A clarifying shampoo is seriously super-powered when it comes to sweeping every scrap of gunk that your hair styling products leave behind.
It breaks down stubborn dirt, explores every pore of your scalp with purifying agents, sloughs away dead skin cells, and draws out the grit and grime that makes your hair look dull and lifeless.
To put it simply: A clarifying shampoo works like a dirt magnet to leave your hair and scalp scrupulously clean.
Grab the right one, and it will transform your hair routine forever.
And to help you detox your head – here’s our curated list of the top 10 best clarifying shampoos that will revitalize your strands, unclog every pore on your scalp and add more Oooomph to your hairstyles.
In this article:
- Best overall
- Best for straight hair
- Best smelling
- Best anti-residue shampoo
- Best for heavily-styled hair
- Best for hard water
- Best for swimmers and chlorine removal
- Best for daily use
- Best for damaged hair
- Best for oily hair
- Best for dry hair
- Best for curly and natural hair
- Best for wavy hair
- Best for color-treated hair
- Best for blondes and brassy hair
- Best for bleached hair
- Best for scalp exfoliation
- Best for fine and thin hair
- Best for thick and coarse hair
- Best for hair volume and thickening
- Best for frizzy hair
- Best for weekly use
- Best for low porosity hair
- Best for high porosity hair
- Best for smelly hair and scalp
- Best for dandruff and flaky scalp
- Best for kinky, coily, and afro hair
- Best scalp purifying micellar
- Best for wigs, weaves, and extensions
- Buying guide and tips
- How to use a clarifying shampoo
The Best Clarifying Shampoos (Updated 2023)
We may earn a commission from the links below.
2. OUAI Detox Shampoo
- Removes hard water buildup
- Contains apple cider vinegar
- Sulfate-free and color-safe
5. Malibu C Hard Water Shampoo
- Removes hard water minerals
- With vitamin C and antioxidants
- Protects hair color from fading
6. Acure Curiously Clarifying Shampoo
- Sulfate-free. Paraben-free
- Organic oils and lemongrass extracts
- Gentle for everyday cleansing
9. John Frieda Detox and Repair
- Cleanses and revitalizes hair
- Revives dry hair
- Avocado oil and green tea extracts
- Rich and nourishing
- Excellent for straight and long hair
- Color Safe. Sulfate Free. Paraben-Free
- Neutralizes chlorine and water minerals
- Contains argan oil and keratin
- Lack of fragrance
- Packaging can be improved
More Details: Moroccanoil clarifying shampoo review
The Moroccanoil clarify is a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo designed to deeply cleanse and moisturize your strands at the same time. The shampoo combines nourishing argan and avocado oils, lavender, chamomile, jojoba plant extracts, vitamins, and essential fatty acids to deliver a gentle and non-stripping hair and scalp cleansing experience that will leave your hair feeling totally revitalized from root to tip.
Moroccanoil is also a color-safe clarifying shampoo that helps preserve the intensity of your shades with its rich keratin-sealing formula.
OUAI Detox Shampoo
- Low pH
- Contains chelating agents
- Uses apple cider vinegar to rebalance the scalp
- Keratin for hair strength
- Exfoliates and removes flakes
- Helps to smooth frizz
- Adds softness and shine
- Amazing fragrance
- Sticky Feel
- Poor packaging
Notes of bergamot, lychee, cedarwood, and white musk enveloped in OUAI’s signature Melrose place fragrance makes this detox shampoo so intoxicating that you’ll want to douse your entire body in it.
Unlike other clarifying shampoos, the OUAI detox shampoo comes in a smaller bottle, but it has a highly concentrated formula that packs a serious punch!
It’s powerful enough to neutralize hard water deposits, unclog hair follicles, remove impurities, scalp buildup like excess oils, and dead skin cells to deliver a touch of follicular refreshment.
The OUAI deep cleansing shampoo is also formulated at lower pH, making it an excellent scalp moisturizing, color-preserving, and shine-enhancing shampoo.
Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo
Update Oct 2022:The Neutrogena Anti-Residue has been Discontinued.
- Clear formula
- Boosts volume
- Very cheap and affordable
- Contains mild sulfates
- May strip hair color
- Pungent smell
- Sells fast – Often out of stock
The Neutrogena anti-residue shampoo is the cheapest option on this list, but certainly not any inferior to its peers. Boasting a whopping 21,106+ customer reviews with an average star rating of 4.5/5 on Amazon, it is the most popular clarifying shampoo around.
