How To Make Clarifying Shampoo -Dermatologist Explains

Clarifying shampoo has become an increasingly popular haircare product over the past few years. But what exactly is clarifying shampoo, and how is it different from regular shampoo?

According to dermatologists, clarifying shampoo is a deep cleansing shampoo that removes product buildup from hair. It can remove styling products, oils, hard water minerals, chlorine, and even environmental pollutants that regular shampoos leave behind.

Using a clarifying shampoo 1-2 times per week can remove residue, purify the scalp, minimize oil production, boost volume, and prepare hair for optimal performance from other haircare products.

While you can buy clarifying shampoos from salons and drugstores, some people prefer to make their own natural versions using ingredients like baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and essential oils.

This article will explain what clarifying shampoo is, its benefits, how often to use it, and provide a dermatologist-approved DIY recipe for making your own clarifying shampoo at home.

What is Clarifying Shampoo?

Clarifying shampoo is a type of shampoo that deeply cleanses hair to remove product buildup. It differs from regular shampoos in a few key ways:

  • Stronger surfactants – Clarifying shampoos contain stronger and more concentrated cleansing agents compared to regular shampoos. These active ingredients help break down and dissolve styling product residue, oils, and minerals from hard water that can build up on the hair and scalp over time.
  • Fewer conditioners – Regular shampoos often contain oils, silicones and moisturizers that smooth and soften hair. Clarifying shampoos leave out these conditioning ingredients which can contribute to buildup.
  • Low pH formula – Clarifying shampoos typically have a lower pH level than regular shampoos. This helps swell the hair cuticles so buildup can be effectively removed from both the surface and interior of the strands.
  • No additives – Hair mousses, volumizers, color-protecting agents and other additives are excluded. This prevents them from interfering with the deep cleansing action.

Dermatologists recommend using a clarifying shampoo once or twice a week to regularly remove residue before it accumulates. This is especially important for those who use lots of hair styling products.

Benefits of Using Clarifying Shampoo

Using a clarifying shampoo offers several benefits for hair and scalp health:

  • Removes buildup – The biggest benefit is removing product residue, hard water minerals, environmental contaminants and other buildup. This prevents accumulation that can lead to limp, lifeless hair.
  • Deep cleansesClarifying shampoos provide a deep, thorough cleanse of the hair follicles and scalp. This clears away dirt, debris and dead skin cells.
  • Reduces oiliness – Frequent use can help regulate excess sebum production. Clarifying removes oil at the root to reduce greasy hair.
  • Boosts volume – Eliminating buildup also removes weight from hair. This allows strands to bounce back and helps boost body.
  • Preps for new products – Clarifying clears the slate so new treatments can better penetrate and be more effective.
  • Enhances shine – Regular use leaves hair looking vibrant, healthy and shiny by minimizing dulling buildup.

How Often Should You Use Clarifying Shampoo?

When it comes to how often to use clarifying shampoo, dermatologists generally recommend the following guidelines:

  • Once a week – Using a clarifying shampoo once weekly is suitable for most people with average hair and product use. This helps regularly remove buildup before it becomes excessive.
  • Every other wash – For those who use lots of hair styling products like gels, mousses and sprays, alternating your clarifyer with a moisturizing shampoo is recommended. Clarify every 2nd or 3rd wash.
  • 1-2 times per month – People with dry hair or who use minimal products can likely get by with clarifying just once or twice a month. Listen to your hair’s needs.
  • When buildup is excessive – Increased clarifying is needed if you notice significant buildup through greasiness, limpness, disrupted curl patterns or coconut-like coating.
  • Before chemical treatments – Clarify before any chemical processes like coloring, perms or relaxers. This allows the treatment to better penetrate the hair shaft.
  • After swimming – Clarify after swimming in pools to remove chlorine buildup that can damage hair over time.
Hair TypeWhen to ClarifyCaution
Oily/Fine1-2 times per weekUse lower amount of baking soda
NormalOnce a weekRinse thoroughly
Dry/DamagedOnce every 2 weeksFollow with hydrating mask
Color-TreatedOnce a monthAvoid if freshly colored
Curly/TexturedOnce a weekMay cause curls to lose definition
Dandruff-Prone1-2 times per weekAvoid getting on scalp
Chemically TreatedBefore chemical serviceMay fade color faster

