Yes, Your Shampoo Can “Stop Working”


Right after, "Should I get bangs?" and "My hair never holds a curl," but before "Try Shimmer Lights, it's purple," is the line "My shampoo doesn't work anymore." Some may argue that a shampoo's a shampoo—and those people are surly old men that live in houseboats who don't, in fact, even use shampoo. They probably use the 2-in-1—no, several-in-1 stuff—whichever's on sale or within arm's distance. Some, though, notice minute details like loss of volume or slight changes in texture. And for them, this post exists.

Product build-up is a factor in not-quite-perfect hair, and can be dealt with the occasional use of a clarifying shampoo. These are also great if you need more volume for a specific look, but clarifying shampoos are notoriously drying and shouldn't be used more than once a week, according to Kimberly Pierce, senior colorist at Ion Studio (Arizona Muse and Caroline Trentini are clients). You'd trust her product recs if you met her in person—she has long, reflective, thick platinum waves with rich golden tones throughout. Her hair's got volume, but shine for days—that healthy shine that definitely isn't sprayed-on dimethicone, you know?

She says to, "think of your hair as you do your skin—it needs change-ups with the season. Sometimes you need a creamier cleanser and heavier moisturizer, then you'll notice your skin will become sort of greasy in the summer months and you switch to oil-free versions. Same goes for shampoo and conditioner. Maybe you'll always use the same shampoo and be happy with your hair, but if you see things get oily quicker, or that your hair is drying out, that's when you know you should change to a new formula for a bit. Your skin's changing oil production definitely affects your hair."

It's sort of a 'duh' way to think about haircare. It's not really that your shampoo "stopped working," it's that it's not as effective as it once was because maybe you're sweating a lot more than you did back in January. And it's not that you have to give up what was once your favorite shampoo (hell, for some of us it also serves as a signature fragrance), just maybe consider having options to give your hair what it needs based on those factors we can't control—i.e. the climate—and switching things up as often as you would skincare. Thus, the endless haircare aisle at your local Duane Reade.

—Annie Kreighbaum

Image via ITG.

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  • Bella

    I have quite the rotating hair care arsenal for this reason.

    • clio

      Me too! I have at least 3 different shampoo/conditioner combos in rotation. (Currently: Redken All Soft, Kérastase Volumifique, and John Frieda Cool Dip.)

  • Mademoiselle nature

    Great post!

    Silicones should def need to be avoid as tend to create so easily build-up.

    • Dima Al Mahsiri

      You are right!
      Still apple cider vinegar washes away all buildups, I am not saying one can over use hair products, but if you want to clean your hair, vinegar is a good choice.

      • Lauren

        Except it strips color! No point in ever rinsing with vinegar if you spend good money having your hair colored. It will absolutely ruin it.

  • Clever Girl Reviews

    It's great to have a rotator shampoo and a seasonal shampoo!

  • heysarajean

    What are some recommended clarifying shampoos?

    • ITG Annie

      Honestly, I've been using the Suave Daily Clarifying Shampoo since junior high. But NOT daily, it's so drying. Only if I know I'm going to do curls or big hair. It's like one step below washing your hair with dish detergent. I also don't recommend it for color-treated hair

    • Jane T.

      Number 4 makes a really great one without sulfates and it smells awesome. I rotate between that and Neutrogena T-Sal if my scalp gets dandruffy.

    • Steph

      Kenra Clarifying Shampoo is awesome. It gets out all of the product buildup without making your hair feel like straw. I work at a hair salon, and I've tried many different clarifying shampoos- this one is by far the best I've ever used.

    • ni ni

      Perhaps try AVEDA rosemary and mint shampoo..once a week. It's plant based, and leaves your hair SUPER clean and fresh. Although, don't use it everyday. OR ask the AVEDA hair people, they're really good.

  • emiller1233

    I like using the Bumble and Bumble Sunday shampoo as my cleanser, it's my favorite!

  • Aubrey Green

    ClearItUp Detox Shampoo - seriously amazing!! They have other products as well, haven't tried any of them yet.

  • Aubrey Green

    1.) You could always try the water softner system -
    Here's some websites, I have't really looked into it myself, but my grandma always had one and noticed a difference.

    2.) I've noticed that as well, you could always use more dry Shampoo, or for that week wash your hair more using a conditioning shampoo so it doesn't strip your hair as much, or better yet just put it in a bun :).

  • Rosa


    • ITG Annie

      word, thanks

  • Laura Mitchell

    Shimma Lights is the BOMB

  • Clara

    Apple cider vinegar soak for an hour (or as long as possible) before your shower: just wrap your head in an old t shirt, then shampoo with regular shampoo, and if your hair doesn't feel "clean" like it does when they wash your hair at the salon, wash twice.

    I have long, thick, wavy Asian hair (in both the individual strand and quantity) that takes on average 4 hours to dry completely, and before I discovered ACV and shampooing twice, I had terrible buildup by way of dandruff-like dirt, and super waxy hair near the scalp, particularly in the under layer of my hair at the back of my head. I started doing AVC once a week (in winter I washed my hair every 3 days, in summer I wash every 2), then cut down to just whenever I felt I needed it, because I found it made my hair flat. After I did the AVC for a while, the flakes pretty much went away. Now I just shampoo twice every time I was my hair. I condition my hair first thing, then shampoo with Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus shampoo, so not as to dry the scalp, which is crucial, rinse, then follow with John Frieda Brilliant Brunette--this lathers (and thus, "clarifies" the hair) the best out of all the shampoos I've used on the regular as of late (which include Head and Shoulders, Davines Love shampoo, Nuance by Salma Hayek, and Kracie Ichikami shampoo).

    TL;DR: if you have thick hair and problems with it not getting sufficiently clean in the shower/want to get rid of build up, try an AVC rinse, or make shampooing twice a regular thing, because clarifying shampoos have done nothing for me.

  • tera

    I have hard water and mineral deposits that leave a chalky residue on dishes...what is it leaving on my hair ? I have gotten a T3 water filter (it's a showerhead with replaceable filter) and it made my hair less tangly, and skin and hair softer.

  • ModernGrace

    I use the Suave strawberry shampoo or Prell. Sauve also has a clarifying shampoo like Annie mentioned in a comment. Many people still use the old school Neutrogena version too.

  • ModernGrace

    I try to buy shampoos and conditioners with natural oils that my hair loves instead of silicones, but sometimes I don't notice it as an ingredient if it's not in the top five.

    • Bells

      Could you please name a few? My hair gets very flat with silicones as well.

      • ModernGrace

        I love the L'Oreal Oleotherapy or Evercreme lines for the drugstore, and Shu Uemura moisture and oil shampoos for high end.

  • adamalpha

    Y'all, remember there used to be a Neutrogena "clarifying" shampoo that said it could be used daily? I don't think they make it anymore, but my hair was heaven in the summer of 2010 when I used it :(

  • Anon

    If the lady in this post has such trustworthy hair recs, do we get to hear some of her recc'd products in the future, top-shelf style?

    • ITG Annie

      I have another story with Kim in the works :)

  • Behind the Mirror

    This made me laugh so hard because just last week I was told "try shimmering lights, it's purple" lol.

  • Cassie Lynn

    Do Clarifying Shampoos strip hair color? I never use them just because I'm worried about ruining my hair color!

  • Bee

    Backpulver is not pure baking soda, it's baking powder. You want Natron, you can find it at an Apotheke ;)

  • Nicki Boutiette

    You literally just described my grandfather. He is a retired a boat maker, lived on a houseboat, and uses 2-in-1 shampoo. LOL.

    • ITG Annie

      Ha! Amazing!