Everything You Need to Know About Clarifying Shampoo—and Why You Need to Use It Now

Deep cleaning shampoos help rid scalp of buildup

By Erika Stalder Apr 07, 2015 10:20 PMTags
Jordana BrewsterMike Windle/Getty Images for Sports Spectacular

Clarifying shampoo: we see it in stores, and some formulas may even land in our shower stalls if we happen to find it on sale. But what does the stuff really do for our hair and how should we be using it?

The first thing to know, says E! Style Collective member and celebrity hairstylist Marc Mena (who styles the tresses of Olivia Munn and Jordana Brewster) is that this shampoo type, which is typically more astringent, is not for every hair type or for typical, day-to-day use.

"Be careful about using clarifying shampoo with hair that is very dry because it can strip your hair of essential oils that moisturize," he advised. "That natural hydration can be difficult to regain."

However, if not working to nurse dry and brittle strands back to health, clarifying shampoos can be used to deep-clean the scalp, give hair bounce and even brighten highlights.

The ideal candidates for occasional clarifying shampoo use? Those who load up on styling products, are frequently water bound, who live in an area supplied by mineral-rich water or are looking to revitalize dull and lifeless stands.

"These shampoos remove natural mineral buildup from water and hair products from the scalp to help give hair a more weightless look," Mena said. "They also strip your hair of color and oils."

While voiding tresses of color may sound like a major hair care no-no, the effect provides a welcomed lift for blonde hair that has lost its luster. "If your hair is too dull after highlights and you want to brighten up the color, use a clarifying shampoo," Mena said. Try ColorProof ClearItUp Detox Shampoo, which is formulated for color-treated hair and contains nourishing vitamin E.

As many of us lighten our hair for warmer months and we eagerly anticipate pool and beach days of summer, now makes a good time to work clarifying shampoo into your hair care routine.

Start by using the shampoo once every two weeks to rid the scalp of harsh minerals, product build up and excess oil that can accumulate as temps rise. Avalon Organics Clarifying Lemon Shampoo makes a great choice for basic clarifying needs while Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil Shampoo is geared toward ridding scalps of oily buildup. If you notice hair not responding to your normal styling and cleansing products or looking dull and flat, then cycle in the use of clarifying shampoo a little more frequently.

Finally, if transitioning from straightened to natural hair, it may be helpful to reconsider common advice not to wash hair at all. The occasional wash with a clarifying shampoo made with hydrating oils (like MoroccanOil Clarifying Shampoo), followed by a thorough rinse and deep condition, can help keep curls light and bouncy.

So go forth and clarify—it can help you create hair as weightless and bright as summer itself.

ColorProof ClearItUp Detox Shampoo $30; Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil Shampoo, $57; Avalon Organics Clarifying Lemon Shampoo, $11; MoroccanOil Clarifying Shampoo, $25