The Difference Between Moisturizing Shampoos And Clarifying Shampoos

When it comes to taking care of relaxed hair, using the right shampoo is really important. Shampoo is typically the product that gets our wash day started (unless you pre-poo). It sets the stage for how our hair will react and accept the other products we use.

I’ll admit that before I started my healthy hair journey I had no idea there were different types of shampoos. I just thought that shampoo was just shampoo, they all basically did the same thing. That’s probably why for a long time I was using a clarifying shampoo every time I washed my hair.

What I didn’t know then that I know now is that there are many different types of shampoos out there.

moisturizing and clarifying shampoo bottles sitting on a counter.

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There are five different types of shampoos
  1. Chelating shampoos
  2. Clarifying shampoos
  3. Neutralizing shampoos
  4. Cleansing conditioners
  5. And Moisturizing shampoos

Now the main purpose of using shampoo is to cleanse the hair and scalp of product buildup and dirt.

But what makes each type of shampoo different is how deeply they cleanse the hair and the other benefits they provide. I’m not going to go into detail about each of the shampoos. I’m just sticking to moisturizing and clarifying shampoos because they are the ones I use in my relaxed hair regimen at home. If you’d like to know more about the other types of shampoos you can read my post The Best Shampoo Ingredients For Healthy Relaxed Hair.

Moisturizing shampoos

So what is a moisturizing shampoo? You can tell what a moisturizing shampoo is because
  • It will say it’s moisturizing
  • The types of ingredients it has
  • The things it does for the hair
    • Gently washes away dirt and oil
    • Balances the pH levels in the hair
    • Doesn’t strip away all of the natural moisture in the hair
    • Adds moisture to the cleansing process to help protect the hair
    • Because it’s moisturizing it can help with detangling

Moisturizing shampoos can be sulfate-free or have sulfates.

Clarifying shampoos

Clarifying shampoos on the other hand are really focused on giving the hair a deep clean to remove dirt and product build-up. They also remove the natural moisture from the hair. Because of that, they are stronger than traditional shampoos.

Additionally, most clarifying shampoos have few moisturizers and can dry out the hair and scalp.

Clarifying shampoos also go by other names purifying shampoo, detoxifying shampoo, and deep cleansing shampoo.

When to use these shampoos

Now that we know what moisturizing and clarifying shampoos are and what they do, let’s talk about when they should be used.

Moisturizing shampoos

They can be used every time you wash your hair because of how gentle they are and how they help to add moisture to the hair.

I use a moisturizing shampoo every time I wash my hair.

My two favorite moisturizing shampoos are the TGIN Moisture Rich Sulfate Free Shampoo which is sulfate-free and the Joico Moisture Recovery Shampoo which has sulfates.

Clarifying shampoos

They should be used as needed which can vary from person to person.

Clarifying shampoos are typically meant to be used anywhere from once a week to once a month, depending on the amount of buildup on the hair and scalp. Basically on an as-needed basis.

I don’t clarify on a schedule. I do it as needed usually no more than once a month. When I clarify my hair I use a clarifying shampoo for my first lather and follow up with a moisturizing shampoo for my second lather. I’ve found that helps to bring moisture back to my hair and helps prepare it to better accept my deep conditioner.

Now because I don’t clarify my hair on a regular schedule anymore, I need to pay close attention to the signs, and some of the things that are going on with my hair that can tell me it’s time to bring out the clarifying shampoo. Here are some things I look for and use to determine when a clarifying shampoo is needed
  • I’ve been sweating a lot: If I’ve been exercising a lot or spending a lot of time outside in the heat I will have a lot of sweat and buildup on my scalp and even my hair. So it’s good to clarify to get rid of that sweat.
  • My hair and scalp feel dry no matter what I do: That means no matter how many different products I use on my hair to moisturize and seal during the week if I baggy if I even wash my hair with a moisturizing shampoo and my hair still feels dry. It’s probably because I have a lot of product buildup on my hair and scalp and I need to get rid of it with a clarifying shampoo.
  • I haven’t been consistently washing my hair: Sometimes I can get swamped and I don’t wash my hair every week. And I’m just layering product on to keep my hair looking and feeling decent until I wash it. Now there’s a lot of gunk that is sitting on my hair and in this type of situation, a moisturizing shampoo is only going to do so much so I will opt to clarify.
  • I had been using lots of heavy creams and oils: Though I wash my hair once a week, if I’ve been using heavier products on my hair they can start to build up and weigh down my hair and a clarifying shampoo is a great way to give my hair a nice fresh start.
  • It’s been months since I last clarified: Even if my hair has been doing decently and none of the other signs have popped up, hey it’s been a couple of months I will clarify. I typically will notice a decent difference in how my hair looks and acts when it’s been a while and I clarify my hair.

When I clarify my hair I use the ORS Creamy Aloe Shampoo. I’ve used several different clarifying shampoos over the years and this is the only one that deep cleans my hair without completely drying it out.

Which of these shampoos do you use and how often? Share in the comments below.