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How to Know When to Clarify

Clarifying is an essential part of maintaining a healthy scalp, which is the foundation of hair that thrives. Read on to learn how to recognise the signs that you need to clarify, what causes build up, and how to clarify.


Do you ever feel like your hair is taking much longer to get wet than normal or you're using way more conditioner than usual? Both of those are signs that you may need to clarify. The other common indicators are:

  • Your style doesn't last for as many days

  • Your hair is extra tangled (and you aren't overdue for a haircut)

  • You have to use more styling product than usual to get your hair to do anything

  • You tried to deep condition but that just made it feel worse

  • You feel like it isn't able to absorb as much water when you attempt to hydrate it

All of these things can be really frustrating but once you add clarifying to your routine, you can solve this problem quite easily at home.


Causes of Build Up

The first and sneakiest cause of build up is the minerals in our water. If you live in Waterloo Region, or anywhere else that is known to have really hard water, you're probably already aware of the hard water issues which create an invisible but rigid coating on the hair. The residue on glassware coming out of the dishwasher is just a visual of the residue that is likely being left behind on your hair (and skin) as well. A water softener helps but doesn't completely solve the problem, it just builds up on your hair over a longer period of time. If you rent your home, you may not even have a water softener as an option. Water filter cartridges that attach to your shower head are an inexpensive and easy way to also help remove some of the minerals especially if you don't have a water softener. They're readily available at all hardware stores and many online retailers.

Pro Tip: If you have a water softener but are experiencing issues with build up all of a sudden, go check your softener salt level.


The second common cause of build up is what you're putting on your hair, or rather the ingredients in it. If you've been using pure oils (like coconut or olive oils) to "moisturize" your hair, or that frizz control argan oil serum you swear by because it smells so good and it's been your go-to for the last 10 years, those are both the definitely the cause of your build up. Pure oils simply sit on the surface of the hair because the molecules are too large to absorb into the hair. so you aren't moisturizing but simply camouflaging the dehydration.

Anything labelled as "extra frizz control" is likely full of silicone which is just coating your hair. Silicone can be found in many products, especially ones marketed for curly hair because traditionally it has been a bandaid solution for frizz. It does work initially but the problem is, they build up on the hair which blocks your efforts to moisturize and thus actually creates more dehydration and frizz.

Here's what to look for in your products to attempt to avoid guaranteed product build up:

  • Silicones - anything that ends in -cone, -conol, or -xane is a silicone. Eg amodimethicone

  • Mineral oil

  • Heavy oils and butters like coconut oil and shea butter in the top 5 ingredients. This means there's a lot of that ingredient in there and it's unlikely to be refined enough for hair use.

If you'd like us to check your ingredient labels for you, just ask. We'd be happy to show you what to look for and how to read a label on your hair products.



How to Clarify

Most clarifying products are cleansers, aka shampoos, but there are few masks as well. You can decide which form works best for you and your lifestyle. Clarifying is usually done every 4-8 weeks but follow the indicators mentioned earlier to determine a schedule that is best for your hair health. Weekly is too often.

If you choose the cleanser option, you'll saturate your hair with water like on a regular wash day and apply the clarifying cleanser to your scalp and throughout the rest of your hair. Scrub your scalp until it feels clean, then massage the rest of the hair using a "milking" motion until it glides easily. You can also run your fingers through your hair and continue the massage until the tangles easily release. Rinse completely and either follow with your usual cleanser (optional) or proceed to condition and style from there.

If you choose the mask option, you'll saturate your hair with water like a regular wash day, then apply the mask to scalp and hair. Gently work it in and then let it process for 5-10 minutes. Afterwards, emulsify the product that is in your hair to help release it from your hair. Then rinse thoroughly, follow with your regular cleanser, conditioner, and styling routine.

Pro Tip: If you deep condition as well, this is an excellent opportunity to do that as you'll have a blank canvas to work with for maximum benefit from both.

Note: Apple cider vinegar is NOT a clarifying agent, it is a PH rebalancer. Used in it's pure form, it can actually be quite harsh on the hair.

You can spot a curl friendly clarifying cleanser because it contains Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate. Cleansers that contain that ingredient aren't recommended for all the time use as it can be overkill on the "cleansing" part but are perfectly safe for occasional use as a clarifier.


You can learn more about our clarifying options that we use. love, and trust by clicking below.



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