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  • Writer's pictureJo DeSerio Jones

To clarify or not to clarify? That is the BIG question.

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

This question comes up in forums and articles all the time, and while there are different opinions on this subject, I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

You’ve probably read that you should be clarifying monthly or maybe even weekly. I wanted to share my theory based on my experiences. I firmly believe that if you are using clean beauty products, there shouldn’t be any need for clarifying. As a curl specialist and curly haired person myself, I have not used a clarifying shampoo in years (since the last time I was in a swimming pool loaded with chlorine), and I do not have any issues because with build-up. I tend to have a dry scalp, so why would I use something that is stripping oils away and drying out my hair? My scalp has never been healthier.

A clarifying shampoo's job is to remove build-up, or essentially, to strip. That can be oils, residue, medications, or mineral build-up. This can lead to dry hair and scalp, resulting in the need for more products and potentially more build-up. It can become a vicious cycle…

Instead of going round and round with using heavy weighted products, getting build-up, needing to strip it, hair and scalp end up dry, needing more oils… choose a cleaner routine. Whether natural from the scalp or plant based, oils are good for hair and scalp. They are detergent soluble so they are not going to build up, and they will be easily removed with the use of a regular shampoo. There are also water soluble product options out there that are not going to cause build-up.

Fun fact: shampoos and detergents were introduced into our society during the Industrial Revolution, and it was later determined that these detergents were drying out the hair and skin. That led to the production of conditioners and lotions to counter the effects of these detergents. Today, we realize that less is more when it comes to shampooing, especially with curly hair which is naturally drier. Since we are shampooing less, it seems logical that we would want to be using clean products (which is a whole other conversation).

Clarifying shampoos are necessary for salon professionals in order to establish a clean canvas before chemical services, but I feel the use at home is overdone.

If you do find yourself in need of clarifying, only apply to where it is needed. If your scalp feels coated, only apply to the scalp, and if your ends feel waxy or weighted, only apply to the hair. Be sure to finish with a hair mask to replace the oils that have been pulled out. Better yet, I recommend finding a cleaner haircare routine. Switching to cleaner products with more natural ingredients will eliminate the need to strip things from your hair. In place of a clarifier, try using apple cider vinegar mixed 1oz/1C water ratio. Your hair and scalp will be a lot happier =]

Curly hair (and scalps) are typically dry, so clarifying is probably making your situation worse. The important thing to remember when washing your hair is to cleanse the scalp and condition the ends.

These are some clean haircare brand options that I trust, work with and believe in:

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