What Is Clarifying Shampoo?

Clarifying shampoo comes up quite often if you’ve ever talked about hair care with those who are passionate about the subject. Although for a product that so many swear by, the majority of us still have no clue what makes clarifying shampoo special. So what is clarifying shampoo, and why are so many people talking about it? Keep reading to find out! 

Clarifying Shampoo 101

So what is clarifying shampoo? This shampoo is designed to “clarify” or deep cleanse your hair from impurities or intense build up. Build up can happen a few different ways. The most common is overuse of products. This can be from too much dry shampoo, mouse, or even hair spray use. 

Over time, these products build up on your hair and stick on. This is why they typically don’t get fully removed from standard shampoo. Another reason for build up can be from pollutants in the air. Depending on where you live, this can be a bigger issue more or less. 


To explain this product well, we have to talk about the ingredients. This is the biggest differentiator from other types of shampoos. Clarifying shampoo has something called surfactants. There a few different types of these, but here are the most common options:

1. Chlorides or bromides

This is what makes your hair soft after cleansing away any impurities. If it wasn’t for this ingredient, your freshly clean hair could come out dry and in desperate need of moisture, so this ingredient is a great addition. This works great for those with dry hair that still need relief from build up. 

2. Cetyl-fatty alcohols

This option is a bit more on the calm side of cleansers, however it can still get the job done. Think of this as a middle ground for mildly oily and mildly dry hair. 

3. Ammonium-sodium lauryl sulfate

This one’s a mouthful. However, it truly is the definition of bringing in the biggest guns. If you are in desperate need of a deep cleanse after loads of build up, then this is your best option. It can also work for those with excessively oily hair since it may dry out your hair a bit. 

How to Use Clarifying Shampoo

Clarifying shampoo is not an everyday use. While its deep cleansing abilities can be extremely helpful, it can also dry your hair out if overused. Here is a quick guide on how to use clarifying shampoo:

1. Find a Good Clarifying and Standard Shampoo. 

These two will be working in tandem, so be sure to find a high quality standard shampoo to alternate with. It would be very counterintuitive to clarify your hair just to follow it up with a shampoo that adds loads of build up back, so be sure to do your research and find options that clean your hair without adding more harm than good. 

2. Only use Twice a Week

Keep your use of clarifying shampoo to 2 times a week max. Anything more will strip your hair and cause more harm than good. Some people may only wash their hair twice a week typically. If so, try alternating between clarifying shampoo and standard shampoo to give your hair a break. If not, wash every other time with standard and clarifying shampoo. Try lowering the amount of use over time to once a week and then every other week.

3. Keep Portions Small

A little goes a long way, so you should only use a quarter size or slightly more for your wash. Be mindful of your hair length to determine if you need slightly more or less. However, the focus should be on the scalp and top of your head, not the ends. That being said, don’t overcompensate for long locks too much. 

4. Apply on Damp Hair

Apply like you would normally wash on damp hair. This will help the product spread across your whole head. 

5. Let it Sit and Rinse

Let it sit on your head for 30 second to a minute before rinsing. This will give time to get deep into the hair to remove the buildup. 

6. Follow with Conditioner

Always follow up with a conditioner. This is a deep stripping of all the excess oils and build up, so your hair is much more dry than even standard shampoo use. Let the conditioner set for a few minutes before rinsing for optimal moisture.

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