Looking for the best clarifying shampoos? First, you have to be sure you really need one of them.
The question is not as simple as you think and has a lot of pitfalls.
Read expert explanations and check the list of purifying products that effectively remove buildup and don’t dry out hair.
The Best Clarifying Shampoos with Proven Results
We made a list of the best clarifying shampoos on the market and added all important information on their ingredients, smell and consistency, packaging, and ways of use. Choose the one that will work for your hair type and budget. And, yes, high-quality shampoo doesn’t always mean expensive, there are a lot of affordable drugstore analogs, we’ll prove this.
|Neutrogena - Editor’s Choice||All hair types, best for oily locks|
|Pureology||Colored locks of any density and texture|
|Paul Mitchell||For chlorine removal, not color safe|
|Moroccanoil||Dry, brittle hair of any type, color safe|
|ACURE||All hair types, color safe|
|Bumble and Bumble||Fine to medium locks of any texture, not color safe|
|Kenra||For chlorine removal, for locks with mineral residue, color safe|
#1: Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo – The Right Hairstyles’ Choice
First of all, it is a must to mention that clarifying shampoo cannot become a substitute for your regular favorite shampoo. It goes as an ADDITION to your hair care routine. For example, the Neutrogena anti-residue shampoo is quite strong and has to be used just once a week. It works like an eraser and hair becomes ‘tabula rasa’. As a result, the effects of your shampoo and other treatments (hair masks, oils, nourishing conditioners, etc.) will be more visible.
Neutrogena’s ingredients are not 100% organic, but the shampoo is reported as super effective and we may forgive the manufacturer this small nuance. Moreover, it includes PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, which has all the properties of natural castor oil for hair that you are used to — it is rich in proteins, minerals, and vitamin E. Plus it includes antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Neutrogena is mentioned in almost all top women’s magazines as a traditional and most effective anti-residue shampoo. It was Allure’s Best of Beauty winner and, as reviews show, a lot of females rebuy it religiously and recommend it to friends. The last thing that’ll knock you dead — a more than just pleasant price.
Use: Apply a dab to wet strands. If you have elbow-length hair and use this shampoo once a week, the bottle will last you for six months approximately.
#2: Pureology Purifying Shampoo – Detoxifying Product for Colored Hair
Pureology is one of the L’Oreal’s brands. Its name and “serious color care” mark on the bottle are a broad hint that this product is worth trying if you are looking for a good cleansing shampoo for color-treated hair.
The product is stripping all bad from strands except the shade, thanks to its special color-preserving ‘antifade complex’. Locks stay as bright as before washing. Of course, a lot depends on the type of the hair dye you use and on the quality of the dyeing job itself. Anyway, you will not notice a dramatic change in your hair color, Amazon reviewers swear by this!
Let’s have a closer look at the shampoo’s ingredients and properties. Rosemary oil fights down dullness and gives locks lustrous shine. Baking soda is a perfect gentle cleanser (and natural!). Tea tree oil is oftentimes found in anti-dandruff shampoos and products for dry scalps as it cleanses skin and hair from flakes, heals inflammations and soothes irritations. Hazel, eucalyptus and sunflower seed oils, aloe leaf extract and menthol make Pureology’s shampoo even more nutritive and comfortable to use.
Use: Apply a quarter-sized amount of shampoo to wet strands, massage, rinse 2-3 times, add conditioner if needed.
#3: Paul Mitchell’s Shampoo “Three” – For Any Impurities and Chlorine Removal
Paul Mitchell’s “Three” Shampoo is a good clarifying product that removes dulling buildup, not being too intense at the same time to fade the hair color out. Some women even report using it daily without any concerns; however, we still don’t recommend this (especially for colored locks). It is a nice purchase for competitive swimmers, women who do aqua aerobics, people allergic to chlorine, and even for kids who attend swimming lessons.
Clarifying shampoos have less conditioning components and more surfactants. Paul Mitchell’s “Three” Shampoo includes water-soluble sulfonated castor oil, also called “turkey-red”, which is a highly praised cleansing agent. It will be an excellent predecessor of a deep moisturizing treatment, improving penetration and performance. Plantago major has antiseptic properties, wheat protein controls moisture loss and keeps hair elastic, glycerine conditions strands, and tyrosine is believed to prevent hair loss and graying. Not so many natural ingredients, but if you have to fight with chemicals daily, you need a strong support full of surfactants and cleansers.
BTW, the Paul Mitchell brand has another clarifying shampoo named “Two”, which is reported by reviewers to be a “working” shampoo for oily hair and color-treated locks.
Use: Apply and massage a small amount of product into your hair and scalp; rinse (just once). Don’t leave in hair for too long, follow with a hyper-moisturizing hair mask.
#4: Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo – A Color-Safe Cleanser Full of Oils
Stripping shampoo with lots of oils may sound like a myth. However, it really exists and is called Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo. Rich in argan and avocado oils, formulated with lavender, chamomile and jojoba extracts, it is a surefire working cleanser that you may use as a hair rehab or before coloring, perming and any other chemical treatments. If you like keratin shampoos, it will be your best bet.
So, why is Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo so special? Despite its purifying abilities it is 100% sulfate-free! Argan oil is full of fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins (A, C, E); it prevents inflammations and helps to get rid of split ends, flakes, and frizz. Oil from the avocado fruit, apart from fatty acids and antioxidants, includes vitamins A, B-5 and E, biotin and minerals that moisturize hair and seal cuticle cells. You will also find silk amino acids and panthenol among Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo’s ingredients. Now you understand why it is praised and highly recommended not only by Amazon reviewers but all across the web. It performs really well!
Use: Apply 1-2 pumps of this shampoo to wet hair, and continue adding water while massaging the scalp to activate the formula fully; rinse. Cannot be used daily; use it twice or 4 times a month.
#5: ACURE Clarifying Shampoo – Everyday Gentle Clarifying Shampoo
ACURE is a family-owned company manufacturing organic body, skin and hair care products. Its founders wanted to create something healthy, working, and affordable that looks pretty on the shelf in your bathroom. That is how ACURE shampoos were born.
The first reason you need to take ACURE’s clarifier into consideration is its “starry” list of ingredients. Organic argan oil nourishes and conditions hair, making it stronger, more flexible and smooth, avocado oil stimulates growth, and lemongrass helps to prevent hair loss as it includes iron. Other ingredients of this formulation include: aloe leaf juice, acai blackberry and pomegranate fruit extracts, pumpkin seed, lavender and rosemary oils. Now it’s time to be surprised even more: the shampoo contains Coenzyme Q10 nutrient that strengthens scalp and hair cells, and strange-sounding “argan stem cells”, which are extracts from the argan tree roots activating human dermal stem cells.
By the way, the ACURE brand uses third-party clinical testing, which means that its every formula is proven and really works as advertised.
Use: Massage shampoo into the scalp and strands; rinse. The bottle will last you about 4 months if you have shoulder-length hair and use it twice a week.
#6: Bumble and Bumble “Sunday” Shampoo – Social Media Approved Clarifying Shampoo
Sometimes your hair needs a little special attention. Take a break from your usual hair care routine and organize a SPA for your locks at the end of the week. We found a cool, relaxing product for this purpose — B&B Shampoo, a once-a-week “Sunday” treatment. Meet Monday with a fresh head!
The main idea of this clarifying shampoo is to get hair back to feeling normal after using multiple hair products during the week — silicone-based smoothing/detangling products, leave-ins, and shine sprays. Bumble and Bumble Sunday Shampoo is a proven detoxifier, thanks to its tetrasodium EDTA ingredient. It also includes natural components and nutritious herbs that add vibrancy to the locks: ginseng root (scalp astringent), rosemary leaf (antimicrobial scalp stimulant) and sage leaf (cleanser) extracts. It helps to quickly repair overheated and over-stressed locks, literally heals hair affected by hard water.
It will save your locks if you have mistreated them — dyed, bleached, straightened and then curled, teased, backcombed and tortured with styling products. You’ll get back your defined curls with root volume or perfectly straight hair after 1-2 washes.
Use: Massage some product (about the size of a dime in your palm) into wet strands; rinse. Of course, you may use it on any day of the week, the word “Sunday” in its name just suggests that it has to be applied once a week, so you don’t forget this.
#7: Kenra Clarifying Shampoo – Deep Cleansing Shampoo with Chelating Formula
This shampoo does an excellent job of cleansing the scalp and hair and chelating as well. Yes, it may leave a feeling of dryness post wash, but, as reviewers assure us, unlike with many other clarifying shampoos, it’s surprisingly easy to rehydrate hair afterwards. Best for removing mineral deposits from your strands, for swimmers (some even call it the “post-pool brightener”), gals who prefer no poo/co-washing and support the trend of rare hair washes thus are using a lot of dry shampoo during the week.
Kenra contains aloe vera leaf extract, witch hazel, and hydrolyzed wheat protein. The first ingredient conditions locks, the second helps to balance out the scalp, and the third component restores hair’s elasticity. Now it’s clear why reviewers write that hair looks super shiny, not frizzy, and tangle-free after Kenra. It has everything needed for a high-quality cleansing and moisture restoration.
Kenra Shampoo restores hair’s shine, brightens hair color, and makes locks responsive to moisturizing treatments. Includes grapefruit extract, which gives it a pleasant smell, and additional properties to heal scalp conditions (dandruff, oily flakes).
Use: May be left in hair for 30 sec before rinsing. Though it was originally created as a daily shampoo, it is better to use it once a week if your hair is color-treated. And don’t replace your regular shampoo with it completely, over-washing with Kenra may cause some itching.
Buyer’s Guide to the Best Clarifying Shampoos
Now, when you have looked out a product or two from the list above, it is time to dot all of the I’s and clear up the last but not least nuances. All you wanted to ask and everything you need to know about clarifying shampoos is in our FAQ section below!
So What Is a Clarifying Shampoo?
A clarifying shampoo, also called a stripping shampoo, is a purifying product with strong deep-cleansing properties. Regular shampoos wash hair from the inside — clean it of dirt and oils. The clarifying ones go much deeper and help us to get rid of the accumulated residue:
- hair care products;
- styling products’ leftovers;
- dry shampoos, leave-ins;
- fibres from volumizing products;
- environmental pollution;
- mineral deposits from water;
- dead skin cells from your scalp;
- sweat after workouts.
Surprise: Shampoos and conditioners, even the mildest and most natural, also tend to leave residue that gradually collects on and in your hair. Add hair sprays, gels and heat protectants to your hair routine and your healthy, shiny locks may become brittle, dry and lifeless over time. Clarifying shampoos aim to detoxify locks and rid them of all redundant residue.
Note: To remove hard water mineral deposits, a special chelating shampoo with the ingredient EDTA is needed (it can appear in the ingredients list as sodium citrate, trisodium citrate, disodium or tetrasodium EDTA). By binding with heavy metal ions EDTA counteracts the adverse effects of hard water. Don’t buy a chelating shampoo “just in case”. It is the strongest among all clarifying products and is really needed only if you wash your hair with hard water, swim very often or relax your hair (with no-lye formulas).
Don’t confuse it with gentler stripping shampoos that also include EDTA but are softer and multifunctional. The real strong chelating shampoos in our selection are #3 of the Paul Mitchell brand and #7 Kenra’s option. Pureology #2 is the lesser evil, your choice if you want to clear hair from chlorine and mineral residue mildly.
Signs You Need a Clarifying Shampoo
We’ll reveal a big secret: Everyone needs to use a stripping shampoo from time to time. The main reasons you should try it too are:
- completely lackluster locks;
- constant greasiness;
- flakes and/or scalp discomfort;
- your hair feels weighed down;
- locks are brittle;
- hair becomes unmanageable – doesn’t hold a curl or no longer responds to your regular treatments;
- you prolong the time between washes with a dry shampoo;
- you are a fan of heavy butters and oils for hair.
Take into account the number of hair products you use every day. As practice shows, women who use dry shampoos, heat protectants or products with silicones need deep cleansing the most.
Also, the ideal candidates for using clarifying shampoos live in areas supplied by mineral-rich hard water, in polluted big cities, by the beach and those who swim in chlorinated pools often.
What Is Clarifying Shampoo Good For?
Mission number one — deep cleansing. However, a wise woman may use her stripping shampoo not only to clear her hair. The best decision will be to use it as a pre-treatment before a weekly hair mask or other conditioning procedure. It will boost the effectiveness of any treatment you plan for your hair type. That is why clarifying shampoos are used, for example, prior to salon hair relaxing and keratin treatment procedures.
Some non-standard clarifying shampoo uses:
- to defeat blonde hair brassiness;
- to remove yellowish tones from gray hair;
- to remove greenish hue after swimming in chlorinated water;
- to enhance hair highlights;
- to wash out temporary dyes, hair chalk, sprays with glitter;
- before flat ironing;
- for fine hair – to boost volume quickly before an unplanned event;
- against nicotine buildup on hair (gives marvelous results!).
Can You Use a Clarifying Shampoo on Colored Hair?
Not all brands include the anti-fade complex in their shampoo formulas. So it is better to use products marked as “color safe” if you have color-treated hair. Read the labels very carefully! If you see sulfates, it means the product is harsher and may wash out the color.
Some girls even use stripping shampoos to wash their shade out intentionally in order to lighten hair naturally after a not-so-perfect dyeing job or to get trendy sun-kissed highlights. Well, there is logic in this method: any purifying shampoo is safer than color-removers and bleaches. Agree?
Can You Use a Clarifying Shampoo for Bleached Blonde Hair?
Yes, you may easily use a clarifying shampoo if your hair is bleached. We’ll go even further and say that it can strip yellowish or grayish tones from your hair that may appear due to absorbing pollution or minerals from hard water. Gray hair also benefits from clarifying shampoos and gets rid of yellow tones if any.
Does Clarifying Shampoo Dry Out Hair?
The truth: Purifying shampoos with specially designed clarifying formulas may be very drying. They remove not only impurities and product buildup but also natural sebum. But fear not! If you use your clarifier properly (timing, amount of product and hair type are very important) and follow it up with an intensive conditioning treatment, everything will be fine.
Which Hair Types Are Prone to Dryness After Clarifying?
Curly and chemically-processed (especially bleached, highlighted, colored red) hair without proper conditioning and moisturizing can become dry and damaged. Choose a very gentle stripping product and use it rarely.
How Often Should I Use a Clarifying Shampoo?
Any advice to completely replace your regular shampoo with a clarifying one should be ignored — it doesn’t work! It is better to wash your hair with your usual shampoo and every 1-2 weeks clear it deeper with a stripping shampoo.
Take a small quiz and answer three questions first:
- Is your hair dry or oily?
- Do you use tons of hair products daily?
- Is your hair color-treated? (When is the last time you dyed your hair?)
Specialists recommend using a deep cleansing product once a week if you have oily hair or use tons of hair products regularly. Twice per month will work for normal locks. If you have color-treated or fine hair once a month may be perfect for you. Naturally dry or damaged hair types can be clarified once per month or even two.
Pros recommend starting with the twice-per-month scheme and then adjusting the schedule for your hair type. And if you have recently dyed your locks, wait at least a week before using a stripping shampoo, even if it is marked as “color safe”.
Good and Bad Components of Clarifying Shampoos
For more gentle cleansing your shampoo has to include natural oils (argan, avocado, rosemary, coconut or olive). It is crucial for naturally curly hair. Sometimes women are recommended to use baby shampoos for very dry locks as they are good clarifiers as well but not so strong. Aloe vera, eucalyptus and tea tree oil are best for antiseptic properties; witch hazel boosts shine greatly.
Products with sulfates are typically more astringent, but they clarify way better. Some stripping shampoos may also include silicones. But can they be called clarifying then? Under question. Silicons coat hair and can become a barrier for moisture and nutrients. Better avoid them in shampoos. Silicones leave residue, too, and the product’s function is not clear in such cases.
Where Should I Apply Clarifying Shampoo?
There exist three main variants:
- to the scalp and roots only;
- through the whole length;
- partly or locally
The first variant is good for hair that is oily at the roots and extremely dry at the ends. The second is recommended for normal and oily hair types and if you have been using a lot of hair products during the week. The third variant is best for those cases when you applied styling products locally: colored several strands with a temporary hair dye, made glitter roots or slicked your high bun for a wet look with some hair gel.
How Much Clarifying Shampoo Should I Use?
A nickel to quarter-sized amount. Use as a regular shampoo, but necessarily massage the scalp (30-60 seconds) and follow with a well-conditioning product. You may need to add some amount of shampoo in the process of washing (usually not more than a quarter size).
Do Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar Clarify Hair Too?
Yes, baking soda and apple cider vinegar may be called natural hair clarifiers. They do almost the same job as stripping shampoos. However, if you buy a brand product you will not need to invent different messy masks, try to hide their unpleasant smell or texture, and figure out the right proportion to calculate the proper PH-balance. If you use these natural ingredients carelessly you may face twice as much damage after using a wrong clarifying shampoo for a long period of time. Think twice before such desperate experiments.
Does Natural Hair Need a Clarifying Shampoo?
A lot of women with natural hair are afraid of using clarifying shampoos, especially those who are transitioning to their curly texture and co-wash locks. They don’t realize how much residue settles on their hair. Stripping shampoos are good for this type of locks too! If you are a lucky owner of natural hair choose sulfate- and silicone-free moisturizing products that are on the gentler side.
Signs You’re Using Clarifying Shampoo Incorrectly
If you overuse the stripping product or it doesn’t suit your hair type, the following unpleasant things may occur:
- the scalp becomes flaky and/or itchy;
- you cannot detangle strands;
- your hair still looks greasy all the time;
- your locks become dry and straw-like;
- you see a very noticeable change in hair color;
- you start to face hair thinning.
If you see any of these signs, stretch out the time between washes with your newly-bought clarifying shampoo, add a stronger conditioning treatment or say, “No,” to that particular product and buy a gentler one.
Do Clarifying Shampoos Help with Over-Processed Hair?
In most cases no. If we are talking about locks that are slightly frizzy or dull because you use hot tools too often, you may still save them. Clarify hair and bomb it with a high dose of healing and moisturizing treatments. If your hair is burned or has split ends, it’s a pity, but a clarifying shampoo alone will probably not work.
Hair is one of the most important things that form the first impression of you, so you can’t experiment with it too much. A clarifying shampoo will help you to reset your bad hair experience and start from scratch. Whether your hair is oily or dry, fine or thick, overloaded with hair products or exhausted from “big city life”, we found a product for every hair type and purpose. These 7 best clarifying shampoos, having different ingredients, smells and consistencies, always give the same result: perfectly clean locks, ready for any healing treatment. You hair will thank you, for sure!