It’s the classic clarifying shampoo and the first of its kind that focuses on removing styling product residues like silicone, waxes, and creams that cling onto the hair over time, blocking moisture and making your locks incredibly difficult to manage.
Also check: Neutrogena anti-residue shampoo for dreads
- For heavily-styled hair
- Sudsy and airy
- Adds shine
- pH-balanced formula
- Poor fragrance
- Doesn’t lather
- A little pricey
Davines is an Italian cult classic brand that makes a quirkily cool range of eco-friendly hair products with names like Nounou, Solu, Minou, and so on.
Solu is their signature clarifying shampoo designed to remove product buildup without stripping natural moisture from the hair.
The formula transforms into an airy foam to sweep away gunk, grime, pollutants, dust, particles, literally everything that doesn’t need to be in between your hair.
If you style your hair with layers of hair products every day, then Solu is the perfect deep cleansing shampoo to keep those tresses properly purged.
Malibu C Hard Water Wellness
- Super effective for hard water
- Contains chelating agents
- Antioxidants and Vitamin C
- Brightens hair colors
- Not cheap
- Limited stocks
The Malibu C shampoo removes buildup from hard water with its highly potent vitamin C and chelating formula that works instantly to neutralize chlorine, calcium, magnesium, copper, and all other types of minerals that come through residential water supplies in hard water areas.
Mineral build-up can make your hair feel stiff, hard, and crunchy over time, contributing to a flaky scalp, irritation, breakouts, and dandruff if left untreated.
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 that are far more superior to everyday shampoos for those who live in hard water areas. Their products literally cut through the grime and grit.
Malibu C Chlorine Removal shampoo
- Removes all traces of chlorine from the hair
- Restores brittle hair back to health
- Antioxidants and Vitamin C
- Brightens hair colors
- Very good reviews and ratings
The only post-swim hair shampoo you’ll ever need to cut through chlorine, iron, and other pool minerals that attach to your hair, making it feel stiff, crunchy, and straw-like.
The Malibu C swimmers wellness range also works instantly to counteract green hues, brassiness, and brittle ends caused by spending too much time in swimming pools.
Acure Curiously Clarifying Shampoo
- Paraben-free, Sulfate-free, Mineral oil-free
- 100% vegan
- Clean botanical ingredients
- Boosts shine and moisture
- Unscented with a hint of soap odor
Acure Curiously clarifying shampoo is sulfate-free and loaded with clarifiers like lemongrass and argan to wash away buildup and gunk, unclog pores on your scalp, and invigorate your tresses.
Although it’s a gentle clarifying shampoo designed for daily use, it’s still more effective than a standard shampoo because of its ability to target and remove buildup that’s attached to the hair.
Nexxus Clean and Pure
- Works well for dry damaged hair
- Elastin protein restores damaged strands
- Marine minerals
- Lightweight and nourishing
- Cheap and affordable
- May leave scalp dry and itchy
The Nexxus Clean and Pure is a custom-crafted salon-inspired lightweight and hydrating clarifying shampoo that works for all hair types.
Top marks for its elastin protein and marine minerals complex that combine brilliantly to fortify the hair whilst gently offsetting product resins and stubborn buildup.
For those with fragile and damaged hair that needs a keratin and elasticity boost, the Nexxus clean and pure is definitely worthy of a spot in your shower.
Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo
- For oily hair and oily roots
- Soothing complex for scalp
- Adds shine and volume
- Helps to rebalance pH of hair and scalp
- May leave hair dry when used frequently
The Aveeno shampoo utilizes the science of low pH formulation to rebalance 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, this clarifying shampoo soothes the scalp and adds a healthy shine to your freshly-cleansed locks.
John Frieda Detox and Repair
- Works well on damaged and processed hair
- Nourishing avocado oil
- Green tea extracts antioxidants
- Contains mild sulfates
The Detox and Repair from John Frieda is the ideal clarifying shampoo for people with dry and frizzy hair that needs a quick fix and a boost.
It fuses nourishing avocado oil and antioxidant-rich green tea extracts seamlessly to strike the perfect balance between a deep cleansing and moisturizing formula.
It’s available from most high street drugstores, and the price is pretty decent.
Vicious Curl Foaming Curl Cleanse
- Rich in antioxidants
- Reduces frizz
- Adds curl definition
- Doesn’t leave hair tangled after washing
Deep cleanse. Lock in moisture. Unleash mega curl definition.
The Vicious Curl brand formulates all their hair products for people with curly hair. No wonder this clarifying shampoo ticks all the right boxes when it comes to cleansing curly and natural hair without leaving them dry and frizzy.
