Q: My hair is extremely brittle due to hard water and regular swimming.
I read that I should use a chelating shampoo.
Is this the same as a clarifying shampoo?
A: We all need to clarify our hair at some point.
This is due to build-up from chlorine, the minerals and chemicals in our water, and residue from the products we apply. In her book The Science of Black Hair, Audrey Davis explains the difference between clarifying and chelating shampoos.
Both are strong shampoos designed to strip the hair of gunk that has accumulated over time. Chelating shampoos are much more potent because they work below the surface of the hair shaft.
Chelating shampoos are best for frequent swimmers but they should be limited to a maximum of once a month. Clarifying shampoos can help, especially when the problem is hard water. But if you find no change after two consecutive clarifying sessions, step up your strength and use a chelating shampoo.
Note that both types can cause excessive dryness so be sure to use a moisturising deep conditioner after each application.
If you have chronic issues with your hair due to hard water at home, consider using bottled water or installing a water filtration system in the long run.