DIY Clarifying Shampoo Ingredients

The main ingredients needed to make your own natural clarifying shampoo at home typically include:

  • Baking soda – This mild alkali helps remove buildup from hair when dissolved in water. Use approximately 1-2 tablespoons per cup of water.
  • Apple cider vinegar – The acetic acid in vinegar helps eliminate residue and balances the alkalinity of the baking soda. Use 1-2 teaspoons.
  • Essential oils – Oils like tea tree, rosemary, peppermint and lemon add scent and potential benefits for hair and scalp. Use 5-10 drops of your chosen oils.
  • Liquid castile soap – Castile soap derived from vegetable oils can help cut through oil and buildup without harsh detergents. Use 1-2 teaspoons.
  • Water – Works as the base for dissolving the ingredients. Distilled water is best. Fill a bottle with 10 ounces of water.

You can experiment with the amounts of each ingredient to customize the shampoo for your hair type. Always shake well before each use to combine.

How to Make Your Own Clarifying Shampoo

Making your own clarifying shampoo at home is a relatively easy process. Here is a step-by-step guide:

Caution: Be careful not to get clarifying shampoo in your eyes as it can cause irritation. Use caution washing near your face.

Step 1: Mix Baking Soda and Water

  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda to a clean 8-10 ounce plastic bottle or container. Start with less if you have fine or color-treated hair.
  • Fill the remainder of the bottle with cool distilled water. A 10:1 ratio of water to baking soda is a good starting point.
  • Shake vigorously until the baking soda dissolves to form a cloudy mixture. Set aside once fully dissolved.

Step 2: Add Apple Cider Vinegar

  • Add 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to the baking soda mixture.
  • The acetic acid helps smooth the harshness of baking soda to prevent drying.
  • Shake well to combine. You should see a reaction and bubbles.

Step 3: Add Essential Oils

  • Add 5-10 drops of your chosen essential oil(s) for scent and potential hair benefits.
  • Good options include tea tree, rosemary, lemon, lavender, peppermint and eucalyptus oils.
  • Shake bottle to distribute oils evenly.

Step 4: Mix Thoroughly

  • Shake the bottle vigorously for 30 seconds to fully blend all ingredients.
  • Make sure no oil droplets remain prior to use.

Step 5: Use on Wet Hair

  • In the shower, wet hair fully with warm water to open the cuticles.
  • Apply the clarifying shampoo and work through damp hair.
  • Let sit 1-3 minutes then rinse thoroughly.
  • Follow with a moisturizing conditioner to avoid dryness.

Tips for an Effective DIY Clarifying Shampoo

Follow these tips to get the most out of your homemade clarifying shampoo:

  • Adjust baking soda – Use more baking soda if you have very oily hair or want a deeper cleanse. Use less if you have dry hair or color treated hair.
  • Shake before use – Be sure to shake the mixture vigorously before each use to re-blend any separated ingredients.
  • Patch test first – Try a patch test of the shampoo on your arm before first use to check for any irritation or reaction.
  • Modify amounts for hair length – Adjust the recipe amounts based on the length and thickness of your hair. Long thick hair needs more product than short fine hair.
  • Rinse thoroughly – Make sure to rinse all of the clarifying shampoo out to prevent dryness or irritation on the scalp.
  • Moisturize after – Always follow up with a moisturizing conditioner to avoid hair drying out.
  • Store properly – Keep in a sealed container in the shower. The mixture will last about 1 week before needing to remix.

