Despite having a pretty solid beauty routine that involves washing my hair several times a week, every once in a while I’ll come to the realization that my strands are missing something. But what caused these suddenly limp locks? Was it the triple layer of hairspray I used to secure my hair into a sleek, low bun? An extended Youtube yoga video session that caused some serious scalp sweat? Or just that a few too many consecutive days of dry shampoo that have finally caught up to me? Whatever the cause of that recognizable “gunky” hair feeling, there comes a time in every person’s shampoo schedule when you’ll need to turn to a clarifying shampoo for some extra assistance.
Regardless of what additional benefits your everyday shampoo promises, like hydration or curl-protection, it’s underlying job is the same: to clean your hair. So what sets clarifying shampoo apart into its own hair care category?
As a beauty lover, I like to compare it to the world of skincare: I wash my face regularly, but every few weeks I also treat myself to a facial. And that’s exactly the kind of benefits you’re offering your hair and scalp — when you’re looking for a deeper, more purifying kind of clean (that can feel like a luxurious beauty treatment), you use a clarifying shampoo. Specific formulas obviously vary, but in general, clarifying shampoos work to help dissolve product build-up, oil and dead skin cells, giving you the deepest clean and much-needed detox for your hair and scalp.
Most of the time people turn to clarifying shampoo as a kind of reset for excessive product build-up. Some shampoos don’t have the cleansing power necessary to remove all of the product you may use, leaving you with layers of build-up that translate to greasy strands. So while that shine wax or extra-strong hairspray may have taken your style to the next level, you might want to turn to clarifying shampoo when it's time to put that look to bed.
If your regular shampoo is still leaving your hair looking a little on the greasier side, a shampoo for oily hair can help to remove excess dirt and oil. Since clarifying shampoo offers a much deeper clean, try seeing if using oily hair products gives you the grease-free shine you’ve been missing. And be sure to check out another key post from our blog: “How to Get Rid of Oily Hair: A Guide to Live By.”
As someone who lives in New York City, I’m no stranger to the effects of smog, construction debris and general air pollution. Mixing a clarifying shampoo into my weekly routine helps to ensure none of that junk is following me for too long once I get off of the subway.
If you’re not sure what the source of your “limp and lifeless” hair is, try a clarifying shampoo. Sometimes a lack of volume is caused by either excessive product build up or a very oily scalp, so getting a deep clean from a clarifying shampoo just might be the voluminous savior you’ve been looking for. Once dry, follow with a texturizing spray for fine hair to really take that volume to the next level.
Using a clarifying shampoo once or twice a month can help to make the most of your colored hair. And while you shouldn’t use a clarifying shampoo within the first week or so of coloring your hair, an occasional deep-cleaning session (with the right sulfate and paraben-free product) will help bring out the most vibrant hues possible. For more information on caring for freshly dyed hair, be sure to check out our post on “How to Prevent Your Hair Dye From Fading.”
While hair types and lifestyles vary, the average person should try to clarify their hair once or twice a month. Start here and adjust as necessary; if you’re not satisfied with the level of clean, use it more frequently, or space it out more if your locks look a little too over-cleansed. The over-use of clarifying shampoo can potentially be detrimental to your locks; since the natural oils on your scalp are responsible for keeping everything in balance (meaning healthy, shiny hair), removing too much of them will leave you with dull, lifeless strands. As is the case with most things in life, the key here is finding balance!
Once you’ve figured out the right wash schedule, I’m all in favor of turning a clarifying shampoo into a mini spa experience… and this means treating yourself to a scalp massage while applying your shampoo. After massaging it into your scalp, let the shampoo sit for a few minutes — this has the benefit of allowing the shampoo to properly break down any build-up or oil that may be on your scalp — then rinse it out. Since the intense cleaning of clarifying shampoos might make your hair feel a little drier than usual, follow this with a nice and nourishing deep conditioner.
So by now, you’re probably wondering which is the best clarifying shampoo for you to use. I’d recommend looking into the different types available: some double as flaky scalp care, some focus on using active ingredients like charcoal, but not every kind can promise to work with your specific needs (or even be good for you, since intense formulas can actually end up over-stripping your strands if you already have dry hair).
When my scalp needs a good reset, I turn to the SOLU family for backup, with its different levels of clean. First, there’s the classic SOLU clarifying shampoo. While this rich foaming shampoo is designed to remove build-up, you’re still left with hair that’s refreshed, soft and shiny. This efficient level of clean was best described by Eva Alt at Into the Gloss: “I can fully attest that there was not a single strand of hair on my head that felt crunchy or crusty after using.” But if you’re really looking to scrub that scalp, there’s the SOLU sea salt scrub cleanser. This gentle scrub removes residue while also adding a texturizing effect to your hair, leaving you with beautifully voluminous strands. And while actual vacations may be out of the question for the foreseeable future, you can mentally transport yourself to the Sicilian coast with a rich scalp massage.
Even the best shampoo and conditioner routines need a little variety, especially if you’ve been noticing excessive build-up of product or oil in your hair. Finding the right clarifying shampoo helps you ensure that your hair is as clean and voluminous as it can be: try to mix a clarifying shampoo into your shower schedule once or twice a month, and enjoy healthier, happier looking-hair. And if you have any additional tips and tricks to keeping your scalp healthy, be sure to let us know in the comments!
By Lauren Hannel, staff contributor
All photos by Karli Moceri