What Is a Neutralizing Shampoo and What Does It Do?

Written by Shehnaz Shirazi

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shampoo to remove relaxer

The main reason for using a neutralizing shampoo is to restore the natural pH balance of your hair. That’s why it’s often used on relaxed hair and other chemical treatments like coloring.

A relaxing treatment elevates the pH level of the hair to break down stubborn curls into pin-straight hair. But the downside of such treatments is an alkaline follicle environment which, can cause a lot of problems like hair breakage, dry scalp, , and frizz.

Another good example of a high pH hair treatment is coloring which, uses chemicals to lift hair cuticles and allow color pigments to enter the shafts. This results in high porosity hair.

Leaving your hair hanging in an alkaline state after any type of chemical treatment can cause long term damage to both your hair structure and your scalp.


Because hair and scalp are naturally more acidic.

In this state, the cuticles lay flat, and the scalp can fight off bacteria, dandruff, and inflammation.

balance pH product to neutralize hair

When your hair and scalp are alkaline, the hair cuticles are lifted and exposed, and the scalp is left vulnerable to bacterial infection and over greasiness.

For healthy hair, pH levels should be maintained as follows:

  • Hair: 3.5 – 4.5
  • Scalp: 5.5

After a relaxing or chemical treatment, your hair pH goes way beyond 7. Some chemicals can even raise your hair pH level up to 11 ?

To balance things up, and counteract the effects of high alkalinity, a neutralization shampoo, also known as a counterbalancing shampoo, uses low pH ingredients and deep cleansing formulas to effectively remove bad chemicals from your locks.

In short: They rinse away harmful toxins and chemicals that disrupt the good harmony of your hair and scalp.

If you’ve just had a hair treatment and wondering why your locks are looking dull and flat all of a sudden, the problem may be high alkalinity. A low pH shampoo with a neutralizing formula is just what you need to reset your hair to its healthy state.

What Is A Good Neutralizing Shampoo?

A good neutralizer shampoo does 2 things well:

  • Restore pH balance
  • Remove leftover chemical deposits

We’ve tried, tested, and handpicked the best ones that work for all types of hair, and here’s what we recommend:

1. Isoplus Neutralizing Shampoo and Conditioner

With the IsoPlus Shampoo, you’ll know immediately when you’ve got all the product residues out of your locks.

It has a color-indicating lather which is really cool. So, if you see your suds colored pink after using it, don’t panic. It merely means that there are still chemical residues, and you need to keep washing until the lather turns white.

2. Elasta QP Soy OYL Neutralizing Shampoo

Elasta QP also comes with a color-indicating formula that lets you know if your hair is completely deep-cleansed and free from chemicals.

The suds will stay pink if there is still a relaxer residue in your hair and turn white when thoroughly cleansed.

The formula is proven to remove all traces of hair relaxers. Infused with vitamin and restorative conditioners that detangle and strengthen your strands, this product is excellent for both clarifying and conditioning at the same time.

More specifically, Elasta QP contains olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil, which all work together to protect your locks from breakage, split ends, and dryness. I highly recommend Elasta QP, if your hair is on the dryer side, and struggles to retain moisture.

3. Motions Professional Neutralizing Shampoo

This excellent shampoo has two very beneficial ingredients for your locks.

One of them is silk protein. This helps improve the shine of your hair and also helps to retain moisture for more extended periods.

Silk protein also strengthens your hair’s elasticity to prevent breakage. The other ingredient is Monoi oil, which helps to seal the cuticles to make your hair look shiny and smooth.

It also helps to significantly reduce frizz.

4. Design Essentials Neutralizing Conditioning Shampoo

The Design Essentials shampoo is an excellent hair cleanser that also combines the benefits of 3 amazing ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Honey
  • And milk proteins

The honey and milk proteins are great for moisturizing your locks.

They also restore the natural luster of your hair by locking moisture in. Olive oil, on the other hand, also moisturizes but, more than that, it also helps the base of your hair fight infections and improves blood circulation.

That then helps turn your follicles stronger, which leads to softer, healthier, and thicker strands. Much like a lot of neutralizers, this shampoo also has a color indicator to make sure you get all traces of chemicals out of your hair.

These shampoos may not be the fix to every hair problem out there, but they do the job of keeping your locks in check, mostly after harsh chemical treatments.

Can You Use a Neutralizing Shampoo As a Regular Shampoo?

when to use neutralizing shampoo to remove relaxer
When to use neutralizing shampoo

Since neutralizing shampoos are more acidic than regular shampoos, it only makes sense to use them if your hair is alkali.

Moreover, neutralizing shampoos do more cleansing compared to regular shampoos. They effectively double up as clarifying shampoos, which should not be used daily. Otherwise, they can leave your hair dry.

My advice:

Only use it if your hair has been chemically processed, otherwise, stick to a pH-balanced sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner.

Are Neutralizing Shampoos and Clarifying Shampoos The Same?

No, it’s important not to confuse a neutralizing shampoo for a clarifying shampoo.

Often times, chelating shampoos also add to the confusion.

Although these three might seem very similar, they all have entirely different purposes.

Let me explain when it’s appropriate to use each of them …

While both clarifying and neutralizing hair products remove residues and buildup, clarifying only goes as far as deep cleansing. It doesn’t regulate pH levels. It’s also important to note that hair cleansers should only be used sparingly when your hair needs it.

Related: How often to use a clarifying shampoo.

The difference between clarifying shampoo and neutralizing shampoo is that neutralization shampoos add the extra benefit of regulating pH balance that has gone out of whack due to alkali treatments.

The main difference between chelating shampoo and neutralizing shampoo is also cleansing. Much like clarifying shampoos, chelating shampoos get rid of harmful things for your mane.

The only difference is the type of buildup they are cleansing. Chelating shampoos, well, are referred to as swimmer’s shampoo. They are stronger. They use EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) to remove minerals, metals, and chlorine commonly found in hard water. These often cause damage and color fading.

And these minerals firmly bind to your strands and can’t be easily washed off. Sometimes, and more often in blondes, this causes green pool hair.

Even clarifying shampoos can’t entirely get rid of them. So, if you’re an avid swimmer, using a chelating shampoo a couple of times a month will nullify the damaging effects of chlorine.

To Sum It Up …

Neutralizers help in restoring your hair’s acid-alkaline balance after salon treatments.

Next time you do a chemical or relaxer treatment, make sure you neutralize your hair after. You can also ask your hairstylist to do it for you. This will ensure your hair doesn’t suffer from any potential side effects of being too alkaline.

About the Author

Shehnaz ShiraziShehnaz Shirazi

Shehnaz Shirazi has been writing in the beauty and cosmetics industry for over 8 years, sharing her expansive hair care and beauty knowledge. Shehnaz researches and tests new hair care trends and publishes her insights here.