Professional Clarifying Shampoo Options

While homemade recipes can be effective, some people may prefer the convenience or results of a store-bought clarifying shampoo. Some top options recommended by dermatologists include:

  • Redken Hair Cleansing Cream – This contains citric acid to remove buildup without stripping hair. It’s color-safe and gentle enough for daily use.
  • Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo – With glycolic acid, this budget-friendly option deep cleans without over-drying and is great for oily scalps.
  • Bumble and Bumble Sunday Clarifying Shampoo – Contains volcanic ash to gently remove oil and residue from hair for a deep cleanse.
  • Sachajuan Clarifying Shampoo – Ocean silk technology and rosemary oil purify the scalp and boost volume. It leaves hair shiny and manageable.
  • K18 Biomimetic Hairscience Clarifying Shampoo – Uses patented biomimetic technology to remove buildup while strengthening and protecting hair.
  • Purifying Charcoal Shampoo by Odele – Infused with activated charcoal and essential oils, this clarifier absorbs toxins and purifies hair.

Clarifying Shampoo Precautions

While clarifying shampoo offers many benefits, there are some precautions to be aware of:

  • Overuse can dry out hair – Using too frequently can strip natural oils leading to dry, brittle hair. Use sparingly according to hair type.
  • Irritation is possible – Harsher formulas may cause irritation or reaction for those with sensitive skin. Discontinue use if any irritation occurs.
  • Avoid contact with eyes – Rinse eyes immediately with water if clarifying shampoo gets in eyes. The ingredients can cause stinging and irritation.
  • Not for daily use – Clarifying shampoos are too harsh for daily use on most hair types. Use a gentler shampoo in between clarifying washes.
  • May cause color fading – Overuse can speed fading of color-treated hair. Use minimal amounts spaced farther apart.
  • Damages hair if used too often – Frequent use can cause protein and moisture loss leading to damage. Space out washes.
  • Skin reactions possible if left on skin – Rinse thoroughly and avoid leaving clarifying shampoo on skin to prevent rashes or irritation.

How To Make Clarifying Shampoo – FAQs

Is clarifying shampoo the same as chelating shampoo?

No, they are different. Clarifying shampoo removes buildup from hair but doesn’t bind to or remove metallic salts and minerals. Chelating shampoos contain ingredients like EDTA that help remove hard water and copper, iron, and calcium deposits.

Can I use clarifying shampoo daily?

No, clarifying shampoo should not be used daily. It is too harsh and drying for daily use on most hair types. Limit to 1-2 times per week maximum, with gentler shampoos on other days.

What ingredients should I avoid in clarifying shampoo?

Avoid sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfate which are very harsh and drying. Silicones can contribute to buildup so minimize them. Fragrances, dyes and alcohols can also irritate some scalps.

Does clarifying shampoo damage hair?

Overuse of clarifying shampoo can damage hair by stripping oils and moisture leading to dry, brittle hair prone to breakage. Using too frequently is not recommended. Space washes out based on your hair’s needs.

Can I use clarifying shampoo on color-treated hair?

Yes, you can use clarifying shampoo on color-treated hair but limit washes to just once a month. Over-clarifying fades color quickly. Follow with a hydrating mask or conditioner. Avoid if hair is freshly colored.

Here is the conclusion to wrap up the article:


Clarifying shampoo is a deep cleansing shampoo that can remove product buildup, oils, minerals, and other residues that regular shampoos leave behind. Using a clarifying shampoo 1-2 times per week provides benefits like removing buildup, reducing oiliness, boosting volume, and preparing hair for optimal performance from other products.

You can easily make your own clarifying shampoo at home using ingredients like baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and essential oils. Follow the steps for mixing the ingredients and use the shampoo 1-2 times per week on wet hair, rinsing thoroughly. Be sure to follow up with a hydrating conditioner.

While homemade options can be effective, those with picky hair may prefer a professional clarifying shampoo recommended by dermatologists. Use caution not to overuse clarifying shampoos, as this can dry out hair over time. Space out washes based on your hair’s needs.

By adding occasional clarifying shampoo into your haircare routine, you can keep your hair and scalp purified, residue-free, and performing at their best. Just be sure not to overdo it with clarifying washes. Your hair will thank you for the deep cleanse!

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