The mestiza muse

Why You May Need a Chelating Shampoo

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Verna Meachum

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When was last time you had a proper scalp and hair detox? A chelating shampoo is the first step to detox your hair and your scalp. The real problem is when “stuff” accumulates and won’t wash away because of hard water.

As mentioned in a previous blog, one of the signs you may have hard water is when your shampoo doesn’t lather. When that happens you’re left with double buildup—product residue plus sticky shampoo.

It also forms an invisible sticky layer around your hair strands. To make matters worse—

the stickiness attracts dust and dirt like a magnet. It makes your hair more greasy and your scalp, itchy and flaky. To break down these stubborn residues and rinse them off, your shampoo needs chelating agents.

A chelating based shampoo utilizes active molecules called chelating agents, which do the heavy lifting. These agents grab onto the “impurities” and left over shampoos to make a new ring structure. They form a cage around the “stuff”, so the shampoo can rinse the entire complex from your hair. (See infographic). Chelating hair products removes minerals and fights free radicals from attacking your hair, and rinses out everything from your hair and leaves no residue.

Chelating vs. Clarifying

Chelating shampoos are much more potent than clarifiers because they work below the surface of the hair shaft. I highly suggest you always clarify your hair before resorting to a chelating shampoo. If your buildup problem cannot be resolved in two clarifying sessions, then you may need to step up the shampoo strength and work with a chelating shampoo.

Both shampoos are relatively strong and can compromise fragile hair with repeated use and inadequate follow up deep conditioning.

If you find these shampoos to be drying and continue to have chronic issues with hard water, purchase a water-softener or water-filtration system which may benefit your hair in the long run.

Chelating infographic.jpg

Just like you need a clarifying shampoo, a chelating hair wash goes a step further. It doubles up as a clarifying shampoo with extra EDTA agents.

It removes gunk, slime, minerals, and residues that build up in your hair from:

  • Hard water showers
  • Gels/Hair sprays
  • Color depositing shampoos
  • Oral medications
  • Minerals, heavy well water
  • Chemical services
  • Copper residues from water pipes
  • And, drugs


Credit: Home Water 101

Credit: Home Water 101

Credit: US Water Quality Information
Credit: US Water Quality Information

Did you know that chelation neutralizes your hair and scalp to restore its natural pH balance?
pH balance is key to healthy and easy to manage hair. Even more, here are a few reasons why your hair needs a good pH balance:
No Bacteria—Healthy pH stops bacterial growth like fungus

  • No Breakage— It prevents your hair from breaking

  • Elasticity—It preserves your hair’s elasticity

  • Moisture—It locks in moisture much longer in your hair

With a balanced pH and clean surface, your hair takes in nutrients and moisturizers and instantly works better.

Did you know that minerals can raise the pH level of tap water to around 8.5?

“Alkaline pH may increase the negative electrical charge of the hair fiber surface and, therefore, increase friction between the fibers. This may lead to cuticle damage and fiber breakage. It is a reality and not a myth that lower pH of shampoos may cause less frizzing for generating less negative static electricity on the fiber surface.”

Source: The National Center for Biotechnology Information

To understand more on pH balance see older blogs. https://themestizamuse.com/blog/understanding-ph-balance-and-hair-pt-2

https://themestizamuse.com/blog/understanding-ph-balance-and-hair-pt-3

Reasons To Use A Chelating Detox Shampoo:

  1. Make Your Hair Conditioner Work Better.

    Your favorite hair products have been letting you down lately. You may want to think twice before throwing them out The problem could be hard water. Give your hair a good purge and try it again.

  2. Avoid Crunchy Hair From Hard Water.

    A chelating shampoo works for well water too.

  3. Keeps Your Hair Color Vibrant.

  4. De-Yellows Gray Hair.

    Chlorine, smoking, and water running from old copper pipes turn your gray hair yellow.

  5. Plumps Up Your Flat Hair.

    Without the heavy buildup, you’ll have more volume and more fluffiness at the roots.

  6. Use it Before a Color Treatment.

    Use it as a precursor to chemical treatments. It doubles its effectiveness. This makes your color more vibrant. Chelate your hair 2-3 days before your treatment and see the difference.

  7. CleansYour Scalp Thoroughly.

    Pulls out everything that clogs the pores on your scalp.

  8. Re Balance Your Hair/Scalp pH.

You should use a chelating shampoo no more that 2 times a month to avoid drying out your hair.

How Often Should You Use A Chelating Shampoo?

Chelate your hair if:

  • You have hard water in your shower

  • You swim regularly

  • You relax your hair with no-lye formulas

If you’re not a swimmer, don’t use hard water, and don’t use no-lye relaxers, then you don’t need a chelating shampoo. A clarifying shampoo should suffice.

Here’s something fairly new that I haven’t really talked about before, but I’ve had a few cases where people have had issues with clarifying their hair but to no avail. After some tedious digging, here’s what I found and I hope you find it helpful.

Chelating shampoos deliver high levels of cleansing potency and yes they do have an important place in your regimen.

One of the telltale signs of a hard water problem is breakage that will just not end, no matter what. Hard water damage is ambiguous. Hard water damage does not respond to anything but feels like it needs everything. Example, it may feel weighed down (needs to be clarified), feels coarse (needs moisture), gummy and limp (needs protein), all at once in some cases.

When you notice moisturizers, styling creams and/or oil sitting on you hair without really being absorbed, it may be time to clarify or chelate. Limp hair, shampoos that just don’t lather, conditioners that no longer condition may also be indications that you hair is burdened with product or mineral buildup. If you ever experienced unexplained hair breakage that does not respond to your regular protein or moisturizing treatments, You may need to chelate your hair to remove stubborn mineral buildup.

I mentioned a chelating shampoo I used prior to getting color in a previous post, it was called Malibu C shampoo, which is sometimes used in salons prior to a chemical service because of their ability to go deep down into the hair fiber and free up bonds that have interfered with unwanted mineral deposits. This helps chemical processes to work smoothly and take properly.

Chelating shampoos are extremely drying and it’s best to use them in moderation. You should follow up with a moisturizing deep conditioner to return the lost moisture balance to hair. Actually, I insist you do.


Sources: US Water Quality Information. Water Research Center. Home Water 101.

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