We all understand about washing hair. Yet, few people realise that positive ingredients contained within today’s hair care products, can lead to negative effects, if not regularly cleared off the surface of the hair and prevented from building up. Clarifying is a term given to the use of high cleansing, clear shampoos and treatments, with the sole aim of removing surface barriers and residues from the hair shaft.

The risks of build-up

To understand why clarifying is important, you must firstly understand the structure of our hair. Hair is composed of two key sections, the outer cuticle layer and the internal cortex. The outer cuticle layer sits like overlapping fish scales (or tiles on a roof) along the hair shaft, creating a protective barrier around the hair. However, healthy cuticle scales open and close under conditions such as wetting, atmospheric and chemical. The opening and closing of the cuticle layer controls hair moisture levels and condition. When the cuticle layer is raised, hair will naturally tangle, as the raised cuticles on each hair can interlock, like Velcro. Therefore, conditioning agents such as silicones and polymers create an artificial coating on the hair, enabling it to be easily combed. This artificial coating also gives the hair extra protection. However, with continued use of these silicone and polymer-based products, a thick surface barrier can build up on the hair shaft. The cuticle layer effectively becomes glued shut. Use of heat styling (from irons and tongs) can even melt some polymers onto this barrier, creating a plastic like coating around the hair. When such a barrier forms on the hair, it can cause many problems. Most notably, ineffective results from colourant products. In general, the gentler a colourant product, the less effective the product will be at breaking through a surface barrier. Stronger ammonia-based products (such as traditional colourants, bleaches and perms) may break through a surface barrier. The reason being, ammonia is renowned for acting as a strong cleansing agent. However, barriers on the hair can also disguise serious damage within the (central area) cortex. Therefore, when ammonia removes that barrier, the compromised condition of the hair is exposed and quickly absorbs those harsh chemicals, resulting in serious breakage and damage.

Non-fading semi-permanent colour

Excessive use of silicones and polymer-based shampoos and conditioners can also prove a negative when trying to remove a semi-permanent colourant. Whilst semi-permanent colourants will leave the hair over washes, attempting to remove these shades with excessive use of rich shampoos and conditioners, can have the opposite effect. When wishing to fade off a temporary or semi- permanent colour, you need the cuticle layer to open and thus dislodge the colour molecule. However, if you attempt to keep washing the hair using a rich, creamy silicone-based shampoo, the opposite effect will occur. The hair shaft will become coated in silicone and thus encase the unwanted colour onto the hair. The less the colour appears to be fading, the more the individual will wash the hair in the rich shampoo and the more a barrier will form preventing any colour molecules escaping. So the individual may believe they are helping to fade the colour, when the reality is they are protecting it.

Clarifying is Key!

Silicone and Polymer rich shampoos and conditioners are a great way to maintain healthy hair, however it is crucial to understand when and why the hair should be clarified. Clarifying (or purifying) Shampoos are simply clear, cleansing shampoos that contain no silicones, polymers or conditioning agents. They could be regarded as ‘harsh’ if used continually, but when applied perhaps every three to four washes (or prior to chemical treatment), they will successfully remove any residue or surface barriers from the hair. Even a simple baby shampoo can act as a rudimentary clarifier. But using a purpose created clarifier or purifier is the recommended route. So, what are the key aspects to clarifying?

Feel your real hair – not the artificial conditioning ingredients added

It’s crucial to regularly evaluate your hair’s true condition and health, without the hair’s surface being masked by silicones and conditioning polymers. Only by fully understanding your hair’s true health and condition, will you be able to judge if your hair can withstand strong chemical or heat treatments.

Always allow the hair to airdry after clarifying and apply no conditioners or product

If the hair has truly clarified, you will immediately notice it is very tangled. Hair tangling is normal after wetting, as the cuticles (along the hair shaft) will be raised and catch. Conditioning ingredients usually cover these cuticles, so the hair can ‘slip’, but you need the hair free of those conditioning agents to judge its health. After clarifying, carefully comb out (from the ends upwards) and do not apply any conditioning agents or styling products. Leave the hair to completely airdry and then judge the condition once 100% dry. Depending on your hair type, the texture may be unruly. However, it’s the strength you are examining. Does the hair feel full and strong? Or does the hair feel brittle, dry and lacking in strength. The latter is denoting damage or hair health issues, and you should avoid any chemical treatments and instead, look to using products such as PurePlex Hair Repair System to regain strength.

If you perceive your previously healthy hair is ‘damaged’ after clarifying act immediately

Many people with serious hair damage, have masked the surface with so many conditioning polymers and silicones, they are unaware how damaged the hair truly is. This type of damage is often caused by continued use of heat on top of silicone barriers. The hair often has a synthetic health and shine but will eventually start to snap. If chemical treatments are applied, this hair could become seriously damaged or even destroyed.
Hair clarifiers are simply strong shampoos, they are not capable of damaging hair. However, they will remove surface barriers and expose the very serious damage that has already occurred within the hair. If you clarify your hair and notice breakage and a dramatic change in texture, when combing out, immediately conduct a PurePlex treatment and follow with two further treatments one week apart. Under no circumstances attempt to apply heat or chemical products to hair that has shown this level of damage after a clarifying treatment.

Clarifying every three to four washes is key to continued hair health

If you regularly clarify your hair every three to four washes, air dry and evaluate your hair’s true health and condition, it becomes very easy to detect the first signs of damage or hair quality decline. You can then act accordingly with hair masks or bond strengthening treatments such as Pureplex. In addition, you need the hair to be clarified of all surface residue and build up, to evoke hair alternation treatments such as Pureplex, colourants and bleaches. By making clarifying a part of an ongoing haircare regime, you are set to retain healthy hair.
For regular clarifying, we recommend the Style Freedom Detox Kit.

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