Here’s How to Clarify Your Natural Hair the Right Way

Last Updated on January 11, 2023 by Vera Aduongo

Written by Vera Aduongo

Some terms in the natural hair space can be so sciencey. By that, I mean that they can seem like such complex ideas, so you go in expecting to get a headache. Luckily, that’s not the case with clarifying your natural hair. So today, I’m sharing my tips on how to clarify your hair the right way, answer some of the most common questions surrounding it, and tell you about the clarifying shampoo I think everyone should own.

Now, just so we’re on the same page, let’s start by explaining…

What a Clarifying Shampoo is:

Clarifying shampoos are shampoos that very thoroughly clean your hair and scalp. These shampoos can give you such an intense clean because they contain more potent cleansing agents than those found in moisturizing shampoos. Most clarifying shampoos will leave your hair feeling squeaky clean.

Happy Smiling Girl  with naturally curly hair

Can You Use Clarifying Shampoo on Natural Hair?

Interestingly, when you’re first going on your natural hair journey, you’re advised to avoid clarifying shampoos because of how dry they can leave your hair.

While I still stand by that advice, I now think that there are certain scenarios (more on that below) when it’s beneficial to use a clarifying shampoo. So I think you should keep one in your stash. With proper use, these can help you along your hair journey, not hurt it.

What’s The Difference Between Clarifying and Detoxifying Shampoos?

Clarifying shampoos tackle dirt, sweat, and product build-up. On the other hand, detoxifying shampoos eliminate toxic materials from your hair.

For example, when swimming, your hair is exposed to a toxin called chlorine, which is very drying for the hair. Using a detoxifying shampoo can help you get rid of that chlorine. Common detoxifying ingredients include apple cider vinegar and bentonite clay. So detoxifying shampoos are clarifying shampoos that give you a lil’ something extra.

And What are Chelating Shampoos?

Chelating shampoos, also known as hard water shampoos, are specially formulated to get rid of mineral buildup caused by hard water.

Hard water has a much higher mineral content than what you’d find in filtered water or water that is supplied by a city or town. These minerals form a coating on your hair, causing it to feel dry, limp, and ‘filmy’ when using regular shampoos. This coating can affect your hair’s ability to absorb moisture, leading to dryness, increased frizziness, and trouble getting hair products to work on your strands.

P.S: In case you’re wondering if you even have hard water, read this article (after you’re done with this one :))

a beautiful model with afro hair

When Should You Use Clarifying Shampoo on Your Natural Hair?

  1. If you use products that contain silicones/-cones or thick coating agents like petrolatum/petroleum jelly regularly.

In the natural hair community, silicones and petrolatum are considered the enemy! Now, I don’t think they’re that bad, but I do think it’s best to avoid them. Why, you may ask. Because these form a protective layer that’s a little too effective at keeping water from getting into your strands. The worst part is that these don’t wash off if you’re only using moisturizing shampoos, which might cause build-up. This build-up can have your strands feeling dry and breaking off.

  1. Your hair is chronically dry.

Sometimes, your hair can feel dry because of product build-up, even when you’re using natural butter like shea butter. Once they form a layer on your hair, it becomes hard for any water to get absorbed into your hair, leaving it feeling parched. So the first step to getting your hair back on track will be to strip all that product, which will allow your hair to pretty much ‘breathe’.

  1. Your hair products aren’t working anymore.

Have you noticed that one of your holy grail products just doesn’t work anymore? That might be a sign that you need to clarify your hair. When you have build-up on your hair, it interferes with how your products work.

Here’s How to Clarify Your Natural Hair Without Leaving Your Hair Stripped?

First, don’t use a clarifying shampoo unless you have to. Only pull out the big guns when you’re suspecting that you have build-up, and then you can use it ever so often to keep build-up at bay.

Ironically, use two shampoos. Follow up on your clarifying shampoo with your moisturizing shampoo. And no, don’t skip this and head straight for your conditioner. If you skip it, when you apply your conditioner and deep conditioner, your hair will still end up feeling dry. The theory on why this works is that using a moisturizing shampoo allows the pH of your hair to gradually be brought down to a level that will allow your hair to reap all the benefits of your conditioner or deep conditioner. It’s one of those “I’m not sure exactly how it works, but I’m sure it does work” types of things…

Remember to condition and deep condition your hair after you rinse out your moisturizing shampoo. Doing both will go a long way in ensuring that your hair feels great after.

Pro tip: If you notice that this still isn’t enough to restore moisture, then try a hot oil treatment right after your conditioner. Sit under a hooded dryer to amp up your results. Then continue with the rest of your routine as usual.

Lastly, don’t use these too often. Clarifying shampoos, though great, can cause more harm than good if used too often. Frequent use can leave the hair dry and the scalp flaky.

So, Here’s the Best Clarifying Shampoo for Natural Hair (IMO): Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo

This is an all-around fave for a couple of reasons. The ACV Blend Shampoo is a three-in-one: chelating, detoxifying, and clarifying shampoo. So, it’s a go if you have hard water or swim a whole lot. The ACV also works not just to detox but also to calm down an itchy or flaking scalp. It does a great job clarifying the hair, but it doesn’t leave your hair feeling stripped. Plus, girl, the price!? It’s too good. I suggest only pulling this gem out when you need a deep clean or to maintain a build-up-free mane once every month.

How ironic is it that I’m writing this when a lot of us will be spring cleaning? Maybe it’s a sign that you should think about doing a much-needed reboot for your strands.

Till next time,


Happy African-American girl with clarified hair

About the author

Natural Hair Writer | + posts

Vera Aduongo is a seasoned writer whose journey was sparked by her own hair journey. When she looked on the internet and found a few sources that catered to her hair type, she started to share what she knew. First, with family and friends, and soon, with the ‘internets’. 7 years later, with a mane to boot, she’s not looking back! When she’s not contributing to a topic on natural hair and hair extensions, you can find her writing for Retail & Consulting brands, trying out new restaurants, binge-watching YouTube, and being an aunt to the 2 most handsome boys out there (IMO).

Vera lives in Nairobi, Kenya.


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