By Jc of The Nat­u­ral Haven Bloom

In the nat­u­ral world, we talk a lot about using gen­tle meth­ods and gen­tle prod­ucts because in gen­er­al, hair that is curly or kinky curly responds well to the­se two process­es. Many peo­ple avoid clar­i­fy­ing prod­ucts at all costs and this is actu­al­ly a good thing as the­se type of prod­ucts are designed to ful­ly strip off any oil on hair. This is not say that clar­i­fy­ing prod­ucts do not have their uses, they actu­al­ly are quite use­ful  in get­ting rid of build up and cre­at­ing a clean sur­face on hair. Here are 5 instances when a clar­i­fy­ing sham­poo may come in to play:

1. You intend to switch to using milder products (sulfate free/silicone free)

If you have made a deci­sion to start using milder prod­ucts such as sul­fate free sham­poo or sil­i­cone free con­di­tion­er, you may get a bet­ter result with the­se milder prod­ucts if your hair is com­plete­ly clean to start with. This is espe­cial­ly true if you have been a reg­u­lar user of sil­i­cone based styling prod­ucts (serums, gels ).  Using a clar­i­fy­ing sham­poo to get rid of any deposits on your hair from your pre­vi­ous styling prod­ucts and any dirt attached to the oil allows your hair to be able to  work more effec­tive­ly with the mild prod­ucts.  Imme­di­ate­ly start­ing to use a mild sham­poo may not be a good idea as it may not be able to effec­tive­ly clean the hair to allow the mild con­di­tion­er to work well.

2. Build up: Your see residue (whitish) on your scalp after washing

A very clear sign of build up is a whitish residue on the scalp (usu­al­ly clear at the temple/forehead area) imme­di­ate­ly after rins­ing off sham­poo and con­di­tion­er. This residue is a sign that the wash has not been effec­tive and there­fore a clar­i­fy­ing sham­poo would help to ensure that the scalp and hair gets prop­er­ly clean.

3. Build up : Your hair is getting progressively drier  and no longer responds to conditioning or moisturising products

Anoth­er sign of build is that hair no longer responds to conditioning/moisturising prod­ucts AND it is get­ting dri­er. The rea­son for the AND in cap­i­tals is that some peo­ple can expe­ri­ence a switch where their hair stops want­i­ng mois­tur­is­ing prod­ucts as it can stay moist on its own. This is often due to adopt­ing prod­ucts and a wash­ing rou­tine that suits the hair. How­ev­er, the case for build up is made when you are fol­low­ing your nor­mal rou­tine (for exam­ple 1 week­ly sham­poo and con­di­tion­er and a mid week co-wash) and that work for months but sud­den­ly you find your­self need­ing to co-wash every oth­er day for the same result. It is pos­si­ble that a clar­i­fy­ing wash may help to get rid of any build up that may hin­der your prod­ucts from get­ting their full effect as hap­pened sev­er­al months back.

4. You have been strictly co-washing

If you have been strict­ly co-wash­ing for a while and you use styling prod­ucts such as oils, mois­turis­ers and gels, you are at risk of get­ting build up as con­di­tion­er is not real­ly an effec­tive long term cleanser. Per­form­ing a clar­i­fy­ing wash every so often helps to pre­vent build up for­ma­tion.

5. You are a heavy oil user

If you are using a lot of oil (oil­ing hair dai­ly, reg­u­lar­ly using heavy but­ters and oils e.g shea but­ter, cas­tor oil, doing reg­u­lar oil rinses/hot oil treat­ments etc) or have nat­u­ral­ly oily hair, you may find that mild sham­poos sim­ply are not able to clean your hair suf­fi­cient­ly.  Some peo­ple are able to skip out on using con­di­tion­er as a result and there­fore avoid build up. How­ev­er, if your hair needs con­di­tion­er, you may find that with­out the occa­sion­al clar­i­fy­ing sham­poo, you may devel­op build up issues.

Ladies, how often do you do clar­i­fy­ing sham­poos? How do you know when your hair needs one?

