Image of a women with curly hair

Published 3rd May 2022

Whether you’ve got curly hair or wavy hair, you could benefit from clarifying. If you’re familiar with the Curly Girl Method, you will have heard of clarifying.

You might have even used clarifying in the past. But for those of you who aren’t sure what clarifying is or how to do it, this article is going to be perfect for you.

We’re going to cover everything that you need to know about clarifying, including what it is, why you need to do it, and how to do it. By the end of this article, you should feel confident in clarifying your hair when it’s showing signs of build-up.

What is clarifying?

When following the Curly Girl Method, you need to use clarifying shampoo and conditioner at least once every one to two months if you want to maximize the health of your curls.

It’s an important part of the Curly Girl Method that you definitely shouldn’t skip! To clarify properly, you need to find the right hair care products that are suitable for your hair type.

Over time, if you don’t clarify, the minerals from the water that you use to wash your hair can get ‘stuck’ on the hair, leading to build-up. Clarifying involves washing your wavy hair using suitable products to remove the build-up of minerals from your hair and scalp.

When you clarify your hair and remove build-up and deposits, you will notice that your hair becomes much easier to style and it cooperates with you! It shouldn’t frizz as much and will feel much softer and healthier.

Most curly girls and wavy girls that have been clarifying for a while will clarify at regular intervals, regardless of how their hair feels. If you prefer, you can clarify as and when needed, such as when your hair starts to look and feel different.

when should you clarify?

Figuring out when to clarify can be the hardest part for many curly girls or wavy girls. But there are a few key signs that can tell you if your hair needs a clarifying wash, such as when your hair:

• Starts to look dull and dry
• Feels heavier than usual
• Starts to react differently to your usual products
• Is frizzier than usual
• Doesn't hold its style or shape when you use products to style it a certain way
• Looks greasy or dirty, even after you have washed it
• Had dandruff due to an itchy and flaky scalp

Image of a women with a curly hair while smiling

why does build up occur on your hair?

Build-up can occur over time. The more times you wash your hair, the more minerals that can build up and this leaves your hair looking and feeling dull! If you're a regular swimmer, the extra exposure to the chlorine or salt that is present in the pool or ocean can worsen the build-up.

If the place where you live has a hard water supply, you might find that you need to clarify more often. You can also use this handy trick - rinse your hair with apple cider vinegar to dissolve the built-up minerals on your hair. Follow this up with a wash using a clarifying shampoo.

To properly wash your hair using apple cider vinegar, mix 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar with water and gently rinse your hair with it. Make sure it runs from root to tip so that it fully strips your hair of unwanted mineral build-up.

For those of you who have low porosity hair, try using the apple cider vinegar trick after you have deep conditioned. This will minimize dryness and dehydration. If you have hair with high porosity, you can wash it with apple cider vinegar before conditioning.

Alongside minerals in hard water, the products that you use can accumulate on your hair, especially if you use products with a lot of water-soluble ingredients. As you wash your hair, the ingredients dissolve in the water and stick on the hair strands, even after you’ve finished showering.

The most common ingredients that can easily build up on the hair are oils, butters, and waxes. If you regularly use products on your hair that contain these kinds of heavy ingredients, you might need to clarify more often than those who use lightweight products.

how do you clarify your hair?

If you start to notice the signs that we mentioned above in your hair, it’s time to start clarifying. Aim to use a clarifying shampoo (and maybe a clarifying conditioner as well) every four to eight weeks.

Wash your hair as you normally would using a clarifying shampoo and follow this up with a deep condition. You can use a protein treatment after deep conditioning if your hair still seems to have a lot of build-up (but if the first two steps work, you won’t necessarily need to use a protein treatment).

The best ingredients (in fact, the only ingredients) that you can use for clarifying are sulphate and olefin sulfonate. But, of course, sulphates aren’t accepted as part of the Curly Girl Method. However, since you’ll only be using the clarifying shampoo once a month at the most, you don’t need to worry too much about this!

You might need to shop around and try a few different products to find one that contains either sulphate or olefin sulfonate and is appropriate for your hair.

If your water supply is hard water, try finding a shampoo that is chelating. Generally, chelating shampoos are those with EDTA, oxalic acid, phytic acid, sodium phytate, and plyphosphates.

what are the benefits of clarifying?

There are several benefits of clarifying, including:

• Removes a build up of minerals

• Remove chlorine and salt deposits

• Makes styling your hair easier

• Improves hair moisture and hydration

• Restores your hair’s natural pH level

• Reduces dryness and itchiness on the scalp

• Helps to regulate the levels of sebum on the scalp

• Beneficial for coloured hair

what are the downsides of clarifying?

There are a few downsides to clarifying, most of which are only a problem if you clarify too much. While using a clarifying shampoo every one to two months can help to remove build-up, clarifying too often can strip your hair of its natural oils and minerals. This can leave your hair very dry and frizzy.

Those of you with coloured hair also need to be extra careful with clarifying. Using sulphate-containing products or heavy products, such as clarifying shampoos and conditioners, can damage your hair if it is coloured.

Curly girls or wavy girls with psoriasis or dandruff also need to take extra caution with clarifying. Certain ingredients in clarifying products, such as salicylic acid, can irritate your skin and make the condition worse.

final thoughts

Now you know everything that you need to know about clarifying, you can start implementing a regular hair washing routine to remove any build-up and maximize your hair health!

Remember to clarify no more than once every month, and even less if your hair doesn’t appear to have a lot of build-up after four weeks. You might need to test a few different time frames to see how long your hair can last without needing to be clarified.



6 Ways To Add Volume To Limp Hair
6 Ways To Add Volume To Limp Hair Fine hair can feel limp and lifeless. Below are 6 tips and...
Upside Down Soaking Wet Styling?
Upside Down Soaking Wet Styling? It feels slightly weird... Flipping your head upside down then scrunching in your styling products....