Clarifying vs. Chelating

Clarifying vs. Chelating

Ever wonder what the real difference was between a clarifying shampoo and a chelating shampoo?  I did.  I knew that they are both used to remove ‘stuff’ from the hair but when should one be used over the other or were they interchangeable?  I needed answers to those questions and I decided to do a little research which I will share here in case anyone else has the same questions.

Clarifying is a deep cleansing.  It is the process whereby you remove buildup from the surface of the hair.  Buildup includes grease, silicones, product, sebum, and dirt.   Clarifying products do not always have to be labeled as such to be effective.  Products with acetic acid are effective clarifying agents. Some natural products that have good clarifying properties include baking soda and vinegar (apple cider vinegar is gentler than white vinegar).

How often should you clarify? It largely depends on several factors: the amount of product you use on your hair; whether you cowash instead of shampoo; whether your regime contains a lot of silicones etc.  Once a month is normally sufficient for most people but if you notice that products that worked well before unexplicably stop working the same then you’re probably due for a clarifying treatment.

While clarifying agents removes buildup on the surface of the hair, chelating agents improve rinseability by binding with metals and minerals and removing them from the hair.  Chelating agents are useful for removing the metals in hard water and minerals/chemicals of chlorine water.  Chelating products typically contain EDTA.

How often? Again this is largely dependent on your lifestyle.   For most people clarifying is normally enough.  However, if you swim in a pool regularly or live in an area with hard water, you may wish to add a chelating shampoo to your regimen.

The benefits of clarifying and chelating? These treatments are great to create a fresh canvas when your hair seems to stop responding to products that used to work well before.  They should be used sparingly however to prevent over-drying the hair

Condition, Condition, Condition!
Whichever cleansing method you use, it’s important to realise that clarifying or chelating removes everything from the hair including moisture.  You must deep condition the hair to replace some of the moisture that would have been stripped away.

There you have it.   Now you’re as much of an authority on the subject as the pros 🙂

Author: Vogue

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  1. I’m new to your site and wonder what products you’ve found to be good a t clarifying or chelating?


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    • Thanks for stopping by Toya! I’ve used Nexxus Aloe Rid shampoo and treatment with good results. There’s also KMS Head REmedy Clarifying Shampoo and Joico K-Pak Chelating Shampoo. I believe Pantene also has a clarifying shampoo. I added the links to my post.

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    • This was very informative and very well written! I never knew the definition of chelating and this helped a lot. =) Keep up the great work.

      – Jodyannc_xo

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  2. Thank you for “clarifying” that for me lol! 🙂

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  3. I read that if you chelate or clarify before coloring or highlighting (bleach) it would take better or last longer or something? Is this correct? I also wondered if I should condition after chelate/clarify or highlight first then condition or both?

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  4. Hi,

    Very impressed with your explanations.
    I had some confusion, pls help.

    I am both a regular swimmer and heavy use of styling products. Do i need to use both clariying and chelating shampoo? Or chelating will be fine as this does some deep cleaning as well.

    Thanks a lot in advance,
    Your sincerely.

    Post a Reply


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