Spoiler alert: Not all shampoo is created equal. Styling products, pollution, dead skin and oil all cause scalp build up. If your hair is limp, greasy and dull-looking, or if you just feel your regular lather isn’t getting the job done, it’s time to switch to a clarifying shampoo.
Think of it as ‘descaling’ your strands.
What actually is a clarifying shampoo?
It's basically a deep cleanser designed to shift stubborn residue from your strands.
Intermittent use of a clarifying shampoo boosts shine and will remove any grime clinging to your scalp, which can cause irritation.
Is a clarifying shampoo safe on coloured hair?
It is, but those who colour their hair should be extra careful.
If you want to avoid washing your colour down the drain, ‘don't overdo it and don’t purify your hair within the first week of a fresh colour,’ says Debby Vellozzi, Product Development Expert at Virtue.
Ingredients-wise, choose a gentle clarifier such as charcoal powder, which acts like a magnet for impurities.
Since it is able to soak up 100 to 200 times its weight in impurities, it's a helpful tool to eradicate dirt, flakes, and oil from our scalp and hair. You'll find it in Virtue’s Refresh Purifying Shampoo.
Best Clarifying Shampoo For Coloured Hair
Virtue Refresh Purifying Shampoo, Cult Beauty
A winning combination of purifying charcoal powder plus moisturising coconut oil and repairing keratin, ensures you whisk away impurities while keeping strands in tact. 'There's a difference between removing excess sebum and stripping the scalp or hair of natural essential oils,' says Vellozzi.'This avoids the latter scenario.'
Also key: avoid traditional chelating agents like EDTA and tetrasodium EDTA, which latch on to metal ions in hard water areas. While these help to make the water softer, they can be too harsh on coloured strands.
Celebrity hair stylist Larry King's City Life Shampoo avoids those pitfalls by using antibacterial centella asiatica to lift away hard water deposits and heavy mineral salts.
Can you use clarifying shampoos on Afro hair?
The curl pattern of Afro hair means it tends to be drier on the mid-lengths and ends as the scalp's natural oils struggle to travel down that far.
But old product build-up, especially from oil-based stylers, can also weigh curls down and irritate the scalp.
Strike the right balance by using clarifying shampoos sparingly to get a clean slate. Be sure to also look for charcoal powder on the ingredients' list as it's gentle and helps you to wash your hair less.
Shea Moisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Shampoo, Lookfantastic
Alongside bamboo charcoal, botanical ingredients like tea tree oil, African black soap and willow bark extract feel soothing on your skin, making the shampoo perfect for those with itchy or irritated scalps.
How often should you use clarifying shampoo?
Every two weeks, especially for those who regularly use styling products.
'The great thing about clarifying shampoos is that you can use them to create a fresh base, or just when your hair is not behaving and you need a reset,' explains Vellozzi.
Clarifying shampoo can be used in the following scenarios:
Before you colour you hair: If the colour is going to penetrate into the hair shaft, dirt and product build up shouldn’t stand in the way after using a clarifying shampoo.
Before using the best hair mask: Same as above – if you want the super nourishing ingredients to get to work, you need to rid the area of grime and build-up.
If you live in a city: Much like your skin, your hair and scalp is unfortunately subject to pollution particles. These can block pores and leave strands looking dull and lifeless. The best clarifying shampoo will rectify that.
Best Clarifying Shampoo For All Hair Types
Larry King Hair Care City Life For Your Hair Shampoo, Cult Beauty
Antibacterial centella asiatica lifts away hard water deposits while nourishing vitamin E and zinc control your scalp’s oil production. There's nothing in this kind-to-hair-formula to rile dry, curly or coloured strands.
Best Clarifying Shampoo For Curly Hair
Oribe The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo, Net-A-Porter
Loved by supermodels and stylists alike, this clarifying shampoo is packed with eucalyptus, green tea and sea kelp extract to refresh strands.What makes it one of the best curly hair products is that it moisturises while it cleanses. Meaning your curls will keep their shape and bounce post washing. For an every day lather, curlies should also try out the best sulphate-free shampoo.
Best Clarifying Shampoo For Dry Hair
Moroccanoil CLARIFY Clarifying Shampoo, Lookfantastic
Suffer from dry hair? We wouldn't blame you for worrying that a clarifying shampoo would make the situation worse. Moroccanoil's heavy-hitting nourishing ingredients like argan and avocado oils will keep strands soft and smooth. So relax.
Scroll through our round up below to find the perfect clarifying shampoo for your hair type. Product build-up, be gone...
Because it's acidic, apple cider vinegar lowers the pH levels of the hair and scalp for shiny strands and soothed skin.
The Klorane Botanical Foundation develops programs to protect ecosystems around the world while also discovering natural ingredients for hair. Currently, it is using aquatic mint to purify water polluted by heavy metals from an old mining site in France and applying that knowledge to haircare. The success of planting aquatic mint on the banks of the river and using the root inside filtering columns, has made it the star ingredient inside this shampoo for city tresses. Not only is the formula biodegradable but it removes 97% of polluting particles from scalp and strands.
A deep clean despite its lightweight formula. It's especially beneficial to fine hair prone to greasy roots. You'll probably find you can go a day or two extra before your next wash after using it. You're welcome.
This deeply cleansing formula works to remove debris without stripping goodness from your tresses. It's gentle enough to use every day, but particularly good for thick hair prone to build-up.
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Fiona Embleton has been a beauty editor for over 10 years, writing and editing beauty copy and testing over 10,000 products. She has previously worked for magazines like Marie Claire, Stylist, Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health. Beauty journalism allowed her to marry up her first class degree in English Literature and Language (she’s a stickler for grammar and a self-confessed ingredients geek) with a passion for make-up and skincare, photography and catwalk trends.
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