Hair Tips

Clarifying curly hair [remove buildup + restore volume]

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We all know that the key to healthy curls is moisture. But product buildup, pollution particles, minerals from hard water, and other impurities can prevent your hair from fully absorbing hydrating products, leaving your curls dry and prone to breakage.

If you're tired of your curls looking flat, dull, or frizzy, clarifying shampoo could be the solution. In this article, we’ll explain what clarifying shampoo is, how to clarify curly hair, and much more.

What is clarifying shampoo?

Clarifying shampoo is a type of shampoo specifically formulated to remove excess oils, product residue, heavy metals deposited from hard water, restoring its natural shine and texture. Most clarifying shampoos achieve this using a combination of chelating agents and surfactants.

Chelating agents are chemical compounds that bind to mineral deposits, metals, and other impurities that have built up on the hair shaft, isolating them and making them easier to rinse away. Surfactants are molecules with a unique ambiphilic structure — meaning they’re both hydrophilic and hydrophobic — which enables them to reduce the surface tension of liquids, breaking down and lifting away oil and product residue.

These ingredients enable clarifying shampoos to provide a deeper cleanse than traditional shampoos.

What does clarifying shampoo do to curly hair?

If you have curly hair, odds are you use quite a few different products to keep your curls looking full, healthy, and moisturized. Over time, these products can build up on your scalp and along the hair shaft, weighing your hair down and causing your curls to look flatter. In some instances, your hair may even start to feel sticky or greasy.

But products aren’t the only cause of buildup — hard water and excess oil production can also leave behind residue that dulls your hair’s natural shine and texture. If not addressed, this buildup can form a barrier on the hair shaft, preventing proper product absorption. This barrier renders moisturizing products less effective, which could lead to your hair becoming dry, brittle, and frizzy.

Clarifying shampoo solves both of these problems by deeply cleansing hair and eliminating buildup. This both restores your hair’s natural volume and fullness and essentially creates a blank slate for more effective treatment.

It’s important to note, though, that clarifying shampoo isn’t intended for frequent use. As discussed, clarifying shampoos use chelating agents and surfactants to provide a thorough cleanse. While these ingredients are fine in moderation, using clarifying shampoo too often can strip hair of its natural oils, leaving it brittle and prone to breakage. This is especially true for those with curly hair, which is already more prone to dryness and breakage than straight or wavy hair.

To protect your curly hair, avoid using clarifying shampoo more than once a week, and always follow up with a moisturizing treatment, such as a leave-in conditioner or hair mask.

How to use clarifying shampoo on curly hair

There really isn’t any special technique to using clarifying shampoo on curly hair; you apply it in much the same way as any other type of shampoo. With that said, there are a few best practices you can follow to ensure you get the best results:

  • Choose a clarifying shampoo with balanced ingredients.
  • Avoid clarifying shampoos formulated with silicones, sulfates, or parabens. These ingredients, which are commonly found in shampoo due to their cleansing and lathering abilities, can actually cause your hair to dry out. When combined with clarifying shampoo’s already potent cleansing ingredients, these chemicals can strip your hair, leaving it dry and damaged.
  • Concentrate on your roots. Product can often build up on your scalp and roots, clogging follicles and preventing healthy new growth. When applying a clarifying shampoo, focus on your roots, using your fingertips to gently massage in product and work it through your scalp. Then, bring the shampoo down the length of your hair, ensuring even distribution.
  • If you have hard water — water that has high mineral content — let the clarifying shampoo sit for a few minutes on areas with heavy residue. The longer you allow clarifying shampoo to sit, the more effective it will be at breaking down mineral deposits from hard water. Just be mindful to concentrate on areas with heavy buildup, as leaving clarifying shampoo on areas with minimal residue for too long could cause your hair to dry out.
  • Rinse thoroughly. Once your clarifying shampoo has had the chance to go to work, you’ll need to rinse out all the impurities that have been weighing down your curls. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to prevent any residue from being left behind.
  • Follow up with conditioner — and a moisturizing treatment. After rinsing out your clarifying shampoo, apply a conditioner formulated specifically for curly hair, such as Living Proof’s Curl Conditioner. To hydrate your curls even further, apply a moisturizing treatment such as a leave-in conditioner or a hair mask after you get out of the shower.
  • Don’t use clarifying shampoo too often. As mentioned, once a week should be sufficient.

Clarifying shampoo your curly hair will love

Searching for a clarifying shampoo that will be tough on buildup, but gentle on your curls? Look no further: Living Proof’s Clarifying Detox Shampoo is engineered to thoroughly cleanse curls without stripping them of moisture.

With magnetic polymers that act like magnet by attracting product and removing it from hair, naturally derived chelating agents to break down mineral deposits, and a gentle surfactant blend to sweep away pollution particles and sebum, our Clarifying Detox Shampoo will leave your curls looking soft, full, and healthy. Our Clarifying Detox Shampoo also provides the perfect base for our full line of Curl products, so you can hydrate your hair and enhance its natural texture.

Frequently asked questions

Will clarifying shampoo strip my natural oils and make my curly hair even drier?

When used properly — that is, not applied too often and paired with a moisturizing treatment, such as a leave-in conditioner or a hair mask — clarifying shampoo should not dry out your curls. In fact, clarifying shampoo can even make moisturizing treatments more effective by breaking down buildup, which can act as a barrier on the hair shaft and prevent product absorption.

How often should I use clarifying shampoo on my curly hair?

The answer to this question depends on which clarifying shampoo you use. Clarifying shampoo is intended to be a powerful cleanser. As a result, many use harsh ingredients that can strip hair if used too frequently. However, Living Proof’s Clarifying Detox Shampoo is formulated to be gentle, yet effective, avoiding many of the harsh ingredients found in other clarifying shampoos, and is safe to use on curly hair on a weekly basis.

Will clarifying shampoo affect my curls and their definition?

Clarifying shampoo is not intended to enhance your hair’s natural texture; for that, you’ll want to look for products specifically formulated to support curl definition. With that said, clarifying shampoo can break down product residue, excess oil, and hard water buildup, all of which can weigh down your curls, and restore their fullness.

Are there clarifying shampoos specifically designed for curly hair?

Although it isn’t specifically formulated to support curly hair, Living Proof’s Clarifying Detox Shampoo is engineered to be tough on buildup, but gentle on curls. Free from sulfates, silicones, parabens, and phthalates, our clarifying shampoo is able to achieve a deep cleanse and reset curly hair without stripping it of essential moisture.

What can I do to maintain moisture and hydration in my curly hair after using clarifying shampoo?

To keep your curls healthy and hydrated, apply conditioner immediately after you use clarifying shampoo — ideally, one specifically designed for curly hair. Once you’re out of the shower, apply a nourishing leave-in conditioner or hair mask to further restore moisture to your hair.

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Living Proof Review Team

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