wash it. Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are a particularly harsh (but common) detergent and emulsifier found in thousands of chemical-laden hair dyes, shampoos, hand soaps and even toothpaste. They might be super effective at removing grease and oil, but they're also known to cause irritation, inflammation and dryness in some people with sensitive skin, which is less than ideal. Fortunately, there are other surfactants that help clean your scalp and hair without the harsh effects on your hair. To keep it simple, look for a sulfate-free shampoo like GRO Revitalizing Shampoo from VEGAMOUR.
Parabens and Other Preservatives
Parabens have long been used in traditional beauty formulas to help preserve the life of the product. When it comes to clarifying shampoos (and shampoos in general), watch out for propylparaben and methylparaben in the ingredients list. Many studies state that parabens absorb quickly into the skin and can even penetrate the body's tissue. And that's not all. They can also trigger a host of skin complaints such as flaking, irritation, redness and discomfort.
Many traditional drugstore (and luxury) hair shampoos contain some form of alcohol. Some are much better than others and actually help nourish your scalp, but if you have susceptible skin or parched hair, it could cause you problems. Lacy Fields, trichologist and owner of Therapeutique Salon and Spa based in Rockville, Maryland, advised, "If you have scalp issues, you might want to avoid all alcohol ingredients." Fields suggested that when on the hunt for a clarifying formula: "... looking for keywords such as sulfate-free, color-safe and all hair types" is a good idea.
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Oils and Extracts
To keep your hair in radiant condition, you could take a more natural approach. Check for tea tree oil and green tea extract to restore your hair's natural pH balance and gently rid you of impurities. Tea tree has proven effective at fighting fungal bacteria, and some scientific research suggests that green tea extract helps stimulate hair growth by promoting scalp health.
If you like the idea of a clarifying shampoo but aren't sure about some of the ingredients, you could take a slightly different approach. The GRO Scalp Detoxifying Serum uses plant and mineral phyto-actives to remove persistent scalp buildup safely. It actively soothes any scalp damage and gently locks-in moisture with a semi-permeable barrier. It's an excellent weekly treatment and will help stimulate the scalp for optimal hair growth — without the sulfates, parabens or silicones.
When and How To Use Clarifying Shampoo
Every hair type could benefit from a deep clean now and again, but the trick is not to do it too often. Fields explained. "When you overuse a clarifying shampoo, you'll get new, multiple flyaways, dryness in your hair and scalp, and you will lose the natural shine in your hair."
For best results, use a clarifying formula no frequently than once a week and only use a small amount. Lather up with the solution, and then rinse after about 30 seconds.
Hair feeling dry after using a clarifying shampoo? You could use a coconut oil mask, marula oil or argan oil to replenish your locks with a hit of natural hydration. Coconut oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties. Argan oil contains antioxidants that fight free radicals and harmful UV rays. Marula oil is naturally packed with antioxidants, omega fatty acids and oleic acid that deliver a wealth of benefits to your strands. It will help tame flyaways and give dry locks a gorgeous glossy finish.
If your hair is dull and greasy and your usual lather isn't getting the job done, it could be time to use a clarifying shampoo. But when it comes to your hair's overall wellness, nourish your body from the inside out, and find a hair care routine that tends to your tresses with gentle but effective ingredients.
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