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33 Comments on "When Co-Washing is Not Enough… 5 Signs You Need to do a Clarifying Shampoo"

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[…] By Jc of The Nat­u­ral Haven Bloom re-pub­lished with per­mis­sion from Black­Girl­Long­Hair […]


[…] By Jc of The Nat­u­ral Haven Bloom re-pub­lished with per­mis­sion from Black­Girl­Long­Hair […]

Raleigh Wibbens

In bio­log­i­cal sys­tems, many nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring betaines serve as organ­ic osmolytes, sub­stances syn­the­sized or tak­en up from the envi­ron­ment by cells for pro­tec­tion again­st osmotic stress, drought, high salin­i­ty or high tem­per­a­ture. Intra­cel­lu­lar accu­mu­la­tion of betaines, non-per­turbing to enzyme func­tion, pro­tein struc­ture and mem­brane integri­ty, per­mits water reten­tion in cells, thus pro­tect­ing from the effects of dehy­dra­tion. It is also a methyl donor of increas­ing­ly recog­nised sig­nif­i­cance in biol­o­gy.*..’

Most up to date post­ing straight from our per­son­al blog


I keep a bot­tle of KC Come Clean in my show­er to use once every 2 months with co-wash­ing in between. I recent­ly dis­cov­ered the excel­lent ben­e­fits of wash­ing with a clay mix­ture con­tain­ing acv and my hair and scalp felt real­ly great. This will be my go-to for the win­ter since I have to use a lot more but­ters and oils on my dry hair to keep it hap­py;-)


I am going to fur­ther describe my all in one…Dr Bon­ners Mag­ic Soaps. Pure Castile Soap made w/organic oils


I use the All in one tea tree or pep­per­mint as a sham­poo because I read that it has the right amount of oil in it for your hair. Is this a good Idea…a lil goes a long way


Also what con­sti­tutes a clar­i­fy­ing sham­poo (apart from being called one I guess) should it have coco betaine or SLS? Thanks.

The Natural Haven

Apart from clar­i­fy­ing on the bot­tle, it should be a sham­poo that real­ly makes your hair feel clean and com­plete­ly non-oily. Some peo­ple can work with a coco-betaine sham­poo oth­ers will find it to mild. Some peo­ple can use SLES which is a very gen­tle ver­sion of SLS (some­times SLES and SLS com­bined togeth­er works well to be less harsh). If you reg­u­lar­ly sham­poo with a mild sham­poo though that might be enough and you will not need a clar­i­fy­ing sham­poo.


right on time! thanks for this arti­cle.. i HAVE been notic­ing buildup when I wash with sul­fate free sham­poos.


I mois­tur­ize my hair dai­ly and I notice a lit­tle build up. I love heavy oils like EVOO. Every once in a while I will clar­i­fy my hair with Shea Moisture’s African Black Soap and ACV. I prefer co-wash­ing but my hair needs to be clar­i­fied to revive it.

I’m heavy hand­ed with prod­ucts so ben­tonite clay masks and acv rins­es are not enough unless I scrub my scalp. I don’t even cow­ash because my hair prefers to be sham­pooed but I am heavy hand­ed with prod­ucts and oils. ACV rins­es also make my hair frizzy no mat­ter how much I dilute. Has any­one else expe­ri­enced this? I cur­rent­ly sham­poo with Shea mois­tures mois­tur­iz­ing sham­poo once/week and I’m test­ing out sham­poo­ing with Giovanni’s tea tree sham­poo once/month since it has coco betaine. Hope it works out because it’s the last step in my reg­i­men I need to fig­ure out. It’s… Read more »

I have found that using a 3:1 solu­tion of acv and water clar­i­fies my hair and cleans­es my scalp bet­ter than any sham­poo. For me, the key was damp­en­ing my hair first and using a col­or appli­ca­tor (a bot­tle that has a top with a tiny open­ing) to make sure the solu­tion cov­ers my entire scalp. I mes­sage my head to make sure no gunk is left behind. It’s a messy process, but it’s worth it.

My first year nat­u­ral all I did was ‘co-wash’ and the results were lack-lus­ter, LITERALLY. Then I began clar­i­fy­ing every so often and it improved. How­ev­er, now that I’m at 2 1/2 years in and have more hair I real­ized my hair is just nat­u­ral­ly ‘dry’. So I rarely ever use sham­poo any­more. The last time I did, my hair need­ed days of reha­bil­i­ta­tion. Now I detan­gle in sec­tions with aloe vera juice and TraderJoe’s Tea Tree Con­di­tion­er. I rin­se thor­ough­ly with warm water and final rin­se with cold water (week­ly). This way I don’t com­plete­ly strip my hair and… Read more »
I find my scalp is a bit oily so I can’t co-wash I can’t not wash my hair every few weeks. yes I have african amer­i­can hair but my scalp is oily and even when noth­ing in my hair after wash­ing if you rub my scalp you can see a lot of shine on your fin­gers. I only add pro­duct to my hair noth­ing to my scalp my scalp is quite sen­si­tive to pro­duct oth­er then sham­poo. I stretch my wash­es now to every 3 days. In the sum­mer I wash as need­ed. I have a con­di­tion called Seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis… Read more »

So if you don’t mind me ask­ing — what prod­ucts are ok for you to use in your hair — do you use lots of home­made prod­ucts? Com­mer­cial nat­u­ral prod­ucts?

