Clarifying shampoos are specially designed to lift product buildup. If you have one, do not, I repeat, do not, use it regularly.
If you use a lot of heavy products, such as gels, greases and anything that coats your hair then you would benefit from a monthly wash with a clarifying shampoo, even once every 6 weeks would be ample.
Signs that your hair has too much product buildup:
1. Your shampoo doesn't lather well (note that some natural shampoos don't lather so if you've never used that shampoo before this could be the issue).
2. You shampoo doesn't seem to clean your hair well. It still feels oily or greasy after you've supposedly washed it.
3. Your hair is lacking in bounce, body and pliability.
4. Your hair's breaking and you don't know why. This would happen because the hair is actually dry but because it's coated, moisture (i.e. water) is failing to penetrate.
Why can't a sulfate-free shampoo deal with this situation?
They are too gentle. They are designed not to strip hair so they cannot deal with build up.
What do you do if you don't want to use a clarifying shampoo?
If like me you don't want to use a clarifying shampoo because you think it's a) too strong for your hair or b) you don't usually use heavy products or even c) you don't want to buy a product that will only be used monthly, then for a more intensive wash just use a regular sulfate-containing shampoo.
My husband has one of those so I can just use his. In fact, right now he's using Mixed Chicks shampoo which I bought by accident and later learnt contains sulfate. That mistake cost me $18 - not good!
Just one thing: a clarifying shampoo will strip your hair so make sure you follow up with a deep condition, a good moisturiser and an oil to seal.
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By Heather Katsonga-Woodward