This summer, Olaplex has lifted the lid on a new product: No.4C Clarifying Shampoo, £26, which promises a satisfying deep clean.
In the past month, searches for 'best clarifying shampoo' have shot up considerably according to Google Trends — and it makes sense. Warmer weather exacerbates sweat and oil buildup, and teamed with hair products like serums, oils and dry shampoo, your scalp is bound to feel the clogging effects. In other words, slotting a clarifying shampoo into your haircare routine might just be your best bet for achieving satisfyingly squeaky-clean hair.
What is clarifying shampoo and how does it work?
A clarifying shampoo does what it says on the tin and gives both your hair and scalp a deep clean. Ingredients inside popular clarifying shampoos will vary but popular ones include lauryl betaine (a surfactant, which helps to separate oil from water), vinegar or apple cider vinegar (antibacterial) and sulphates (which are needed to provide a good cleanse, and won't strip hair or skin when formulated properly).
Chie Sato, head of education at Taylor Taylor London, previously told R29 that a clarifying shampoo also allows you to go longer between washes as it really dislodges oil and dirt buildup on the scalp. If it's not there, it's less likely to travel down your hair, making it appear heavy or greasy.
What is in Olaplex's 4C Clarifying Shampoo?
Olaplex's 4C Clarifying Shampoo is sulphate-free but it enlists other buildup-busting components to make an impact. Ingredients like sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate and coco betaine are sulphate-free surfactants, which make the shampoo lather up and chip away at scalp grease, dead skin and old product residue. Then there are the more cosmetic ingredients like sodium PCA, known to lend shine. The shampoo also claims to impart vibrant colour clarity, airy volume and softness.
How often should you use a clarifying shampoo?
"Using a clarifying shampoo every other week would be a great place to start if you use a lot of product on your hair," said Chie (for example serums, oils, hairspray or dry shampoo), "or if you have noticed your hair getting particularly oily at the roots." Olaplex suggests applying its shampoo to wet hair, concentrating the product to your scalp and working it through your ends. Once the shampoo is all lathered up, let it work its magic for five minutes before rinsing away.
Does Olaplex's 4C Clarifying Shampoo work?
Ahead, three R29 staffers with multiple hair concerns (from excess oiliness to product buildup) put Olaplex's new 4C Clarifying Shampoo to the test. This is what it did for their lengths and scalps.
Maybelle Morgan, entertainment editor and acting operations manager
Hair concerns: "Dry at the ends but oily at the roots. It has also sustained box dye jobs and lots of bleach and is quite brassy and orange."
Verdict: "I love Olaplex. When I do manage to kick myself into self-care mode, I will from time to time indulge in Olaplex No.2 so I was excited to try the Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo. It comes out like sticky, clear syrup and lathered up exceptionally well. The instructions advise you to leave it on for up to five minutes but I'm pretty impatient so I probably just made it to the minute mark before I took my shower head to it.
I have to admit, I hated the feeling of my hair when I had just rinsed the shampoo off. It felt stripped of absolutely everything. So clean, it felt almost squeaky. Reminding myself to trust the process, I put my usual conditioning mask on and when I was rinsing it off, that's when I first noticed a difference. Why won’t the conditioner wash out? I thought, as I kept running water over it. I quickly realised that wasn’t the case — it was that my hair, for once, was actually soft.
After towel-drying it, I left it to air-dry in plaits as I usually do. When I shook it out, my hair looked shiny, my scalp looked happy and — this sounds weird, but — my usually very heavy hair felt tons lighter. I'm realising now that years of product buildup was at the root of a lot of my hair issues, and with one wash it feels like I've reversed years of damage. I still shudder at the squeaky hair feeling (my arms are literally getting goosebumps right now, thinking about it) but I am super impressed. It's a new favourite!"
Kristine Romano, associate editor, photo and design
Verdict: "I wash my hair almost every other day because it gets oily so quickly and while I've tried many different products to manage this, I have yet to find a shampoo that really works. My hair always looks its best directly after washing. Following that, it gets greasy, flaky and feels weighed down.
It's safe to say I had high hopes for Olaplex's clarifying shampoo and it didn't disappoint. It has a really pleasant and refreshing smell and lathers up a lot better than some other clarifying shampoos I've tried. I left the product in for a couple of minutes and after rinsing it out, my hair felt squeaky clean — almost too clean. I then brushed my hair and let it air-dry as I usually do. It wasn't until I looked at my before and after pictures that I realised what a difference the shampoo had made. It left my hair feeling light and full of movement, and also helped some of the worst areas on my scalp where I tend to see a lot of flakes.
I could probably go one extra day without washing my hair, which is a game-changer. My only hang-up is that it did leave my hair feeling a bit drier than usual, especially my ends, but that's likely because I wanted to try the shampoo on its own without any other products. I'll definitely make sure to pair this with a good conditioner or hair oil the next time I use it, which will probably be the next time I wash my hair."
Sadhbh O'Sullivan, health and living editor
Hair concerns: "My hair never feels clean. I have very thick hair and oily scalp, and no matter how well I wash my hair it often feels heavy and matted and almost waxy at the back. This also depends on where I am in my cycle (the run-up to and during my period is the worst for feeling like I dived headfirst into a vat of oil) and how much I'm running at the time, but I essentially feel like I’m fighting a losing game to feel truly clean."
Verdict: "I've been looking for something to circuit-break my greasy hair cycle so when Jacqueline, our senior beauty editor, asked for volunteers to try this new shampoo, I put my arm up so quickly it practically leapt out of my socket. Olaplex has the kind of brand recognition that makes me naively trust it, so I was excited.
Happily for everyone involved, the hype was worth it. I was on my second day and I could feel the weight on my scalp but it hadn't yet reached the point where it was hyper-visible to other people. After lathering up and leaving it for the requisite five minutes, I had high hopes. Once I was rinsed and towel-dried, I could feel that my hair felt almost squeaky clean. And it still felt that way once it was completely dry! I didn't put any product in my hair or use any conditioner so it doesn't look as lustrous as it does in my before picture annoyingly, but it feels so much cleaner — airy almost. I'll be interested to see how long this lasts into the week with other, regular shampoos, but for now I'm all in."
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