Erika Sarai
Updated on January 23, 2024

For those with curly hair, you are probably aware by now that good wash days are not a given; it’s not too long before your go-to routine suddenly has you dealing with dull, frizzy, flat, weighed down curls and an itchy scalp, to name a few. And you know that googling a solution is like going on Web MD to figure out why you have a headache only to receive 100 possible causes.

As overwhelming as it all seems to be, the solution may be a lot simpler than you think. Have you heard of clarifying shampoo?

Why You Need to Clarify Curly Hair

If your go-to products are unexpectedly failing you, clarifying shampoos should be your starting point for troubleshooting most hair issues. They work to completely strip off any severe buildup from dirt, oils, products, hard water minerals that have accumulated in your hair and scalp over time.

Now you may be raising your eyebrow here and wondering: “Isn’t that what a traditional shampoo already does?” Well, yes and no. Traditional shampoos and clarifying shampoos differ in their ability and strength to remove buildup. For instance, traditional shampoos typically include gentler cleansing ingredients safe enough to use on a regular basis. For a deeper clean, clarifying shampoos are formulated with stronger cleansing ingredients, so think of it as a reset button for your curls.

Healthy and Bouncy Curly Hair

How Often Should You Clarify?

For best practice, incorporate a clarifying treatment in your curly hair regimen at least once or twice per month, or when your hair feels dirtier than usual after washing it. Have you gone swimming at the pool or beach? Tried a temporary color wax? A hairstyle with a ton of product and hairspray for hold? Go clarify. These are a few examples that cause instant buildup in your hair. Washing hair with a regular shampoo will remove some of the residue, but let’s be honest, it’ll be like using an eraser that just smudges your page.

How to Know When It Is Time to Clarify Curly Hair

CG Friendly Clarifying Shampoos and Treatments

Here are a few of my favorite, gentle yet powerful cleansers that will reset your hair without stripping curls of essential moisture and proteins.

1. Bounce Curl Clarifying Shampoo and Turmeric Detox Mask

Clarifying Shampoo along with Turmeric Detox Mask from Bounce Curl will be your new favorite power-combo. Bounce Curl Clarifying Shampoo also works as a conventional shampoo as it is gentle enough to use every wash. However, when used along with the Turmeric Detox Mask monthly, it will give your hair that extra deep cleanse for removing the stubborn buildup you are looking for. Note that the detox mask does not have to be specifically used with Bounce Curl clarifying shampoo – you can use it with your regular shampoo as well.

How to use: Wash your hair with shampoo. Rinse. Apply Turmeric Detox Mask and leave on for 20-30 mins. Follow up with a conditioner. Products can be used on color-treated hair.

Bounce Curl Products for Clarifying Hair

Instagram / @bouncecurl

2. Flora Curl Coconut Mint Curl Refresh Clay Wash

This Curl Refresh Clay Wash is an all-natural, clay-based clarifying treatment. It contains Clay minerals such as bentonite clay and Rhassoul clay to purify and exfoliate the scalp, while absorbing excess dirt, flakiness and build-up. The clay wash is to be used instead of a shampoo. Note that it is not suitable for color-treated hair.

Clay-Based Clarifying Treatment for Curly Hair

Instagram / @floracurl

3. EVOLVh InstaVolume Cleansing Treatment

If you are an on-the-go curly, have a last-minute event or look for a quick fix, this is the cleanser for you! EVOLVh InstaVolume Cleansing Treatment is a clarifying shampoo that instantly strips excess oils and buildup. While it contains gentle cleansing detergents safe for curly hair, it is strong, and one application will have your hair feeling brand new (take it from me, do NOT shampoo twice with it!). To avoid excessive dryness, this shampoo is best to use on a monthly basis. The product can be used on color-treated hair.

Strong Cleansing Treatment

Instagram / @evolvh

DIY Hair Clarifying

Don’t have access to clarifying products at the moment? No worries! An apple cider vinegar DIY rinse for hair is also a good alternative. To make it, use 1/3 cup of organic, raw, unfiltered ACV, and mix it with 1 quart of distilled water.

Start off by washing your hair with regular shampoo as you normally would, rinse, then apply the apple cider vinegar mix to your hair. Scrub it on the scalp and leave it on for 5 minutes. Rinse again and follow with a conditioner.

Clarifying Mistakes to Avoid

First of all, do not clarify hair every wash. Clarifying too often will remove the natural oils and moisture in your hair and scalp and, in return, leave you with dry and brittle hair.

Also, mind that not all clarifying shampoos are created equally. Just because a clarifying shampoo contains the word clarifying on the bottle, it does not mean it is safe to use for your hair. Many non-CG clarifying shampoos contain cleansing ingredients that are too harsh for curly hair. In addition, many of them also contain silicones, and silicones cause build-up.

Some of the most common harsh sulfates to look out include: Sodium Laureth, Myreth, or Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Ammonium Laureth or Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate.

Curly Hair with Red and Auburn Highlights

Trust me, clarifying is not as complicated as you may think! I personally like to clarify once at the beginning of the month and once at the end. I follow the modified Curly Girl Method, so I do use products with silicones at times. If you also use products with silicones, butters, heavy oils, clarifying twice a month should suffice.

I also troubleshoot most hair issues with clarifying first. Most of the time, clarifying is all I need to bring my curls back to life. I have spent countless hours (and money!) figuring out causes and solutions for my hair when all I needed was to clarify. For more curly hair care advice, tips and product reviews, I invite you to check out my Instagram page, @rare.rubi. Hope to see you there!

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