Clear Shampoo vs. Creamy

A woman in the shower shampooing her hair.

Confession time. I spend way too much time in the shampoo aisle, and you know what? You probably do too. There are so many options for hair care items that it seems kind of impossible to choose the right type of shampoo.

Since my most significant cause for confusion is whether to go for clear or creamy shampoo, I have done some research and present to you solutions to the debate of a lifetime: clear shampoo vs. creamy!

It is believed that creamy shampoos are milder than clear since they generally contain more oils and additives; however, this is not always the case. When choosing between clear or creamy shampoo, consider your hair type and the ingredients of the product, as well as the results you wish to achieve.

While it may seem that clear shampoos are designed to leave your hair (literally) squeaky clean, the idea that clear shampoos are harsher than their creamy counterparts is not necessarily accurate. If you are in the market for a shampoo that suits your hair type and leaves you looking like a model, it may be best to look a little deeper into what goes into clear and creamy shampoos and how they affect different hair types.

What Ingredients Go into Clear and Creamy Shampoo?

Man washing his hair with shampoo.

Both clear and creamy shampoos have harsh and ingredients that try to counteract the harshness. Grab your goggles. It’s time to dive into the science within the shampoo bottle for a second.

Clear shampoo contains sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which is known to be harsh on hair and cause irritation to sensitive skin. To counteract the harshness of the SLS, it also has Cocoamidopropyl betaine. The goal of this winning combination is to keep the powerful cleaning power of the shampoo while minimizing the itchiness of the delicate skin on your scalp.

Creamy shampoo contains ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS). You guessed it, that is the harsh one, so to counteract that ingredient, it also has ammonium lauryl ether sulfate (ALES). These ingredients have been known to cause significant irritation for sensitive skin.

Is Clear Shampoo or Creamy Shampoo Better for My Hair?

Hairdresser washing woman's hair in the salon.

Knowing whether to get clear or creamy shampoo for yourself comes down to knowing your hair type and what you would like your shampoo to do for you.

It’s always best to research the ingredients in your hair care products before deciding which to go with; however, if you are in a hurry and need a straightforward answer, here is your simple guide:

Try a clear shampoo if your hair is:

  • Oily
  • In need of an intense wash
  • Fine
  • Limp (lacking body)

Try a creamy shampoo if your hair is:

  • Dry
  • Damaged
  • Frizzy
  • Easily tangled
  • Colored or processed
  • Curly
  • Coarse 
  • Brittle 

If you suffer from dandruff, you will be able to find dandruff shampoo in both clear and creamy, so you will still be able to match it with your hair type.

Is Creamy Shampoo Milder Than Clear?

A bottle of clear shampoo against the long, brown hair.

The general consensus among users seems to be that creamy shampoo is milder than clear, but scientifically speaking, this is not necessarily the case.  

It’s true that creamy shampoos are recommended for those with dry, damaged, or brittle hair, which seems to add to the idea of creamy being milder. On the other side of the argument, however, clear shampoos are usually more lightweight than their creamy counterparts. This is considered a good thing because, being transparent, they don’t have the artificial colors and chemical additives, like sulfates, that we find in creamy shampoos. 

But those added chemicals are also what make the shampoo a little less harsh on your hair and scalp, so it’s really about choosing what you want out of your shampoo and how the one you go with suits your hair and your needs.

As far as stripping your hair of its natural oils goes, both creamy and clear shampoos have the capacity to do that. If your hair lacks oil and is dry, damaged, coarse or limp, then creamy shampoo is recommended for your hair type. It’s also suggested that you wash your hair slightly less frequently than those with more oily hair.

Creamy Shampoo for Dry Hair

Woman shampooing her hair in the shower.

It is recommended that, if your hair is dry, you use a creamy shampoo rather than a clear one. The main reason for this is the added ingredients in creamy shampoo. 

While both creamy and clear shampoos have chemicals that naturally irritate the scalp and those that counteract the irritants, creamy shampoos leave a small amount of shampoo on your hair after washing. This slightly oily residue acts as a slight barrier to the elements, like sun, wind, and harsh temperatures, and styling aids like dryers, straighteners, curling irons, mousse, and sprays.

If you have dry hair, you probably know how damaging these elements can be for your delicate hair, so any product that can offer help is a big thumbs up.

Another benefit of creamy shampoo is that the oily residue left on your hair gives it a shine that dry hair would not otherwise have. 

On top of that, dry hair is typically accompanied by a dry scalp. While creamy shampoo gives your hair a good clean, it does not strip your hair and scalp of those essential oils needed for a healthy shine.

Let’s Sum it Up

Chemically speaking, both clear and creamy shampoos have the potential to be great or terrible for your hair. If you have specific needs or sensitivities, it’s best to research the ingredients of the shampoos you are looking to use. 

In general, though, if your hair leans more towards being oily, you may wish to try a clear shampoo. For dry, damaged, brittle, coarse, or treated hair, a creamy shampoo may be better for you. In the end, it’s best to get to know your hair and what you need to make your locks shine.

Remember that your hair’s needs also change over time and in different environments, through different health phases, and can even be affected by your diet and emotional status. Using a particular type of shampoo right now may not be the answer forever, so keep assessing what works for you and adjust your hair care regime to suit your ever-changing needs.

References:

Healthline: Shampoo Ingredients for Different Hair Needs: What to Look For

The Natural Haven: IS A CREAMY SHAMPOO MILDER OR BETTER THAN A CLEAR SHAMPOO?

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