what is chelating shampoo?

what is chelating shampoo

I’m writing this post because I recently learned about chelating compounds in my inorganic chemistry class and immediately made the connection to these shampoos I’ve heard of before. So I’m here to answer the question what exactly are chelating shampoos?

chelating shampoo vs. clarifying shampoo

First, I think I should clear up this common misconception between shampoo types. Smart beauty consumers know that it’s good to use a clarifying shampoo about once a week, however, this is very different from the chelating shampoos on the market. Clarifying shampoos are used to remove the daily build up that found on your hair, they contain no conditioning agents so that the formula acts as a deep cleanser for your hair. Chelating shampoos are formulated to remove minerals found in hard  water that can build up on your hair, but it’s not something that should be used weekly. Chelating shampoos can be used more as a refresher for your tresses every once in a while.

what are chelating agents?

As I learned in my inorganic chemistry course, chelating agents are compounds in which the ligand forms a ring that includes a metal atom. So basically a complex compound is present that has two available connection spots where the compound can grab a metal ion and attach it into the compound. The most common chelating agent used in shampoos is EDTA or ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, however, many shampoos use this as part of their preservative system so make sure that the EDTA is an active ingredient your chelating shampoo. The overall purpose of these chelating shampoos is to remove product build up and minerals found in hard water that can build up on your hair.


edta molecule

the N (nitrogen) atoms in the EDTA molecule has two sets of lone pair electrons that will attach to minerals (metals)


do I need to use chelating shampoo?

Growing up in Colorado and then moving to Illinois for college has definitely shown me the difference in water quality and I noticed some differences in my skin and hair since the move. It wasn’t until after I moved that I learned that the water in Colorado (at least in my town) was hard water, so mineral contents were still present. The minerals found in water, calcium and magnesium, are metals that can be removed via chelating agents. While my skin definitely favored the mountain water and air, my hair is loving the soft water found in Illinois. Soft water is water where the minerals have been removed. The map below shows areas in the United States where hard and soft water is present. This map should be a good indication if you should start using chelating shampoos in your regimen based on your location. Chelating shampoos can be found in many beauty stores and online. There has also been a recent boom in the market of shower attachments that can be hooked onto the shower nozzle and collect minerals before the water hits you.


image from USGS

Have you ever tried a chelating shampoo? I’d love to hear about your experiences below!



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