With co wash­ing I get limp, over mois­turised weak hair. I have fine hair so I need need need pro­tein despite ignor­ing that fact for ages because my hair is also prone to dry­ness. I also need to clar­i­fy at times because I use but­ters, oils etc from the black-owned brands.

Tonya Juanise

Sham­poos dry my hair out whether sul­fate free or not so I only wash my hair with con­di­tion­er and in between I clar­i­fy with water/acv mix­ture.

Very help­ful arti­cle. I cow­ashed for the first year or so being nat­u­ral but then real­ized I need­ed sham­poo as my scalp was not get­ting clean at all. BUT most were way too dry­ing. I final­ly found what works for me and my itchy scalp: I dilute Shea Mois­ture Black Soap Sham­poo (1:1 w/H2O). I also wash in about 10–12 twists and make sure I get my scalp only. I let that sit and then add my cow­ash to the rest of my hair/the twists . I am still look­ing for a moisturizing/slippery cow­ash. I tried Tressem­me but once the… Read more »

This is right on time. I have been sham­poo­ing with sham­poo bars fol­lowed up with an ACV rin­se, and while I love that they don’t strip my hair, I feel like my scalp is not quite as clean as I would like. I am going to use a clar­i­fy­ing sham­poo (nat­u­ral, sul­fate free) the next time I wash. 

I don’t use sil­i­cones, but I do use a small amount of oil on a dai­ly bases, which is the rea­son that I believe I need to clar­i­fy.


Vine­gar & water has cleaned my hair/scalp…& I have used sul­fate free Sham­poos Shea Mois­ture and Cream of Nature.


I’ve tried acv rins­es an d ben­tonite clay masks and they nev­er remove every­thing. I am heavy hand­ed with my pro­duct appli­ca­tion though.

Lillian Mae

RE: Vine­gar & water has cleaned my hair/scalp


Miz B

Thanks for this! I use oils and have expe­ri­enced build up for sure. Can any­one name some good clar­i­fy­ing sham­poos??


Gio­van­ni makes a 50/50 clar­i­fy­ing sham­poo free of sul­fates. I love it. Gets my hair squeaky clean, but I use the buffer method, so my hair is nev­er “squeaky” per se or dry-feel­ing dur­ing the wash­ing process. I def­i­nite­ly know when I need a clar­i­fier… my hair won’t absorb any­thing and is just DRY!!!


Trader’s Joe Tea Tree Tin­gle. I found out it was a clar­i­fy­ing sham­poo and it’s only 4 bucks!!! Can’t beat that!!

Miz B

Thanks ladies!!


Gio­van­ni 50/50 clar­i­fy­ing sham­poo.


V05 Clar­i­fy­ing Kiwi Lime Shampoo/Conditioner is good. Also Suave Nat­u­rals Dai­ly Clar­i­fy­ing in Trop­i­cal Coconut Shampoo/Conditioner is good as well. There both at a good price, and last a good while. Both lath­er up alot and smells deli­cious, it’s not to over pow­er­ing.


Glad some­one men­tioned this. I actu­al­ly use the V05 Kiwi clar­i­fy­ing con­di­tion­er as a co-wash some­times and it seem to do the trick for build-up.

Lillian Mae

I use aztec Indi­an Clay once a mon­th!

You should def­i­nite­ly give it a try!


As I am has a clar­i­fy­ing shampoo…curl clar­i­ty, I think is the name. It will remove every­thing from your hair, lit­er­al­ly. Shea Mois­ture African black soap sham­poo is decent as well. Both around $10 and will last you forever since you won’t use it even month­ly.

Some peo­ple swear by Apple Cider Vine­gar rins­es, but if my hair is real­ly grub­by As I Am does the trick. I just do a good deep con­di­tion after.


I have done apple vine­gar rins­es about once a mon­th. I real­ly like how it restores the PH bal­ance of my scalp and real­ly takes away the residue and it is a great way of strip­ping the prod­ucts from your hair. The only thing it isn’t met to be done to much. I have heard peo­ple com­plain of them doing it every wash and it strip­ping their hair. not a good ide­al to do any­thing in excess. IMHO


Are you look­ing for with or with­out sul­fates???

Miz B

With­out sulfates..thanks!