Let's "Clarify" things Please

Christopher Stephens Salon West Palm Beach Everyone talks about the importance of the "once-a-week hair masque", but does anyone mention the once-a-week (or once a month) clarifying shampoo? Nope; not really, but today I want to give this hair category a little love for a change.

You might think you have no need for any hair-clarification action (yes, I just made up that term), but if you color or highlight your hair, use a weekly hair masque, or apply any type of styling products - even dry shampoo, then yes, a bottle of this stuff needs to be in your shower, A.S.A.P.

Here's why:

What is Clarifying Shampoo?

Clarifying shampoos also go under the names "purifying," "detoxifying" "energizing" and "deep-cleansing". What they're designed to do is remove stubborn build-up from your hair. Think slippery silicone's, waxes, gels, mousse, hairsprays, moisturizers or plain old gunk from your regular shampoo, conditioner or styling products including dry shampoo. Clarifying shampoos also help to lift away mineral deposits from hard water, chlorine and other chemicals that stick to or penetrate hair in a swimming pool as well as salt build-up from swimming at the beach.

Most regular shampoos are formulated to cleanse gently, with a lower proportion of surfactants (cleaning agents) compared to moisturizing ingredients - which is why they make your hair look and feel shiny and smooth. In comparison, clarifying shampoos are all about the cleaning. They contain fewer conditioning agents, and more surfactants, in order  to clean the hair as thoroughly as possible.

Make sense? Here are eight instances where a clarifying shampoo would come in handy:

1. To get rid of build-up from your conditioner, treatments and styling products.

Even if you love your regular hair products, it's helpful to occasionally work in a clarifying shampoo to remove any build-up, especially of silicone-based conditioners and if you use any hair-styling products, even dry shampoo. Since the silicone's, waxes and other ingredients coat your strands and build up on top of each other over time, they can contribute to dull, non-shiny looking hair. By clarifying these impurities from your hair everything will work better and look better if your favorite products start out on a squeaky-clean foundation occasionally.

If you use a lot of hair products, you may find that you need to clarify your hair as often as once a week. Otherwise, once every two to four weeks should be reasonable.

2. To prepare your hair for color.

Use a clarifying shampoo the day before getting any hair color done. This ensures the color has the best chance of depositing well on your hair without any mineral or product build-up. You never want to do this on the same day that you color though, as you want the scalp's natural oils there to protect you from irritation. Another thing that you need to be aware of is that clarifying shampoos can fade color, so if you have color treated hair, you only want to use one when you're about to go in to see your stylist for a touch-up.

3. As a once-in-a-while volume booster for fine, straight hair.

This one's for anyone out there with fine, straight, sticks-to-your-head-if-you-don't-wash-it-every-day-type of hair. Sometimes, for a special occasion, you need your hair to be as big as it can get. These are the times you need to bust out the clarifying shampoo. Because it's so light and deep-cleansing, it really helps to achieve a more voluminous style. For special occasions, it's okay to temporarily sacrifice on conditioning for the extra volume. That being said, don't make it a habit if your hair isn't that oily, as it can really dry it out. You'll want to compensate the next time you wash your hair by giving it some extra conditioning love.

4. To clean non-color-treated hair that's very oily.

Is limp, greasy hair driving you crazy? A clarifying shampoo could do the trick by giving you a deeper and less moisturizing cleanse. You could then skip conditioner if you really don't think you need it, or just apply the tiniest amount to the last quarter of your lengths. You could also follow up with a spray-in leave-in conditioner if you have greasy scalp and hair, but have dry ends. If at all possible, alternate days with clarifying shampoo then two or three days with regular shampoo, since clarifying too often is harsh on the hair.

To emphasize, don't use a clarifying shampoo as your regular shampoo if your hair is color-treated, as it will fade, fast.

5. As a pre-masque step.

In facial care, exfoliation is the essential first step before you apply a face masque. Well, the same theory goes for hair care. Your weekly deep-conditioning treatment is going to deep-condition a heck of a lot better if it doesn't have to fight through layers of product gunk to get to your hair strands. It also makes for a nice little weekly ritual if you do them both together; clarify, and then deep-condition. The deep-conditioning will also help return your hair to a softer, silkier state.

6. To keep blonde hair from turning brassy

Clarifying shampoo can be especially helpful to blondes! Not only natural blondes but also for bleached-blonde hair, high lift blonde color treated hair or highlighted hair. As these hair types, whether natural or color treated, tend to be very porous. This means all types of blonde hair tends to more easily absorb yellow tones from the surrounding environment. This brassy effect could be the result of mineral deposits from your shower, pollution from city air, cigarette smoke or even your styling products. It's a good idea to introduce a clarifying shampoo once a week, along with a purple shampoo, for tone, once a week, if you have a problem with brassiness.

7. To get rid of hard water deposits or damaging chlorine.

As everyone that lives in South Florida knows, the tap water here can be a bit harsh at times. That harshness is the result of chlorine and minerals in the water that can build up in the hair, especially blondes, over time. Not to mention the swimming pool, which is a favorite past time for a large majority of Floridians. All of that chlorine and all of those minerals that we are exposed to takes its toll over time. A good example would be: Have you ever seen a blonde headed little boy or girl with a very distinctive green hue to it? That my friend is chlorine build-up at its extreme. This can be avoided by clarifying the hair at least once a week if you or your child is a frequent pool swimmer or if you have high mineral content in your tap water.     

I do also recommend wearing a swimming cap, obviously, and investing in a home water filtration system for those severe cases, but even along with those things, weekly or monthly clarifying is a great extra step.

8. To re-start your hair regimen when nothing is working.

If your hair is just all-around looking like crap lately, refusing to behave and it's a bad hair day every day, then a clarifying shampoo could do the trick. At any rate, it'll remove any build-up of whatever it was you were using to tame it, so you can start back at square one with a clean slate.

I also find it's really helpful to clarify and then see how your hair falls (and dries) naturally, without any product in it at all. That's a good starting point when you're trying to figure out what hairstyle, cut and color would work best for you.

I hope this article has been of help to you, but if you have a problem with build-up on your hair that you are unable to clarify yourself at home, please call your stylist. There are professional products that can be used by a licensed Cosmetologist which will remove those pesky build-up's that home treatments can't handle. 


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