Hair Care Tips

How Often Should I Use a Clarifying Shampoo on 4C Hair?

5 minute read.

young lady washing her 4c hair in the bathroom
Oh, nothing. Just me and my Wash Day Routine.

The natural hair community screams, “make sure you cleanse your hair!” We are told to do these things, which are important, BUT there is a lingering question of how and when to use clarifying shampoos. I believe part of that reason is that Google and other search engines do not have enough data on the difference between clarifying shampoo and cleansing shampoos. Truth is, clarifying and cleansing shampoos do the same thing. Some shampoo brands just do a fine job of marketing themselves well. Clarifying and cleansing shampoos remove build-up, residues, and impurities and perform a deep cleanse on your scalp, leaving it squeaky clean.

What’s the Difference between Clarifying and “Regular” Shampoos?

Before debunking any myths about clarifying and cleansing shampoos, let’s first understand the role of regular shampoo. By “regular”, I am referring to moisturizing and hydrating shampoos. Hydrating products penetrate the inner layers of your hair and contain humectants while moisturizing products seal in moisture and prevent hydration from escaping quickly. When you see hydration and moisturizing shampoos, they are basically doing the same thing. It is the marketing component that could come across as confusing, to be honest. Your main goal is to look for a shampoo that has hydrating ingredients. What makes a clarifying shampoo different from other types of shampoo is that it contains surfactants, which are hydrophilic (attracts water) and lipophilic (attracts oil), and that is how oil, dirt, and build-up is thoroughly removed with this kind of shampoo.

Here is my wash day routine using Shea Moisture’s BEST Cleansing Shampoo for 4C Hair!

Cleansing Shampoos are Not Replacements for Bentonite Clay Mask.

Clarifying shampoos must not be confused with Bentonite Clay Mask, which acts as a detox to draw out dirt and impurities from natural hair. Similar to the Bentonite Clay Mask, a clarifying or cleansing shampoo is a product you want to use as often as once a month or once every six to eight weeks. This is the general time frame I would advise anyone with normal (or medium) to high porosity hair. Please take some time to understand the difference between normal, low, and high porosity as this is the game changer for the betterment of your hair’s health! There are some exceptions to the time frame of how often you should use a clarifying or cleansing shampoo! Low porosity hair, like mine, for example, is known to gather build up easily due to product build-up. For low porosity, this means using a clarifying shampoo more often. In a unique situation like that, It would be recommended to use a clarifying shampoo once a month, but of course, it will depend on how much your hair gathers build up. In other words, you really want to pay attention to your hair! I personally like to switch between the Bentonite Clay Mask and a clarifying or cleansing shampoo when removing build-up from my hair. Another great way to know you need a clarifying shampoo is simply when your hair does not have elasticity after using your regular shampoo to wash. If you notice that your shampoo is not leaving your hair 100% clean and you see dullness after your regular wash routine, then try clarifying your hair with a really good cleaning shampoo. Hair that is not properly cleansed is bound to keep layers of build-up and will lead to dryness and breakage in the long run. Most importantly, you want to have an awesome deep conditioner to bring back the moisture after using a clarifying shampoo.

Black natural hair on black woman

Keep in mind clarifying and cleansing shampoos strip the hair of its natural oils and can leave the hair dry when over-used. Also, just because gels and heavy products can lead to product build-up does not mean that you should use a clarifying shampoo every time you use them. If you notice that your natural hair gathers build up from certain products, then try to make less use of those products. Because I have 4C Low Porosity hair, I try to use more water-based leave-in conditioners and curl/twist-defining creams. I also try not to use too many gels around my edges anymore.

If I do, I make sure to rinse it out with warm water and rehydrate that part of my hair that had the gel on it before the next day. This is how I prevent myself from resorting to the overuse of clarifying shampoo. Lastly, I would advise using a hydrating or moisturizing shampoo on those other wash days you do not use a clarifying or cleansing shampoo. This does not mean a cleansing shampoo with a moisturizing agent in it cannot be used on those wash days when you are not strictly clarifying your hair! Pay attention to the ingredients in your shampoo to determine what exactly you are using on wash day. I truly hope this blog post brought about some clarity for my natural ladies! As I mentioned earlier, make sure you understand the porosity level of your hair before deciding on how to go about your wash routines. Stay blessed.

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