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Does Black Hair Need a Clarifying Shampoo?

High angle of black woman with natural hair in a jacuzzi tub
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You've probably heard of clarifying shampoos, but maybe you thought those kind of cleansers were only for certain hair types—primarily those that suffer from oily buildup. Black hair is usually dry by nature, so perhaps you might have steered clear of a clarifying cleanser, thinking you don't need it. It's a rational thought process, but if you use hair products, clarifying shampoo is a good idea. It'll help a great deal in freshening up your tresses, and do well in readying them for styling. Clarifying shampoos remove product buildup, presenting you with a "clean slate." If your hair is limp and lifeless, looks dull, or doesn't want to hold a style, then it may be weighed down with old product residue, and clarifying should help.

Some people, however, need clarifying cleansers more than others. You're more likely to need one if you use a lot of product each day, or if you use heavy products. Oil-based products, particularly those containing an ingredient like petroleum (which you shouldn't use in your hair ever, but we forgive you,) will quickly adhere themselves to the hair. Because of this, they can be difficult get rid of completely, even with the most diligent shampooing. Clarifiers are designed to remove the buildup that regular cleansers don't. Since black hair requires moisturizing shampoo, chances are even your typical cleanser is leaving some residue behind.

It's good for women with natural hair to use a clarifier before they get ready to use a lot of direct heat on their tresses, like during the occasional flat ironing session. The cleanser removes any buildup that would prevent you from getting optimal results. Still, always follow your clarifying session with a deep conditioner before using direct heat. It's just good practice.

Clarifiers are also pretty necessary if you swim often, whether or not you use a lot of products. Pool chlorine and other chemicals need to be thoroughly removed from hair, in order for your tresses to remain healthy. But still, even the most frequent swimmers shouldn't overdo it when it comes to clarifying.

Because clarifying shampoos are so good at removing buildup, they also tend to be extremely drying, which is why anyone (black hair or not) should use these products very sparingly. If you're a heavy product user, once or twice a month is the acceptable maximum. If you rarely use heavy products, use it even less, perhaps every other month or so. No matter how much junk you put in your hair, don't risk excessive dryness or breakage by overusing a clarifying shampoo.​ After clarifying, your hair should feel light, clean and refreshed, but it probably won't feel as smooth as it does after using a quality moisturizing shampoo, so follow it up with a conditioner. Although not a product for every day, having a quality clarifying cleanser in your hair care collection is a good idea for anyone.

Brands made for natural hair care often make clarifying shampoos designed specifically for their market. Instead of harsh, detergent-like cleansers that will leave your tresses feeling stripped, the products gently remove buildup without leaving behind a mane that feels like straw. Use them as we've recommended, and your hair shouldn't ever feel weighed down by buildup from old products.

Good clarifying shampoos worth trying:

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