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What Is Chelating Shampoo?

By M. Chambers
Updated May 21, 2024
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Chelating shampoo is a type of hair cleanser designed to remove heavy buildup associated with hard water minerals, hair product residue, and pool water chemicals. The use of a chelating shampoo can be especially beneficial to those who live in areas with extremely hard water or those who spend a significant amount of time swimming in chemically-treated pools. This type of shampoo contains agents that bond to minerals and impurities and remove them from the hair. Chelating cleansers can be harsh, however, and normally should not be used every day.

Much like a clarifying shampoo, a chelating shampoo is used to remove all unwanted toxins, minerals, and impurities from the hair. Chelating hair cleansers contain compounds that attach to all unwanted buildup, removing it as the hair is rinsed. The shampoo will strip the hair of all product residue, as well. Chelating shampoos can be very drying, which is why most users follow up with a moisturizing conditioner on the hair.

There are many types of buildup that can accumulate on the hair and scalp, and when this buildup is not removed, it often weighs the hair down and causes significant damage. Hard water buildup is a common problem for many individuals, as well as product buildup from hair gels, sprays, and mousses. Regular shampooing will cleanse the hair and scalp, but may not completely remove all mineral and product residue. Eventually, the hair can become limp, dry, and unmanageable as a result of extreme buildup.

Swimmers also experience a significant amount of buildup on the hair, as chemicals such as chlorine can become trapped even after shampooing. If the chemicals are not promptly removed, the hair can also develop a green tinge that can be hard to get rid of. A large majority of individuals who use chelating shampoos are swimmers, as the cleanser is extremely effective at removing chemical accumulation in the hair associated with frequent swimming.

Since a chelating shampoo will strip the hair of all buildup, it usually removes the natural oils from the scalp as well. As a result, the scalp and hair can become dry and parched. Most chelating cleansers are not intended to be used daily; however, there are some shampoos that are gentle enough for regular use. With harsh chelating shampoos, use should normally be limited to once a week or less. The application of a hydrating hair conditioner will also help replenish moisture lost during shampooing.

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Discussion Comments

By candyquilt — On Jan 14, 2014

@SarahGen-- May I ask how often you use a chelating shampoo? You should only use it once a month. If you use it more frequently than that, it will ruin your hair.

By bluedolphin — On Jan 13, 2014

@SarahGen-- My chelating shampoo works great and it doesn't damage my hair. You can certainly find a good chelating shampoo but you might have to try a few brands. Make sure to read customer reviews of products first.

I recommend getting a chelating shampoo with keratin to avoid damage. Keratin is naturally found in our hair. Since chelating shampoos remove all types of build up, natural oils and proteins in hair can be removed as well. But a shampoo with keratin will prevent some of this damage.

It's also a good idea to use a good conditioner right after the shampoo to return some moisture to hair.

By SarahGen — On Jan 12, 2014

I moved six months ago and the area I live in now has hard water. My hair is rough, dry and dull. It has lost its shine and it doesn't feel soft anymore. So I bought a chelating shampoo to remove all the build up but I think the shampoo has made things worse. I'm sure it removed some build up, but my hair feels even dryer and harder now. I have a bunch of split ends too. I don't know if I bought a bad product or if all chelating shampoos are this way.

Has anyone used a chelating shampoo that works without damaging hair? Where can I get it?

By Ceptorbi — On Jan 12, 2014
@SimpleByte: Look for shampoos with Disodium or Trisodium EDTA, which is also called ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, is a chelating agent. It removes metal ions from water, plus it helps stabilize and preserve solutions. You will find it in personal care products like shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and hand sanitizers. Although EDTA has no known side effects when used in hair or skin care products, some people may experience a sensitivity to it. Medical uses for EDTA include chelation therapy for mercury or lead poisoning.
By SimpleByte — On Jan 11, 2014

What ingredients should I look for in purchasing a chelating shampoo? Is there one particular component that makes this type of shampoo effective?

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