Clarifying Shampoo & Color Treated Hair

Woman who is buying clarifying shampoo for color treated hair
Photo: Serhii Bobyk/Shutterstock
Q: My hair is a medium brown, but a good portion is highlighted to a dirty blond color for the last 10 years. I airdry my hair at night and use a curling iron to style in the morning. I use molding paste and hairspray, and sometimes a scrunching gel. My hair tends to be dry, so I try to keep it well conditioned.
Is Neutrogena anti-residue clarifying shampoo too harsh for my color treated hair? I know it contains ammonium laurel sulfate, which is supposed to be a strong detergent. I was thinking of trying Nexus Aloe Rid or possibly Paul Mitchell's Shampoo #2 instead, which look milder. I'm just worried that they may not be strong enough to remove the buildup.

A: Okay, you should probably know that most of the shampoos on the market today contain Ammonium Laurel Sulfate or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate.
These are surfactants that help to actually remove dirt and oils from the hair, skin and whatever else needs washing. Surfactant molecules have both hydrophilic and lipophilic properties. Meaning they attract and are attracted to both oils and water. This is how they clean.
Clarifying shampoos are generally different from regular shampoos in their alkalinity. Because of their higher alkaline content, don't overuse them. Generally using them once per week (or every 3rd or 4th shampoo) is sufficient.
Remember that if you use your rinse-through conditioner each day, you will remove a good portion of the day's build-up of soil and product residue. In fact, some women who don't use dramatic amounts of product find that they don't need to shampoo their hair at all. Instead, they simply use conditioner.
As for choosing the right shampoo for you, that becomes largely a matter of personal choice. Unless you have specific hair needs (and then those shampoos designed for the particular needs become the menu of choices) the shampoo you choose should be chosen based on what results you get from using it. If you like the way it works and how it leaves your hair, then you are fine.
See also:
How shampoo works
Is it a good idea to buy shampoos that are formulated for specific hair types?
Remove product build-up without using a clarifying shampoo
Is it possible to wash your hair with conditioner only?