Most curlies will make a point or two about clarifying shampoos being bad on their hair, and I totally get it.
However, the Vicious Curls cleanser will make you change your mind. It lathers away every inch of dirt without putting a damper on your curls.
Loaded botanical ingredients, this foaming shampoo delivers clean, bouncy, and refreshed curls that defy gravity.
Drybar On the Rocks Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo
- Instantly absorbs impurities
- Contains vegetable proteins to reinforce and strengthen hair
- Notes of ginger, sandalwood, and mint for a refreshing and energizing scent
- Purifies the scalp
- Highly sought after – Always out of stock!
Activated charcoal powder can absorb up to 200 times its weight in impurities, making this shampoo work like an invisible cleanser that doesn’t need to scrub or exfoliate hard on your tresses.
That’s why we recommend Drybar On The Rocks for curls and waves because of its lightweight cleansing action that doesn’t strip the hair.
It’s a pure hair follicle detox!
Living Proof Triple Detox
- Contains revolutionary healthy hair molecule
- Chelating agents to neutralize hard water
- Activated charcoal for extracting dirt and oils
- Expensive for its small capacity
The LP Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox shampoo calls upon the non-abrasive cleansing power of activated charcoal to soak up oils, dirt, and greasy product buildup from the scalp and hair.
If you have color-treated hair, this shampoo will make your color more vibrant by removing all the dulling residues that coat the outer layer of the hair.
It also leaves the scalp moisturized with a soothing touch of witch hazel.
Living Proof Dry Shampoo With Healthy Hair Molecule Technology
Malibu C Blondes Brightening Shampoo
- Instant results
- Make your blonde hair more radiant
- Boosts shine and intensity
- Eliminates brassy tones
- Removes green tinge from hair from swimming pools
Brassy tones make blonde hair looks cheap and trashy.
While purple shampoos do a good job at rebalancing the tones to keep your color looking fresh, most of them fail to address the root of the problem:The oxidizers that cause brassiness.
The Malibu C shampoo gets straight to the point by deploying rich antioxidants and chelating agents to break down the bad oxidizers into water-soluble molecules that can be rinsed out.
By removing the bad stuff that coats your hair, it instantly reveals your true blonde tone. It’s the only blonde hair maintenance product you’ll ever need.
Redken Extreme Bleach Recovery
- Removes alkaline deposits
- pH balanced formula
- 63% less hair breakage after use
- Makes bleached blonde hair feel soft
- Contains some sulfates
- You have to buy Full set to maximum benefits
The Redken Bleach Recovery system provides a conditioning clarifying shampoo, a Lamellar water rinse out, and a Cica cream leave-in conditioner, all working together to help over-processed hair to rehydrate and recover.
Redken recognizes 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.
With gentle nourishing complex and porosity-filling technology, the Extreme Bleach Recovery is an excellent hair washing system for people with bleached hair. Highly Recommend.
Also read: How does a clarifying shampoo affect bleached hair.
Oribe The Cleanse
- Easy to use on the go
- Cleans hair in 1 minute – then rinse out
- Activated charcoal for unclogging dirt and oils
- Limited stocks
The Oribe detoxifying mousse uses volcanic ash, papaya, and sea kelp extract at the core of its formulation to purify the scalp without stripping its essence.
It works as a skin exfoliant to extract impurities from the pores and leave your scalp feeling fresh, light, and airy.
An excellent addition to your rucksack for the outdoors and camping trips.
R+Co Acid Wash Apple Cider Vinegar Cleansing Rinse
- Leaves hair feeling lustrous and soft
- Fresh scent
- No mineral oil. No petroleum
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- A little pricey for its size
- May strip color
The R+CO acid wash shampoo works better on fine and thin hair to sop up dirt. Bursting with natural ingredients like apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, tamanu seed oil, it also provides a good moisture balance, making it an excellent clarifying shampoo for fine hair and pH balancing.
It also leaves your hair smelling fresh with its captivating herbaceous scent that lingers softly throughout the day.
Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo
- Makes hair incredibly soft
- Rich lather
- Prevents and reduces hair breakage
- Avoid on scalp. May cause itchiness
Thick, coarse, kinky, and coily hair are the worst affected when it comes to product buildup and residues because of their densely-packed nature.
Literally, everything that gets stuck into a thick head of hair will almost never make its way out until it’s washed!
Whilst the easy solution is to shampoo more often, this adds to another problem: Dryness.
