In this article:
- Best Picks
- Is clarifying shampoo good for natural hair?
- The Benefits
- Buying guide
- How often to clarify natural hair
A good clarifying shampoo for natural hair can deep cleanse the hair to remove buildup and impurities without stripping its natural oils and compromising its texture.
These qualities are necessary because people with natural hair tend to follow strict haircare routines to maintain their god-given textures. Adding any new product to such routines means the product must be a good fit.
A clarifying shampoo is no exception.
To pass the Afro-textured hair test, the product must satisfy the following conditions:
- No sulfates.
- No silicone.
- No parabens.
- No drying alcohols.
- No mineral oils and wax (like petroleum jelly).
- Must be able to cleanse without stripping moisture.
If you’re still on the hunt for a clarifying shampoo that ticks all of these boxes, here’s a list of the ones we’ve handpicked for you …
Best Clarifying Shampoos for Natural Hair
1. Mizani Moisture Fusion Clarifying Shampoo
- Works for all natural hair textures.
- Hydrating formula.
- Contains cupuacu butter, argan oil, and honey.
- Extra moisturizing mask.
- Makes hair easy to detangle.
- A little pricey.
- Overwhelming smell.
The Mizani Moisture Fusion shampoo is formulated for curls, afros, and relaxed hair. What I like about this shampoo is its excellent combination of deep cleansing and hydration. Mizani calls it the quencher for thirsty strands, and I couldn’t agree more. From the very first wash, you can feel the softness and bounce in your curls.
Mizani is a haircare brand owned by L’Oreal, a global leader in the beauty industry known for its high-quality, professional-grade hair care products. Mizani’s products are formulated to meet the unique needs of African American hair textures by using natural and organic ingredients such as cupuacu butter, argan oil, and honey, which are known for their nourishing and hydrating properties.
Most importantly, it is a sulfate-free shampoo, making it a gentle cleanser for daily use. But given how effectively it works, it is reasonable to use it once a week.
The only thing you may not like about this product is that the coconut fragrance is overwhelming. Maybe it’s just me. But having said that, the smell is okay per se. It’s just that it lingers. So those who are sensitive to strong smells, there may be other suitable products.
2. Shea Moisture's African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo
- Color safe.
- Strengthens the hair.
- Stimulates the scalp.
- Regulates oily scalps.
- Slowly heals overprocessed hair.
- Poor packaging.
Shea Moisture’s African Black Soap deep cleansing shampoo is formulated for Afro hair textures (type 2A – 4C). As the name implies, it contains African black soap and shea butter, a deep cleanser combined with a rich moisturizer.
African Black Soap, also known as “Ose Dudu” or “Sabulun Salo,” is a traditional soap originating from Ghana, West Africa. It is made from locally-sourced natural ingredients such as plantain peels, cocoa pod powder, and palm kernel oil. The soap contains no chemicals, but it does contain ash from the wood fires used to boil the plantain skins. The ash is what gives African soap its detoxifying properties to leave the hair and scalp squeaky clean.
Shea butter is an ivory-colored, naturally-derived moisturizer extracted from the nuts of the shea tree. Native to Africa, the shea nut is a large, oil-rich seed from which shea butter is extracted. In its raw, unrefined form, shea butter is edible and can be used for cooking. However, its most popular use is in cosmetics due to its ability to restore moisture to dry hair. Shea butter is rich in fatty acids such as oleic, stearic, and linoleic acids. It also contains vitamins A and E. Unlike other oils and moisturizers, shea butter has the unique ability to deeply penetrate the hair without leaving a greasy residue. This is paramount for natural hair, as the wavy, curly, and tightly-coiled textures can make it difficult for oils and moisturizers to give total coverage and penetrate the hair shaft.
The Shea Moisture African Black soap shampoo is sulfate-free, and you would notice that straight away with its lack of lather and suds. It exfoliates and draws out dirt and impurities better than most clarifying shampoos, and it leaves the hair feeling soft and manageable.
Highly rated as the best clarifying shampoo for black people, according to reviewers on Amazon, Walmart, and Sephora, it’s made from quality ingredients that are safe for both virgin and transitioned hair. It will leave your scalp feeling clean and refreshed.
3. As I Am Curl Clarity Shampoo
- Safe for color-treated hair.
- Controls frizz.
- Softens coarse hair.
- Not for thin hair.
The As I Am Curl Clarity shampoo is a sulfate-free cleanser for curls. It does not contain silicone and parabens either, which makes it a Curly-Girl-Method-friendly product.
