Clarifying Shampoos: What Are They & How Do You Use Them?

Clarifying Shampoos: What Are They & How Do You Use Them?

Clarifying shampoo is a type of shampoo which cleanses the hair to remove any product built up at the scalp, and promotes a healthy environment for your hair. Read our guide for the answer to ‘what does a clarifying shampoo do?’, why you need it, and how best to use them.

Table of Contents:

What is Clarifying Shampoo?

Clarifying shampoo is a deep cleanser which can be used on every type of curly hair. Unlike regular shampoo, this curly hair product will cut through oils and built-up products easily, which could be leaving you with oily hair. The clarifying shampoo will clean these away, leaving you with fresh and healthy curls. 

What Does Clarifying Shampoo Do?

Clarifying is the process of removing unwanted scalp build-up and residues on your curly hair. You can think of it as hitting the reset button, and restoring your hair to its most natural state. 

For best results, understanding what a clarifying shampoo is and how it works can help manage product expectations. What clarifying shampoo does, includes:

  • Cleansing deeply.
  • Removing impurities & unwanted residues.
  • Removing build up caused by hard water minerals.

Why Does Curly Hair Need Clarifying? 

Curly hair needs clarifying to help ensure it absorbs all of your favorite products. If your hair stops absorbing the moisturizing products you apply, it may be because it needs clarifying. Once clarified, this allows your products to truly work their magic.

Curly hair needs clarifying in order to:

  1. Remove built up products at the scalp - Clarifying your hair means your scalp can breathe! Many people use multiple products on their hair on a daily or weekly basis. Over time, these will start to build up. This build up can be caused by emollients, which act as a sealant. Sealants are really good for locking moisture into the hair. However, overusing them can have the opposite effect.
  2. Allow moisture into your hair - Your curls may be lacking moisture if you haven’t clarified recently. This can lead to tresses becoming dry and brittle, and ultimately lead to hair breakage and dull hair. What clarifying shampoo does is it helps to remove this build up. Therefore, allowing moisture and hydrating hair products to re-enter the hair, and let your curls thrive.
  3. Boost scalp health - Clarifying your curls regularly is totally safe and necessary to maintain your hair and scalp health. For those with curly hair, it may seem strange to want to remove oils. This is because we’re always being told how important penetrating hair oils are for our hair. However, if we don’t clarify, product and scalp sebum build-up can risk weighing down the hair. This can lead to hair becoming oily and limp and suffocates hair follicles which can impact on hair growth.

The Best Clarifying Shampoo for Curly Hair 

An example of a clarifying shampoo that is formulated specifically for curly hair types is our Wash & Scrub Detox Pro-Biotic

  • This cleanser is part of our scalp-friendly hair products range. 
  • It contains micro-exfoliating particles that will gently unclog your follicles and wash off without leaving any residue or getting stuck in your hair. 
  • It is also supercharged with Apple Cider Vinegar, to melt away build-up and leave your curls shiny and revitalized.
a white tube of curlsmith clarifying shampoo surrounded by drawings of its core ingredients

It works best in tandem with our Super Slip Pre-Wash Primer which is a pre-poo treatment to ensure your curls are moisturized before you clarify. Finishing off with our Post-Biotic Calming Conditioner is perfect to refresh and rebalance the scalp after clarifying, as well as providing a fresh dose of hair hydration.

How to Use Clarifying Shampoo

For best results, you’ll want to use clarifying shampoo on wet hair, However, it should not be used in the same manner as a more regular shampoo or co-wash due to its detoxing nature.

To use clarifying shampoo on curly hair, follow these simple steps:

  1. Use a pre-shampoo treatment, ensuring your ends are well covered. 
  2. Do not rinse the pre-poo out before applying your clarifying shampoo. 
  3. Work a small amount of clarifying shampoo into your hands and apply to your wet scalp, massaging your scalp to get right to the root.
  4. Leave in your hair for up to 30 seconds.
  5. Rinse the clarifying shampoo completely from your locks.
  6. Apply your conditioner.

How Often Should You Clarify Your Curls?

We recommend using a clarifying shampoo every 3-5 washes. 

Using this product at this frequency helps to cleanse your curls, and leave your scalp free from build up without over-cleansing your hair. Every 3-5 washes will allow your hair to breathe before you use a clarifying shampoo again. The most common mistake people can make is treating a clarifying shampoo like regular shampoo.

how to wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo

If you need more help determining how often you should wash your hair, what your curl type is, and which products are best to treat it, take our curl quiz.

When to Use Clarifying Shampoo

Using clarifying shampoo means knowing when your hair may need a cleanse. Whilst we recommend using a clarifying shampoo every few washes, there are some other signs to look out for to know when you may need to use clarifying shampoo on your curls, coils, or waves. By feeling and looking at the scalp, you can determine for yourself when it’s best for you to use this hair treatment

Use a clarifying shampoo on your hair when:

  1. It’s greasy - Can you physically feel the buildup of products on your hair? Or if you feel like your hair needs a deep clean to transform it to strong curls once more, you may want to reach for the clarifying shampoo.
  2. Your scalp itches -  If you have a dry or itchy scalp, it could be caused by product build up. You will want to reset your hair, and this is what clarifying shampoo can do.
  3. Your hair is dry - Dryness can be a sign of product build up, as moisture isn’t able to penetrate through. You will notice this if your hair feels very dry even after deep conditioning, so you may want to clarify.
  4. Your hair is weighed down -  If your hair feels weighed down, leaving you to reach for volumizing hair products. If your curls don’t have their usual bounce and curl pattern, it might be time to clarify.
  5. Products don’t work the same - If your favorite products don’t give you your desired results anymore, you may need to clarify.
  6. Your hair feels dirty even after washing - If your hair still feels dirty once you have washed it, you may need to use a clarifying shampoo to help remove build up.
  7. Your curls are limp, lifeless and lack definition - A sign you need to wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo is if your curls are limp and lacking definition. This is because build up could be weighing your curls down and not letting them thrive.

Clarifying vs Regular Shampoo

Comparing a regular shampoo to a clarifying shampoo is the best and only way to see the real differences. After all, they treat our hair in very different ways, despite sharing similar names. When it comes to regular shampoos, here’s what you need to know:

  • They cleanse mildly.
  • They gently wash your scalp & tresses.
  • They are used as a day to day hair wash product.
  • They may have a lower proportion of surfactants (cleaning agents).
  • They can be used by any hair type.

This, along with its clarifying counterpart also exist in the form of a sulfate free shampoo, which people with curly, or dry hair, or sensitive scalps may benefit from. Sulfate free shampoos are more gentle on your locks whilst still giving your hair a thorough cleanse.

Trust Your Curls to Curlsmith 

At Curlsmith, we use curl-friendly ingredients to create our curly, coily hair products and wavy hair products. We never use sulfates, silicones or parabens, and our ranges are all cruelty-free and vegan hair products.  

Sharley Viola
Curlsmith’s Lead Educator

Textured Hair Specialist with a vast amount of experience delivering education both nationally and internationally. A self-confessed product junkie committed to spreading her wealth of knowledge amongst the curly hair community and beyond.

Sharley Viola
Curlsmith’s Lead Educator

Textured Hair Specialist with a vast amount of experience delivering education both nationally and internationally. A self-confessed product junkie committed to spreading her wealth of knowledge amongst the curly hair community and beyond.