To fix this problem, the Cantu cleansing shampoo scrubs and lathers into a moisturizing cream that makes the thickest of hair feel soft and silky after washing. It doesn’t strip sebum from the hair and the scalp.
Kerastase Densifique Bain Densité
- Boosts hair density for people with thinning hair
- Immediate results
- Makes hair fibers stronger from root to tip
- Uses Hyaluronic Acid for hydration
- Contains Ceramides that strengthen the hair
- Contains mild sulfates
- May fade hair color
- May cause itchy scalp
The Kerastase Bain Densité is a daily-cleansing bodifying shampoo that boosts hair density, strengthening the inner structure to thicken the hair fibers and amplify overall volume.
It’s an ideal shampoo for people with thinning hair problems that goes beyond cleansing to plump the hair with its unique densifying formula of Hyaluronic Acid, Intra-Cylane, and Stemoxydine.
Use it regularly and watch your hair go fuller, thicker, and more resilient with better texture and abundance that makes it easy to manage and style.
Redken Frizz Dismiss Shampoo
- Excellent for frizz control
- Salon professional quality
Redken Frizz Dismiss is the de-facto superstar shampoo for frizzy hair formulated to deep cleanse while keeping frizz and flyaways under control.
Widely used in professional hair salons all over the world, this shampoo is a hairstylist-favorite for priming the hair before color and keratin treatments because of its excellent ability to prep the hair as a clean canvas.
This Redken shampoo is pH-balanced and provides all-day humidity protection against frizz.
Bumble and Bumble Sunday Shampoo
- Budget shampoo
- Lasts long
- Contains sulfates
If you’re an infrequent hair washer or a product junkie who needs a hair reset once in a while, then the Bumble is an excellent addition to your bathroom shelf.
Although it doesn’t provide all the moisturizing goodness and scalp exfoliating benefits, it still gets the job done by leaving your tresses squeaky clean.
Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Shampoo
- Makes hair easy to detangle
- Reduces frizz in curly hair
- High-quality ingredients
- Adds moisture and shine
- Doesn’t leave residues on low porosity hair
- Overpowering smell
- Not for fine hair
The Black Vanilla Luscious Moisture shampoo from Carol’s Daughter is a true wash day delight for low-density curlies who struggle with finding the right balance between cleansing and moisturizing.
This shampoo gently flexes tightly-packed cuticles to loosen up clogged residues and finishes off by infusing a generous moisturizing dollop of shea butter and aloe vera.
Most people with type 3 and 4 hair rave about this product and describe it as a low porosity curl savior.
The excellent reviews and ratings definitely back this up.
Shea Moisture Intensive Hydration Shampoo
- Incredibly moisturizing
- No sulfates. No Paraben. No Mineral oils
- Certified organic ingredients
- Creamy and thick consistency
- Makes hair soft
- Mild and pleasant scent
- Not enough suds
The Shea Moisture Intensive Hydration shampoo is formulated for naturally curly, coily, kinky, and highly porous hair textures.
The cleansing formula with manuka honey, African rock fig, mafura oil, and baobab ensures the shampoo saturates your strands with high-quality moisture to restore strength and elasticity.
- Easy to carry on-the-go hair and scalp detoxifier
- Reasonable price
- Cruelty-free and proudly vegan
- Kind to the hair and scalp
- Works in as little as 2 minutes
The Amika Reset is a clarifying gel shampoo that’s easy to carry in your handbag for a quick refresh after your workout session or to freshen up your locks when you are on the move.
Unlike a dry shampoo which only masks odors temporarily, this clarifying gel uses charcoal and pink clay to absorb dirt and toxins that collect on the hair.
Another cool thing about the spray-on clarifier is its ability to promote more oxygen flow to the scalp with its antioxidants and super enriching Indian cress stem extracts.
Amika Reset is an excellent product for refreshing and rehydrating your hair on the move.
Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo
- Very calming effect on scalp
- Noticeable reduction in dandruff and scalp flakes
- Contains ginger extracts to stimulate scalp blood flow
- Suitable for both men and women
- A little pricey but gets the job done
The Sachajuan is a scalp-first shampoo that focuses on shedding dead skin and renewing the scalp.
It helps to relieve itchiness and flaking caused by the scalp’s own overactive skin renewal process that triggers dandruff, clogged pores, and inflammation.
Pretty much everyone who has used this product (according to customer reviews) claims there is something supremely calming about this cult favorite Scandinavian product. It can clear up the worst dandruff in as little as one month of usage, and it leaves the scalp feeling revitalized without any feelings of itchiness, tightness, or tenderness.