The key ingredients in this shampoo are coconut oil, amla oil, and tangerine extracts.
Coconut oil is rich in fatty acids and has a low molecular weight, which allows it to bind to keratin and penetrate the hair shaft easily. Coconut oil also helps prevent moisture loss and keeps the hair soft.
Amla oil, also known as Indian Gooseberry oil, is a natural oil derived from the fruit of the amla tree, which is native to southern Asia. Touted as a popular Ayurvedic treatment in India for optimal hair growth, amla oil has anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and hydrating capabilities that can protect the hair shaft and keep the hair hydrated.
Tangerine extract, derived from the peel of the tangerine fruit, has high amounts of vitamin C, antioxidants, and minerals that are beneficial for the entire follicular ecosystem. Tangerine extracts also contain flavonoids and polyphenols that act as anti-inflammatory agents, reducing the symptoms of dandruff and other minor scalp irritations. This is particularly good for black men who are more likely to experience scalp irritation from regular shampoos.
Combining these 3 ingredients and using no sulphates, phthalates, silicones, or parabens, the Curl Clarity clarifying shampoo helps enormously in keeping afro-textured hair clean and optimally hydrated without compromizing on the hair’s natural and virgin texture.
4. Aunt Jackie's Curls and Coils Oh So Clean Shampoo
- Makes hair soft and easy to style.
- Creamy formula.
- Tames chronically-dry hair.
Aunt Jackie’s Curls and Coils is a hair care company founded by Dwan Vine White.
Her mission was to create products that could help black people transition from relaxed hair to their natural god-given texture. After going through the struggle to find products for her dense, low porosity, 4c hair during her transition from relaxed hair, Dwan quickly realized that there was a big gap in the market for people with hard-to-manage hair textures. So she created Aunt Jackie’s as a small company to make products that can help people on their natural hair journey.
Aunt Jackie’s Oh So Clean deep moisturizing and softening shampoo is designed for black hair. It’s also highly recommended for people who have transitioned from relaxed to natural hair.
It combines shea butter, coconut oil, and olive oil to quench extremely dry hair textures and transform them into softly hydrated and easy-to-comb-out afros without caking or flaking.
As one of the best clarifying shampoos for black hair, its organic earth-sourced ingredients are designed to nourish, hydrate, and add vitality to natural curl textures.
5. Alaffia EveryDay Coconut Shampoo
- Big bottle.
- Keeps hair hydrated.
- Rich lather.
- Soap-based shampoo.
- Short ingredients list.
- Not recommended for people with seborrheic dermatitis.
- High pH.
- No smell.
Alaffia hair products are highly effective for African American hair because of their base ingredients, which include shea butter, coconut oil, and African black soap. Plus, their products don’t contain sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, silicone, parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, petrolatum, and synthetic colors. They are the purest hair products around that are also vegan and 100% biodegradable.
Alaffia’s EveryDay Coconut shampoo cleanses the hair of impurities by using natural ingredients to create an invigorating lather that leaves the hair feeling refreshed and revitalized. The Alaffia conditioner can be bought separately to give the hair more slip if it tangles a lot after washing.
6. Kinky Curly Come Clean Shampoo
- Improves natural shine.
- No alcohol, no sulfate, no paraben.
- Gentle for everyday use.
- May dry out very kinky hair.
The Kinky Curly Come Clean shampoo is a sulfate-free product that helps to clean the hair and scalp while maintaining the integrity of various curl patterns. This shampoo cleanses gently without stripping and drying out the hair.
It contains mandarin fruit, Marigold flower, white willow bark, sea kelp, phytic acid, and citric acid as its main ingredients. The all-new and improved formula is excellent at softening hard water and removing minerals such as calcium and magnesium from depositing onto the hair.
Although the shampoo does contain mild sulfates, there are no paraben, artificial colors, and synthetic fragrances.
Here’s how the ingredients can help curly hair:
Mandarin orange extract contains a unique combination of vitamins, antioxidants, and natural oils that work together to nourish and strengthen the hair from the inside out. Vitamin C, which is found in high concentrations, is essential for the production of collagen, a protein that provides the hair with strength and elasticity. The antioxidants protect the hair from free radicals damage, while the natural oils help to hydrate and tame frizz. Mandarin extracts also contain natural acids that exfoliate, which can be beneficial for people with oily scalps.
