What does it actually mean to clarify your hair?

Are you aware of the build-up in your hair? (Picture: Getty)

When it comes to our hair, there’s so much to think about – from washing and styling to heat protection and split ends… the list goes on.

But it seems there’s one aspect of hair care which commonly falls under the radar and has recently been thrown back in the spotlight by hairdressers on TikTok.

Videos on the platform show people taking scissors to hair, pulling it to create tension, before dragging the blade down to highlight excess debris coming off. 

This build-up which is left on hair can weigh it down – which is where clarifying comes into play, to get rid of this excess.

Celebrity hairdresser, Phil Smith, tells ‘Clarifying is basically detoxing your hair from product build-up.

‘Treatments, styling products and sometimes even shampoo and conditioner can cause a build-up in the hair which can leave it feeling weighed down and greasy.  A clarifying shampoo, for example, will help break this product down safely, without stripping the hair but it will likely feel more “squeaky clean” than usual.’

It’s worth pointing out that the scissor technique people are using on TikTok has been discouraged by other professionals.

Mark Woolley, hair stylist, founder and creative director of Electric, says: ‘Hair clarifying, as demonstrated by TikTok users, is a process of identifying build up of product that sits on the top layer of the hair which is the cuticle using scissors where the blade is used to pick up the product build up. 

‘I wouldn’t recommend for TikTok users or clients at home to be doing this on themselves. I would recommend using a clarifying or detoxing shampoo to help remove product build up from the hair, making sure to wash hair thoroughly when applying shampoo or conditioner and rinsing the hair for at least five minutes.’

Of course, as with other hair products, some research might be needed to see which shampoos work best for your own hair type.

Phil adds: ‘Depending on your hair type, the products you use and how regularly, product build-up will affect your hair differently. I would recommend using a professional clarifying shampoo and conditioner once a week to begin with. 

‘These have been formulated safely for use in your hair.’

There are suggestions that clarifying can be achieved through DIY home remedies, using products that might typically be found in household cupboards. However, Phil strongly discourages using these.

‘You can’t be sure how home remedies will react to dye or colouring that has been applied to the hair in the past,’ he adds.

Stéphane Ferreira, from Live True London, agrees these should be considered with caution. She says: ‘We would never recommend to use any home remedy, such as baking soda or vinegar, as this would damage your hair and surely create issues with the following colouring of your hair.

‘We would always recommend that people stick to professionally formulated products that are thoroughly tested and proven to help their hair.

‘For a mild cleanse, professional shampoo can be bought to achieve this at home. For a deeper cleanse, we recommend having this done in a salon with stronger salon grade products by a trained professional.’

Ricky Walters – founder of Salon64 – also stresses it’s important not to overdo it with clarifying products. He tells ‘Bear in mind you do not want to use clarifying shampoo every time you wash your hair, as it can also remove fundamental nutriments found in your hair and scalp.’

Clarifying shampoos to try…

Mane n Tail Clarifying Shampoo, Superdrug, £6.99

This product restores, revitalises and reconditions for a naturally clean scalp and healthy hair and is designed to remove excess built up without drying or stripping hair in the process. It’s also priced at £6.99 – so is on the cheaper end of the hair product spectrum.

Oribe The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo, Net a Porter, £34

This shampoo does exactly what it says on the tin, cleanses until your hair feels good as new. It’s particularly great for curly hair and refreshes strands with eucalyptus, green tea and sea kelp extracts.

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions or coverage. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.

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