Basics: What is “Clarifying”? Why, How & When to Clarify Hair?

I have been MIA for a really long time coz I have been super duper busy past few days. Anyway, as I had started the series of post about basics of curly/wavy hair care: Scrunch & Detangle. Today here I am writing about another important term, “Clarify”.

The word by itself gives away the essence of the term I suppose, yet we always have a doubt till we get to know the real use. So let’s begin.

What does “Clarify” mean in haircare?

Clarify, in general, means deep cleansing. In hair care, Clarify means to deep cleanse your hair and scalp to remove any buildup of dirt, oils, products etc. A strong shampoo is used for that. It basically strips hair and scalp of all oil, build up, dirt etc and gives a the squeaky clean feel.

Who should clarify their hair?
Anyone who is experiencing buildup in their hair can clarify.

When should we clarify hair?
1. When you are starting to follow Curly Hair Routine without sulfates. Since sulfate-free shampoos are mild, you should clarify your hair once before shifting to milder cleansers so that you start with a clean scalp and hair. You would want to remove any existing excessive oil,  product or even dirt in your hair and get a clean slate kind of hair to start afresh.

2. When you have been following a set regimen for long, however your usual products aren’t working for you. Means if you are following milder hair care and have a set routine that works for you, however the same products do not give you the same results as always, i.e. your curls are not as defined as usual. Then it is time to clarify. You might be facing product build up.

3. Few more sighs that you might be in need of clarifying are: Your hair feels weighed down, curls fall flat and none of your favourite products can pep it up, you have been oiling or deep conditioning regularly and have some oil buildup, scalp or hair feels sticky.

4. Sometimes,  when you have been co-washing for long, you might need clarifying to remove give a boost to your curls and for a fresh start.

5. If you were on sulfate-silicone free regimen but unknowingly or knowingly have used silicone ladder products, you might need to clarify to remove silicone from hair and then go back to your routine.

6. If you have hard water in your area which tends to lead to mineral buildup in hair and scalp.

How often should we clarify?

There is no “fixed” frequency to clarify your hair. Since strong shampoos are used to clarify hair, it will dry out your hair and scalp. So you should clarify sparingly. The best way to determine when to clarify is to look for the signs that I have mentioned above. If you have been co-washing for, say 4 months, and your curls are all popping and bouncing and you find them healthy and full of life, no need to clarify at all. You should clarify your hair only if you feel that your hair need a fresh start.

If you live in a area where hard water is there and tend to get a lot of build up due to that, you should probably clarify once a month. Or determine how long you can go before your hair needs a clarifying wash and then set the frequency.


How to clarify hair?

You can use a very strong shampoo to wash your hair as usual. There is no special way to clarify. Just a strong shampoo is required to give deep cleansing. Follow your usual way of hair rinsing by replacing your regular shampoo with clarifying one.

Apply shampoo on  hair and leave it on for a minute so that it can deep cleansing can be done effectively. Rinse off and follow it up with your conditioner.


What to use for clarifying?

A very strong shampoo is used to clarify hair. So that it can give the squeaky clean feel to the hair by stripping the hair. There are actually shampoos specifically manufactured and promoted for ‘clarifying’ hair, however those are not available n India.

Many clarifying shampoos contain small amounts of EDTA which is a good chelating agent and helps in removing all build up. However, what we basically need is a strong shampoo to remove any excess build up or oil. This can be done using any sulfate containing shampoo. We just have to make sure that the shampoo does not contain any silicone (ingredients ending with -col, -cone, -col, -xane etc.). Otherwise it will beat the entire point of clarifying.

So, we can use any sulfate containing shampoo that doesn’t contain silicone. 

However, if you need a stronger shampoo I know of one and use only that for clarifying: Pantene Pro-V Lively Clean Shampoo. This is a very strong cleansing shampoo which clarifies very effectively. Contains EDTA too!


Pantene ProV Lively Clean Ingredients
Pantene ProV Lively Clean Ingredients


There is a DIY way to clarify too:

Use baking soda.

Mix baking soda with your usual shampoo and massage all over scalp and hair and leave on for 30-60 seconds and then rinse off and condition. Or you can make a paste of baking soda and replace your shampoo with it. Mix baking soda just before washing hair. However, baking soda has a higher pH. So using it once in a really long time is OK but not often.

Use Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV).

Mix ACV with water in 1:3 ratio. Do not use undiluted. Saturate hair with this mix completely. Leave on hair for about 15-20 minutes. You can cover with plastic cover or shower cap too. Rinse off as usual. ACV is acidic and diluted ACV wouldn’t cause any issues to the hair or scalp. ACV is also used as a final rinse to give hair shine.

You can buy ACV here: Apple Cider Vinegar with strands of Mother


Points to remember (I feel like I am writing a school note:-P):

1. Clarify hair very sparingly.  I mean as less often as you can.

2. Clarifying is very drying for our hair and scalp. So we should always follow it up with deep conditioning.

3. I buy a small bottle of the clarifying shampoo and use it over a long period of time. So grab a small bottle with a long shelf life.


P.S. In the before after pic, I had oiled my hair heavily, ran out of shampoo,  was facing build up, stickiness and flaxseed gel was unable to give any definition ornhold to my hair. Before pic was day 4 hair (it’s a typo in the pic..I have written day 3 but it is day 4) without refreshing on the fourth day. No amount of refreshing or styling product was helping out. 3 days post oily hair, I had already refreshed with conditioner, flaxseed gel and mousse (several times). My hair surely needed a desperate cleansing. I clarified hair with the Pantene ProV Lively Clean shampoo and followed it up with applying curd and leaving it on with a shower cap for 15 minutes. And applied flaxseed gel to style. My hair felt clean(from the clarifying) and moisturised (from the deep conditioning).


Hope I have clarified the meaning of clarifying for you!  😉


For any doubts, comments, queries or feedback, feel free to comment down below or in the Forum.






7 thoughts on “Basics: What is “Clarifying”? Why, How & When to Clarify Hair?

    1. Hiii…. happy that you are happy to find my blog!!! 🙂 🙂

      Oh wow!! Cheers….to all the Divyas and Curly Wavy Divas out there!!! 🎉🎉

  1. Yes Gargi, I too have heard and read that Apple Cider Vinegar is good for removing product build up. However I myself have never really used it yet. I will be updating that point wither if I use it or if some reader or co-curly or friend tells that they have tried it personally and seen it to work. 🙂

    The step is basically to saturate hair with a ACV mix (diluted ACV1:3water). Leave on for about 20mins. May be with a shower cap on and rinse off thoroughly and follow up with sulfate free shampoo if needed.

    I feel this might be a milder clarification for the times when you are experiencing very little build up and just want to clean a little more and not for the “clean-slate feel”. Have to try out, though!

    Lemme know if you try it sometime 🙂

Would love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment.