13 Best Clarifying Shampoos to Detox Your Hair and Scalp
We’ve curated a list of the best clarifying shampoos that cover various hair types and concerns. Whether you have curly, straight, fine, thick hair or an oily or flaky scalp that needs attention, there’s a clarifier in our selection tailored to your needs.
Clarifying shampoo is a strong hair cleansing product that removes residue and buildup caused by retained hair styling products, such as hair spray, dry shampoo, gel, and mousse, excess sebum, scalp flakes, dead skin cells, hard water minerals, and environmental pollutants.
Unlike regular shampoo, clarifying shampoo improves scalp hygiene and hair manageability. The difference lies in its formula: strong surfactants (sulfates), chelating agents, salicylic acid, astringents, exfoliators, and activated charcoal that break down and draw out dirt, oil, and impurities.
Simply put, a clarifying shampoo refreshes and revitalizes, making it an indispensable addition to your hair care regimen.
In the following list, we explore various options that stand out for their effective formulas and reviews, each with unique qualities tailored to specific hair and scalp concerns.
Best clarifying shampoo at a glance:
- Best Overall: Moroccanoil Clarify
- Best Hair and Scalp Detox: OUAI Detox
- Best for Hard Water: Malibu C Hard Water Wellness
- Best for Curly Hair: Vicious Curl Foaming Curl Cleanse
- Best for Scalp Cleansing: Aveeno ACV shampoo
- Best for Natural Hair Textures: Mizani Moisture Fusion
- Best for Hair Extension and Waves: Design Essentials
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1. Moroccanoil Clarify Shampoo
The Moroccanoil Clarify is a sulfate-free shampoo that clarifies and moisturizes simultaneously to deliver a gentle hair and scalp cleansing experience.
It revitalizes your hair from root to tip after every shower.
Firstly, its effectiveness in dealing with oily scalps is notable. Unlike some clarifying shampoos that can be overly harsh, Moroccanoil Clarify strikes a balance between deep cleansing and maintaining scalp health.
Where some shampoos, like the Neutrogena anti-residue shampoo, left my scalp feeling stripped and irritated, Moroccanoil Clarify was gentler. This is due to its sulfate-free formula, which is less drying than common sulfates (Sodium Lauryl and Sodium Laureth Sulfate) found in many clarifying products.
The inclusion of natural oils like argan, avocado, and jojoba, along with botanicals like rosemary, chamomile, and lavender, gives this shampoo its unique moisturizing and nourishing effect that none of the other shampoos could match. These ingredients helped my hair feel clean, conditioned, and soft. In comparison, some clarifying shampoos can leave your hair feeling like straw, especially for those of us with already dry or color-treated hair.
The scent is another plus. It’s refreshing and luxurious without overpowering. I’ve used some clarifying shampoos with a strong chemical smell, but Moroccanoil Clarify has a subtle, pleasant fragrance with spicy amber aromas and sweet floral notes.
More details: Moroccanoil Clarify Shampoo review.
2. Ouai Detox Shampoo
The OUAI detox shampoo comes in a small bottle with a highly concentrated mixture of apple cider vinegar and chelating agents. It cleanses dirt and oils, starches and minerals from dry shampoos, hard water deposits, and oxidizers from your hair and scalp.
Think about all the styling products you use in your hair. Hairsprays, dry shampoos, leave-in conditioners, waxes, gels, pomades, and many others may contain silicones and other ingredients that cling to your hair. These ingredients can form sticky, insoluble layers that are not easy to wash off with regular shampoos.
Styling polymers can accumulate on the hair shaft after 7 days and leave the hair feeling weighed down and dull, according to Dr. Zoe D. Draelos from the Department of Dermatology, Duke University School of Medicine.
This is where the OUAI detox shampoo makes a difference. It is powerful enough to remove these polymers with strong detergents, neutralize hard water deposits, unclog hair follicles, remove impurities, neutralize chemicals, and exfoliate scalp buildup to deliver total follicular refresh. It purifies and refreshes your hair from the first wash.
What I particularly love about the OUAI detox shampoo is the smell. Notes of bergamot, lychee, cedarwood, and white musk enveloped in OUAI’s signature Melrose place fragrance makes it so intoxicating that you’ll want to douse your entire body.
The OUAI Detox shampoo is also pH-balanced and vegan.
3. Malibu C Hard Water Wellness
The Malibu C Hard Water Wellness shampoo removes mineral buildup from hard water with concentrated vitamin C antioxidants (Ascorbic Acid) and chelating agents. This combination of ingredients neutralizes chlorine, calcium, magnesium, copper, and other oxidizers from residential water supplies or wells.
Chelating agents effectively remove mineral buildup from hair by complexing with and detaching exogenous minerals attached to the cuticles – Dercos Co. Ltd. (1997)
Mineral buildup can make your hair feel stiff, hard, and crunchy over time. If left untreated, it can also cause flaky scalp, irritation, breakouts, and dandruff.
In the long run, hard water can also cause minor hair loss due to dry and brittle hair becoming increasingly vulnerable to breakage when styling.
The Malibu C hard water demineralizer range has excellent products, far superior to everyday haircare shampoos for those living in hard water areas. These hair demineralizers cut through the grime and grit, grease and oils, and minerals from water to neutralize them.
If you use swimming pools regularly, Malibu C also offers hair products for swimmers to remove chlorine and bromine from their hair.
4. Acure Curiously Shampoo
Acure Curiously Clarifying Shampoo is commendable for those seeking a natural, effective solution to cleanse their hair and scalp.
Its balance of high-quality ingredients, environmental consciousness, and compatibility with various hair types make it a versatile and appealing option in the clarifying shampoo market.
However, individuals with very dry or color-treated hair should use it cautiously and follow up with a nourishing conditioner.
5. Nexxus Clean and Pure Shampoo
The Nexxus Clean and Pure is a custom-crafted salon-inspired lightweight, hydrating, clarifying shampoo that works for all hair types. Packed with powerful cleansers, it purifies your hair strands, enhances manageability, refreshes, and revitalizes your hair, all while leaving no residue behind.
The Nexxus clarifying treatment is better suited for individuals with fragile and damaged hair because of its unique blend of ProteinFusion, elastin proteins, and marine minerals that can heal and repair the hair.
Top marks for its volumizing effect. We noticed after 2 weeks the Nexxus Clean and Pure significantly improved chemically processed hair to give it more lift from the roots while minimizing the signs of damage and breakage.
6. Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo
The Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar shampoo is low pH and is specifically formulated for individuals with an oily and overactive scalp.
By regulating pH balance, the Aveeno ACV shampoo stabilizes excess sebum production that can cause greasy roots, making your hair feel dirty and weighed down.
Calling upon apple cider vinegar as its star ingredient, the Aveeno shampoo soothes the scalp and adds a healthy shine to your freshly cleansed locks.
7. Vicious Curl Foaming Curl Cleanse
The Vicious Curl brand formulates all their hair products for people with curly hair. This foaming shampoo cleanses curly and natural hair without leaving it dry and frizzy.
Most curlies will make a point or two about clarifying shampoos being harsh on their hair, and I understand. However, this foaming curl cleanser can remove toxins and residues without jeopardizing your curls’ health.
However, the Vicious Curls cleanser, enriched with a blend of botanical extracts, will make you change your mind. Crafted without silicones, it lathers away every inch of dirt and flakes without putting a damper on the softness of your curls, just like a trusty moroccanoil clarifying shampoo would enhance overall hair health.
Loaded with botanical ingredients, this foaming shampoo delivers clean, bouncy, and refreshed curls that defy gravity, infusing a burst of softness in each strand.
Top marks for the packaging of this product. I love the leaflet that comes in the box with cool tips and instructions for curly hair, with the main message being:“Gravity is a Curl Killer”
It tells you everything about what this shampoo is meant to do.
8. Redken Extreme Bleach Recovery
The Redken Bleach Recovery Shampoo is the best choice when you’re seeking a clarifying shampoo for bleached hair that is fragile and prone to breakage.
As part of a 3-step system, which includes deep cleansing, nourishing, and reparative treatment, the shampoo cleanses and neutralizes oxidizers from chemical leftovers like Ammonia.
Redken understands the fact that bleached-processed hair is too fragile to deep cleanse; therefore, supplementing the shampoo with follow-up products that are rich in reparative ingredients, like Lamellar water and Centella Asiatica (Cica), is essential to restore the hair’s strength and ability to withstand breakage and damage after washing, while retaining its inherent softness.
With its gentle, nourishing complex and porosity-filling technology, the Extreme Bleach Recovery is an excellent hair-washing system for people with bleached hair. Highly Recommend.
Read more: Best bleached hair recovery shampoos.
9. Redken Frizz Dismiss Shampoo
Redken Frizz Dismiss is the de-facto superstar shampoo for frizzy hair, formulated to deep cleanse while keeping frizz and flyaways under control, much like the benefits derived from a good oil treatment that underscores hair health.
Formulated with Redken’s unique Smoothing Complex, it adds an extra layer of protection against humidity.
Our tests found it to be very effective at making the hair smooth and sleek.
If you always struggle with frizz after shampooing, the Frizz Dismiss Shampoo is an excellent option.
Besides its humidity resistance, it provides thermal protection for your hair from heat styling.
10. Bumble and Bumble Sunday Shampoo
For those who wash their hair infrequently or love trying tons of products and need a hair reset occasionally, the Bumble and Bumble Sunday Shampoo is a convenient choice.
You can use it as a weekly detox shampoo to give your hair a fresh start for the week.
Although it doesn’t provide all the moisturizing goodness and scalp-exfoliating benefits, it still leaves your tresses squeaky clean.
11. Kristin Ess Scalp Purifying Micellar Shampoo
Micellar water for your scalp! Yep, Kristin Ess brings the French-inspired bulles de micellar to scalp care. Applied directly to the scalps, this ingenious cleanser maintains the health and volume of your hair.
Kristin Ess is an excellent scalp exfoliating micellar shampoo.
This micellar scalp cleanser lathers effectively to leave your head feeling like a sudsy paradise. It also hydrates and rinses out well. You can immediately notice how it soothes your scalp and improves your hair texture from the first use.
The nozzle makes it easy and convenient to distribute along the roots to get deep into the scalp and do all the dirt lifting. Gently distribute it through your hair for the best results, as advised by hair care experts.
The Kristin Ess Micellar cleanser is ideal for adults with psoriasis and sensitive scalp conditions who cannot use shampoos frequently due to their drying effects.
12. Design Essentials Shampoo for Wigs &Amp; Extensions
The Design Essentials shampoo increases the longevity and freshness of your weaves and extensions, maintaining their just-styled appearance for up to 15 wearings.
It does not cause matting and tangling owing to its water-based formula that complies with most wig manufacturers’ care instructions.
Let’s just say it adds new life to your artificial chevelure to make it look like it was bought yesterday! You don’t just have to take our word for it; check out the rave reviews it’s received.
13. Mizani Moisture Fusion Shampoo
The Mizani moisture Fusion shampoo suits people with natural or transitioning to natural hair.
This shampoo contains Mizani’s proprietary Hydrofuze technology to nourish hair and combat dryness.
Ideal for curly hair textures that tend to lose moisture rapidly, Moisture Fusion’s rich lather gets under the surface, removing product buildup without stripping your hair.
The shampoo’s key ingredient, coconut oil, penetrates each strand to soften and enhance the definition of curl patterns.
