Are you confused about the difference between clarifying and cleansing shampoos? With so many hair care products on the market, it can be tricky to know which one is right for your needs. Clarifying and cleansing shampoos are often used interchangeably, but they serve different purposes. Read on to learn the key differences between the two, so you can make an informed decision about which type of shampoo is best for your hair goals.
What is Clarifying Shampoo?
A clarifying shampoo is a deep cleaning shampoo formulated to remove product buildup from the hair and scalp. It penetrates through oil, dirt, and residue to get to the root of the issue. Clarifying shampoos contain surfactants to break down and dissolve styling products, hard water minerals, chlorine, and other impurities that regular shampoos may leave behind.
Some signs that it’s time to use a clarifying shampoo include:
- Dull, lifeless hair
- Itchy or flaky scalp
- Product buildup on the scalp
- oiliness at the root area
- Poor lather from regular shampoo
Clarifying shampoos work by stripping everything from the hair so you can start fresh. They tend to be quite drying, so limit use to once a week or every other week at most. Switching to a clarifying shampoo can make a notable difference in the look and feel of hair weighed down by too much product or hard water residue.
What is Cleansing Shampoo?
Cleansing shampoos, also called deep cleansing shampoos, still provide a deep cleanse but are usually more gentle than clarifying shampoos. They remove styling products, oil, and dirt to rejuvenate hair and scalp but don’t strip the hair completely.
Where clarifying shampoo is an occasional or weekly use product, cleansing shampoos are formulated for more regular use. They contain milder surfactants that won’t dry out the hair when used multiple times a week. Many popular shampoo brands market their products as “daily cleansing shampoos”.
Reasons to use a cleansing shampoo include:
- Reduce oil and greasiness
- Remove product buildup from daily styling
- Keep hair and scalp fresh between clarifying washes
- Prep hair to better receive conditioning treatments
Cleansing shampoos refresh the scalp without over-drying and damaging hair in the process. They provide a thorough cleanse without being as harsh as clarifying shampoos.
Key Differences Between Clarifying and Cleansing Shampoos
|Deep cleans by removing all buildup
|Gently removes buildup without over-stripping
|Use weekly or every other week
|Safe for frequent use
|Contain stronger surfactants
|Contain milder surfactants
|Can be drying if used too often
|Gently cleanses while maintaining moisture
|Best for product buildup removal
|Great for daily wash and oil control
When to Use Clarifying vs. Cleansing Shampoo
Use clarifying shampoo when:
- You regularly use heavy styling products like gels, mousse, pomades, etc.
- You exercise frequently and sweat often
- You live in an area with hard water
- It’s been over a week since your last clarifying wash
- Your scalp feels itchy or irritated
- Your curls lack definition or appear weighed down
Use cleansing shampoo when:
- You need a daily or regular shampoo that won’t dry out your hair
- You want to prep hair before a conditioning hair mask
- You exercise occasionally but don’t need as deep a cleanse
- You have an oily scalp and need to remove excess oil
- You prefer a gentler option for frequent washing
- Your scalp feels a little dirty but not irritated
Best Clarifying and Cleansing Shampoos
Kristin Ess The One Signature Shampoo – A great drugstore option that clarifies buildup without sulfates. Safe for color-treated hair.
Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Shampoo – Removes hard water buildup and mineral deposits without stripping hair.
Bumble and Bumble Sunday Clarifying Shampoo – A salon-quality clarifier ideal for product junkies and frequent stylists.
Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo – An affordable clarifying shampoo to eliminate styling product residue.
Olaplex No. 4P Blonde Enhancer Toning Shampoo – Clarifies and tones brassiness in one step. Specifically formulated for blonde and gray hair.
Maui Moisture Heal & Hydrate + Shea Butter Shampoo – A nourishing cleansing shampoo ideal for dry hair.
SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Shampoo – A gentle daily cleansing shampoo that soothes the scalp.
Pureology Hydrate Shampoo – Provides lightweight moisture while gently removing buildup. Great for color-treated hair.
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Shampoo – Contains antioxidants to gently cleanse hair and scalp while maintaining softness.
Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo – Harnesses the clarifying properties of apple cider vinegar in a gentle daily cleansing shampoo.
Make the Right Choice for Your Hair Goals
Now that you understand the difference between clarifying and cleansing shampoos, you can determine which one fits your hair care needs. Clarifying shampoos provide an occasional deep cleanse while cleansing shampoos gently wash away impurities on a regular basis. Evaluate your styling habits, hair type, and scalp condition to decide if a clarifying or cleansing formula will benefit your hair most. With the right shampoo choice, you’ll have fresh, residue-free locks.
Frequently Asked Questions – Clarifying or Cleansing Shampoo?
1. How Often Should I Use Clarifying Shampoo?
You should ideally use clarifying shampoo once a week or less, depending on your hair type and the amount of product build-up. Using it too frequently could strip your hair of its natural oils.
2. Is Cleansing Shampoo Suitable for Daily Use?
Yes, cleansing shampoos are generally formulated for daily or frequent use. They are milder than clarifying shampoos and help retain the natural oils in your hair.
3. Can I Use Both Clarifying and Cleansing Shampoos Together?
Absolutely. Many people alternate between the two types to balance out their hair health. For example, you could use a cleansing shampoo for daily washes and incorporate a clarifying shampoo once a week to tackle build-up.
4. Are These Shampoos Safe for Colored Hair?
Cleansing shampoos are generally safe for colored hair as they are milder and often sulfate-free. Clarifying shampoos, however, may strip the color, so it’s best to use them sparingly if you have colored or chemically treated hair.
5. Do Men and Women Need Different Types of These Shampoos?
Both men and women can use either type of shampoo. The primary factors to consider are your hair type and specific needs, rather than gender.
6. Can I Use Clarifying Shampoo on My Pets?
It’s best to avoid using human shampoos on pets, as their skin pH levels are different. Always use a shampoo specifically formulated for pets.
7. What Should I Do If I Have a Scalp Condition Like Dandruff?
If you have a scalp condition, it’s advisable to consult a dermatologist for specialized advice. Generally, there are clarifying and cleansing shampoos formulated to deal with dandruff and other scalp conditions, but professional guidance is recommended.
8. What Are the Price Ranges for Clarifying and Cleansing Shampoos?
Prices can vary widely based on brand and quality of ingredients. However, clarifying shampoos can be a bit more expensive due to their specialized formulation.
9. Can I Make DIY Clarifying or Cleansing Shampoo at Home?
Yes, there are several DIY recipes available online for making both types of shampoos. However, be cautious with the ingredients you use and always patch-test before full application.
10. How Can I Tell if My Hair Needs Clarifying?
Signs that your hair might need clarifying include dullness, heaviness, and a greasy appearance even after washing. These symptoms usually indicate product build-up.