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Clarifying Vs. Chelating Shampoo: Breaking Down the Differences

If you’re in an area with hard tap water, there’s a big chance your hair is dry and damaged. You need a chelating shampoo to remove excess minerals from your scalp!

What is chelating shampoo? Is there any difference between clarifying shampoo and chelating shampoo? If yes, which shampoo should you use?

To get answers to all these questions and discover the uses and effectiveness of these shampoos, read this article till the end. I’ll discuss when you should use them and identify which type is better for your hair.

Spoiler alert: You may even need both!

What Is Chelating Shampoo?

The term chelating comes from the Greek word chele. This means “to claw.” It’s an appropriate term since it describes how chemicals, known as chelating agents, can grab onto metal ions.

Metal ions get into your hair through water whenever you take a bath. If you have too many of these minerals in your hair, it can cause brittleness, dullness, and discoloration.

Chelating shampoo solves this by grabbing onto the mineral deposits. The shampoo breaks the bond between your hair and the metal ions. After this, you can wash them away with water!

How to Tell If You Need Chelating Shampoo

Did you know that 90% of homes in the United States have hard water? To find out if you need a chelating shampoo, look at calcium carbonate maps around the country.

Aside from this, you can feel your hair after a bath. If it’s greasy, tangled, heavy, or dull, you’ll benefit from this specialized shampoo.

What’s more, you should also use it after swimming as pools have extremely hard water!

What Is Clarifying Shampoo?

Clarifying shampoo removes buildups of dirt, hairspray, gels, and other products. It’s more effective than regular shampoo since it contains plenty of surfactants. Surfactants bind the oil on your scalp to water once you start rinsing.

Clarifying shampoo has fewer conditioning ingredients. It’s more astringent than normal shampoo which means it can clean visible residues more effectively!

How to Tell If You Need Clarifying Shampoo

Clarifying shampoo is essential for people who use hair products daily. For instance, dry shampoo can build up in your hair, and regular shampoo won’t cut it.

If your hair feels dirty and weighed down after a bath, you need to use a clarifying shampoo.

For people with blonde hair, you should use this product if you notice a green hue in the strands after a dip in the pool.

Differences Between Chelating and Clarifying Shampoo

Chelating shampoos and clarifying shampoos aren’t the same. Here are the interesting differences you should know about!

1. Cleaning Ability

Because hair is a porous material, calcium and magnesium ions can get underneath the cuticles. You can’t see these deposits, but you can feel them damaging your locks!

Chelating shampoos work by removing these mineral deposits from within each strand.

On the other hand, clarifying shampoos focus mainly on visible dirt, oil, and products in your hair. They can’t remove mineral deposits, but they do a better job removing dirt than normal shampoo!

2. Ingredients

Part of the confusion between chelating and clarifying shampoo is the labeling. A chelating shampoo can sometimes say it’s clarifying on the bottle.

To tell which is which, it’s best to look at the ingredients.

The usual components of chelating shampoos are EDTA and sodium gluconate. You can also get ones with phytic acid, citric acid, and sodium oxalate.

For clarifying shampoos, expect to find chlorides, bromides, or cetyl-fatty alcohols. Ammonium-sodium lauryl sulfate is another powerful surfactant.

3. Harmful Effects on Hair

Since clarifying shampoos are great for absorbing oil, they could lead to dry hair when used too much. Other harmful effects are frizz, flyaways, and dullness.

If you have colored hair, you should check the label if it’s color-safe. Clarifying shampoos can remove your hair dye. It’s also bad for people with dandruff, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis!

Meanwhile, chelating shampoo is caustic. Its pH can lead to hair cuticle damage.

Overusing chelating shampoo increases the friction between your hair fibers. This friction results in breakage!

4. Usage

Using clarifying shampoo is easy! All you have to do is work the shampoo into your hair and leave it on for up to two minutes. Rinse it away and lather the conditioner in to maintain moisture.

You should only apply clarifying shampoos once or twice a week.

The process for using chelating shampoos is the same. However, you should only use it once a week and leave it on for three minutes instead of two!

Clarifying Vs. Chelating Shampoo: Which Is Better?

Clarifying Vs. Chelating Shampoo for hair

Clarifying and chelating shampoos target different impurities in your hair.

Chelating shampoos can clean deep into your hair and remove hard water deposits under the cuticles. Yet, this doesn’t mean they’re stronger than clarifying shampoos!

In terms of removing dirt, clarifying shampoos will still do a better job than chelating ones. Therefore, you should pick a product based on your specific needs.

If you have an issue with hard water in your area, go for the chelating shampoo. For those who constantly use hair products, clarifying shampoo is better!

Using Clarifying and Chelating Shampoos Together

Can you use clarifying and chelating shampoos together?

According to Missy Peterson, the lead educator for Malibu C, chelating shampoos have low pH. On the flip side, clarifying shampoos have a high pH.

This means if you mix the two, they neutralize each other, and you may not get the effect you want! The trick is to use the two types of shampoo in succession.

You can start with the clarifying shampoo to get rid of the grease and other products on your scalp. After rinsing, you can now apply the chelating shampoo.

This way, the second shampoo can do its job of deep cleaning your hair strands! Lastly, don’t forget to use a conditioner to add moisture back to your hair.


So the key difference between clarifying and chelating is that the components in clarifying shampoo attach to the oil in your hair which allows you to wash it away and the chelating shampoo has ingredients that bind to the mineral buildup in your hair.

Both types of shampoos are powerful tools for cleaning and freshen up your hair. There’s no better or worse shampoo. You can use them both according to your hair care needs!

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