What Is the Difference Between Clarifying and Regular Shampoo?
A clarifying shampoo is designed for deep cleansing, effectively removing product residue, buildup, oils, and impurities from the hair and scalp. It is not meant for daily use. On the other hand, a regular shampoo is formulated for daily or frequent use, focusing on gently cleansing hair while maintaining moisture balance and not stripping out natural oils.
Regular shampoo often caters to specific hair needs like moisturizing, volumizing, or color protection, whereas clarifying shampoo primarily aims to deeply purify the hair and scalp.
How Often to Use a Clarifying Shampoo
Use a clarifying shampoo once or twice a month. It is important to use it moderately; otherwise, it can strip your hair’s natural lubricating oil (sebum) and make your hair dry.
However, the frequency may vary depending on your hair needs and lifestyle. If you use many styling products and dry shampoos or are exposed to high pollution, chlorine (from swimming pools), or hard water, you may need to clarify your hair more frequently to prevent buildup.
Here’s a detailed guide: How often to use clarifying shampoos.
Buying Guide – What to Consider
A clarifying shampoo is typically more intense than a regular shampoo. To prevent it from overstripping your hair, buying premium brands that develop formulas with pH balance, low sulfates, and moisturizing ingredients is better than cheaper drugstore alternatives.
Here are the key factors you need to consider when buying a good clarifying shampoo:
- Hair Type:Identify your hair type (oily, dry, curly, straight, colored, etc.), as clarifying shampoos can vary in strength and formulation. Choose one that’s suitable for your specific hair type.
- Ingredients:Look for ingredients that effectively remove buildup without overly stripping hair. Common ingredients include sulfates for deep cleaning and natural extracts for a gentler cleanse.
- Frequency of Use:Consider how often you plan to use the shampoo. You might need it more frequently if you use many styling products or have very oily hair.
- Moisturizing Properties:Look for added moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and panthenol if you have dry or damaged hair.
- Sulfate-Free Options:If you have sensitive skin or colored hair or prefer a milder option, look for sulfate-free on the label.
- Scalp Health:If you have dandruff or an itchy scalp, look for a clarifying shampoo with astringent properties like tea tree oil, witch hazel, or salicylic acid. These ingredients can help reduce excess oil and soothe the scalp. Additionally, consider shampoos with anti-inflammatory properties, such as aloe vera or chamomile, which can calm irritation and redness. Also, for dandruff specifically, ingredients like zinc pyrithione or selenium sulfide might be beneficial as they effectively combat dandruff-causing yeast. Always patch-test a new shampoo on a small area of your scalp to ensure it doesn’t irritate.
- pH Balance:A shampoo with a balanced pH level is less likely to irritate your scalp and hair.
- Brand Reputation and Reviews: Research brands and read user reviews to gauge effectiveness and satisfaction.
- [el]Hair Color:If you have color-treated or keratin-treated hair, it’s best to avoid clarifying shampoos that are strong and contain sulfates and chlorides. These ingredients can fade your treatments and also cause reversal.
- Environmental and Ethical Considerations:Look for cruelty-free and environmentally friendly options if these factors are important to you.
Choosing the Right Clarifying Shampoo
When selecting a clarifying shampoo, consider your hair type (oily, dry, curly, straight, colored, etc.) and choose a formula that matches.
It should effectively remove buildup without being harsh.
Consider how often you’ll use it, especially if you frequently use styling products or have oily hair.
Opt for shampoos with moisturizing elements like glycerin for dry hair or sulfate-free versions for sensitive skin or colored hair.
Prioritize scalp health with ingredients targeting dandruff and irritation, and choose a product with a balanced pH for minimal scalp irritation.
Research brands and read reviews for effectiveness, and consider environmentally friendly and cruelty-free options if important to you.
Avoid strong clarifying shampoos with sulfates and chlorides for color-treated or keratin-treated hair.
About the Author
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.