Top marks for its brilliantly-formulated anti-dandruff actives of Piroctone Olamine, Salicylic acid, Climbazole, Rosemary oil, Ginger, and Menthol for eliminating dandruff, scalp fungus, and flakes without nuking the acid mantle on the scalp.
Unlike most anti-dandruff solutions that are extremely strong and drying, the Sachajuan scalp shampoo succeeds with maintaining a healthy moisture balance.
Kristin Ess Scalp Purifying Micellar Shampoo
- Reset your scalp without a full on wash
- Ideal for people who experience excess sebum buildup
- Nozzle tip for easy application
The Kristine Ess Purifying scalp Micellar cleanser is an ideal solution to alternate with your wash days when you only want to reset a grimy feeling scalp without enduring all the tedious tasks that come with a full-on wash.
This micellar scalp cleanser lathers amazingly to leave your head feeling like a sudsy paradise. It also hydrates and rinses out well.
The nozzle makes it easy and convenient to distribute along the roots to get deep into the scalp and do all the dirt lifting.
Ideal for people with psoriasis and sensitive scalp conditions who cannot use shampoos frequently due to their drying effects.
Design Essentials Shampoo For Wigs & Extensions
- Doesn’t cause matting and tangling
- Complies with wig manufacturer’s care instructions
- Reduces shedding and damage caused by normal shampoos
- Works for all types of extensions – straight, curly, wavy, coily.
- Smells a little weird
The Design Essentials shampoo extends the wearability of your weaves and extensions by keeping them looking fresh for up to 15 wearings.
Unlike regular shampoos that cause matting and tangling due to harsh chemicals and oils, the Design Essentials shampoo has a delicately-crafted 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!
Clarifying Shampoo Buying Guide
Here are some things to consider before buying a clarifying shampoo:
Avoid Sulfates Where Possible
Sulfate-based clarifying shampoos can give you squeaky clean hair, but it comes with the price of stripping your tresses dry.
Ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate can be harsh as they strip natural oils, potentially leaving your hair feeling brittle and prone to frizziness and breakage.
Look For A Moisturizing and Hydrating Formula
The is the key difference between a clarifying shampoo and a regular shampoo is that the latter does more moisturizing than cleansing. Yes, clarifying shampoos can be more intense when it comes to cleansing, but there are premium brands that develop their formulas with a good balance of low pH, sulfate-free, and moisturizing ingredients that make them better than the cheaper drugstore alternatives.
Consider Your Hair Type
Some clarifying shampoos are better suited for straight hair than curly hair. So if you have curly hair, make sure you get one that’s designed for curls. We’ve carefully categorized all the shampoos above by hair type and condition. So use it to narrow down to the one that works for you.
Consider Your Hair Color
If you have color-treated hair 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.
Be Careful If You Have Sensitive Scalp Conditions
If you have scalp conditions like dryness, eczema, breakouts, dandruff, check with a Dermatologist before buying any type of cleansing hair products you haven’t tried before.
Ideally, shampoos with aloe vera or green tea will help but always consult with a Derm first before you try.
How To Use A Clarifying Shampoo
Do Not Use Every Day
Unless it’s specified for daily use, there is no need to use a clarifying shampoo every day. Due to its strong cleansing formula, it can leave the hair dry.
Follow Up With A Conditioner
Clarifying shampoos are intense cleansers that work by exfoliating and elevating the pH of the hair slightly. It’s essential to rebalance the moisture level back into the hair immediately by following up with a good conditioner or a hair mask.
Don’t Use On Freshly Chemically-Treated Hair
Avoid using clarifying shampoos on freshly colored or keratin-treated hair as it may strip the color or keratin coating from your hair.
Do A Patch Test
Always patch test new hair products on a small section to see how your scalp and hair react to it. It will help you identify any allergies and potential side effects.
To Wrap Up
A good clarifying shampoo is a non-negotiable product in your hair care routine.
Just like you need an exfoliating face wash to renew your skin for a clearer complexion, you need a deep cleanse clarifying shampoo to reset your hair and let it flourish without being burdened by all the crap that accumulates on your scalp and hair strands.
Shehnaz is the co-founder and the chief editor for Salon-Worthy Hair.
She combines an interesting background in cosmetics and copywriting, which fires her passion for this blog.
When she’s not busy trying out new hair treatments or editing, you can find her curled up with a good book or taking long walks with her cute dog.