If your hair feels like it’s stopped responding to all of the moisturizers, stylers, and products that used to work so well, it might be time to use a clarifying shampoo. In order for your curly hair products to work, your hair needs to be able to absorb them, and if your hair has a layer of built up product residue or silicones sitting on the surface then your curls simply won’t look or act their best. The first step in many curly girls’ journeys to healthier hair is to distance themselves from their shampoo bottle, but occasionally using a clarifying shampoo that's gentle enough for curly hair can do your hair and scalp a lot of good.

Clarifying shampoos & sulfates

Clarifying shampoos can contain sulfates like sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate in order to remove the buildup of ingredients like silicones from the hair, but they don’t have to. There are sulfate-free shampoos that use gentler, non-sulfate surfactant ingredients such as Cocamidopropyl betaine which, according to cosmetic chemist Tonya McKay, “can effectively remove most dirt, oils, and silicones from the surface of the hair.”

What about natural sulfates?

While sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate are known to be the harshest, most drying sulfates, sulfates that are derived from oils or natural sources aren’t necessarily going to be good for your hair. According to cosmetic chemist Erica Douglas, better known as Sister Scientist, “it ultimately does not matter whether the source of the alcohol is from a natural source or not, it is the sulfation process that makes the surfactant potentially harmful.”

Using a clarifying treatment too often can be drying, so be sure to use yours sparingly. How often you need to clarify will depend largely on how dry your hair is and lifestyle factors such as how often you exercise or swim, how hot the climate is where you live, and whether you have hard water in your area.

Whether you choose to use sulfates when you clarify is up to you, we have both options listed below!

20 Gentle Clarifying Shampoos