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Simone Gannon: The dos and don’ts of washing your hair with clarifying shampoos

Sometimes wrongly ignored, clarifying shampoos offer the cleanse your hair and scalp needs

If you’re unfamiliar with clarifying shampoos, they’re essentially deep cleansers designed to remove build-up from products, pollutants and residue from the hair and scalp. While they’ve been around for a long time, they gained popularity recently, particularly during lockdown when people had more time to focus on their beauty routines.

The first clarifying product I used was Sunday Shampoo from Bumble and Bumble (€30 from millies.ie). It was back in 2016 when I had very little knowledge of product build-up or what an unhealthy scalp looked like. Sunday Shampoo changed that. I came across it through a recommendation from someone I followed online and promptly purchased it (all set to use it on a Sunday – because I am nothing if not a marketer’s dream).

I remember how unbelievably clean my hair looked and felt after using it, and as a result, I became hooked on clarifying products. However, I’ve clarified my hair somewhat inconsistently since then, and this is where I have mis-stepped, says Claire Fullam, trichologist and founder of Trua, an online trichology-led clinic.

“Consistency is key when it comes to clarifying shampoos, as they are essential for the long-term health of your hair”, she explains. “For oily, fine, or limp hair, clarifying once a week is recommended. On the other hand, damaged, dry, or curly hair should be clarified around once a month. Curly-haired individuals can clarify more often, as they often use more styling products. However, it’s essential to find a clarifying shampoo that doesn’t compromise the hair.”

While clarifying is typically associated with removing build-up and promoting a healthier scalp, it can also enhance the effectiveness of other products. Fullam states, “Using a clarifying shampoo before treatments such as hair masks, deep conditioners, hair colour or chemical treatments can improve their effectiveness.

“The hair becomes clean and free from build-up, allowing the active ingredients to penetrate more deeply.’”

“It’s great for volume and shine, too,” she says. “By removing excess oils and residues from the hair, clarifying shampoos can add vibrancy, volume and body to limp, flat, lacklustre hair, making it appear fuller and more voluminous.”

When it comes to drawbacks, the most common concern I’ve encountered is the perceived impact on hair colour, specifically colour fading due to the shampoo’s stripping action. Fullam says, however, this issue is easily avoided by opting for a colour-safe shampoo, such as K18 Peptide Prep Detox Shampoo (€45 from trua.ie) or Remi: The Magnet Detox Shampoo (€22 from remi.ie, a scalp range founded by Fullam).

Using a clarifying shampoo isn’t a complicated process. It’s applied to the hair and scalp like a regular shampoo, lathered for a moment or two and, depending on the specific shampoo you’re using, left to sit for 1-2 minutes before rinsing. Results can be optimised by following with a conditioner or mask.

While it’s a treatment approach beneficial for almost everyone, certain hair types need to take a more considered approach. Dry or damaged hair, for instance, can be further compromised by a clarifying shampoo, as it may strip away natural oils. In such cases, gentler formulas are best and should be used more sparingly. The same applies to individuals with curly or coily hair. Fullam advises following up with a moisturising conditioner to replenish lost moisture.

“All hair types can benefit from a clarifying treatment – even once a month. If you don’t regularly deeply cleanse the scalp, it can lead to congestion, inflammation and even hair loss. Choosing the correct product for your hair type is key.”

This week I’m trying ... Skingredients Retinol +B3 Anti-Ageing Night Serum

From Skingredients, the brilliant Irish skincare brand founded by Jennifer Rock, comes two brand new products: Retinol 0.6% + B3 Serum and Retinol 1% + B3 Serum (from €49 at skingredients.com). With formulas designed to impress even the most discerning retinol consumer, the serums contain different strengths of encapsulated pure retinol, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid. These ingredients work together to deliver brighter, firmer skin, reduce fine lines, dark spots, pigmentation, and a host of other benefits. The brand recommends introducing these serums slowly; starting twice a week to start – and that’s exactly what I’ll be doing, beginning with the 0.6% offering. I’ll report back in a few weeks’ time.

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