Marigold flower, also known as Calendula officinalis, is a natural ingredient that has traditionally been used in hair care for its beneficial properties. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and hair-nourishing capabilities that can help improve the health and appearance of curly hair. Marigold flower extracts can also help people who suffer from dry, itchy scalps by soothing the skin.
White willow bark is a natural ingredient that contains salicylic acid, a key ingredient used in anti-dandruff shampoos to exfoliate the scalp and unclog hair follicles. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that reduce inflammation and protect hair from damage caused by free radicals.
Sea kelp contains minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and natural compounds that work together to nourish and strengthen the hair, promoting healthy growth and a more defined, manageable curl pattern. It also helps to hydrate and moisturize the hair, reducing frizz and promoting shine. Sea kelp is also rich in vitamins A and C and natural compounds such as alginate and fucoidan to hydrate and moisturize the hair, leaving it softer and more manageable.
Phytic acid is a natural chelating agent that can help to remove hard water minerals from the hair. This is especially helpful if you have hard water in your home that contains high levels of calcium and magnesium, which can lead to an accumulation of these minerals in your hair.
Citric acid is a weak organic acid found in citrus fruits and is used in a wide range of beauty products. The main benefit of citrus is its ability to balance the pH of the hair, as it has a low pH range of 3 – 6.
Overall, the Kinky Curly come clean shampoo is best for naturals who struggle with hard water buildup in their hair. It is the only clarifying shampoo for natural hair we’ve found that has chelating agents.
7. Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Sulfate-Free Shampoo
- No sulfates. No paraben.
- Good for hair with low porosity.
- Comes with a luscious moisture conditioner.
- Revives dull and brittle hair.
- Not cheap.
Carol’s Daughter, a black-owned haircare brand born in Brooklyn in 1993, makes hair products for all curl types. They call their products “The Cupid for Curls.”
Their products are specifically made for 2A to 4C hair types, and they even have a curl guide to help you pick the correct shampoo that will work for your hair texture. If you’re not sure which clarifying shampoo to use on your afro-textured hair, use their curl guide to get recommendations.
Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Moisture and Shine shampoo is good for its ability to soften, moisturize, and revive dry, brittle hair.
The shampoo contains black vanilla, aloe vera, sweet clover, calendula, rose extracts, and shea butter, amongst its main ingredients. There are no sulfates, no parabens, no petrolatum, and no mineral oils in its formula, which makes it a product worth considering if you’re practicing a natural hair care regimen.
Black Vanilla extract is made from the black beans of vanilla, a species of orchid called Vanilla planifolia. Native to Mexico and also grown in Madagascar, vanilla is an expensive spice derived from vanilla pods. Easily distinguished by its sweet-scented smell, it is one of the most popular flavorings in the world that is also used in culinary and cosmetic products.
Black vanilla, which is vanilla extract in its purest form without any additives, contains antioxidants, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamins B5 and B6, and pantothenic acid.
- Vitamin B2 helps to improve keratin synthesis in the hair.
- Vitamin B5 and B6 can improve the condition of the hair shaft and scalp.
- Pantothenic acid can help fortify the cuticle layer of the hair, preventing moisture loss.
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) is an evergreen perennial plant native to the Arabian peninsula and subtropical regions of the world. The plant is characterized by a thick stem and fleshy leaves. Aloe vera provides nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and enzymes that make it a beneficial ingredient in many beauty and cosmetic products such as ointments, lotions, gels, shampoos, and conditioners.
Aloe vera also has a low pH value of 4.64, which makes it acidic. Low pH or an acidic environment is critical for the hair and scalp because it helps to prevent the growth of bacteria on the scalp. In addition, the acidity also helps to lock the cells of the cuticle on the hair shaft to prevent moisture loss and frizz.
Sweet clover, also known as Melilotus Officinalis, is a plant that contains compounds such as coumarins and flavonoids. These compounds have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce scalp irritation and inflammation.
Rose extract, derived from the petals of the Rosa Damascena plant, is known to be a natural humectant, which means it can help to retain moisture in the hair, making it less prone to dryness and breakage. Rose extract, in the form of an oil, has been found to have soothing properties which can help reduce stress and promote a sense of calmness and well-being. Add to that, the pleasant aroma of roses brings an uplifting effect to your mood too.
Overall, Carol’s Daughter moisture and shine is an excellent clarifying shampoo for black hair that deep cleanses, moisturizes, and softens the hair with high-grade natural and organic ingredients that won’t compromise the hair texture.
When we tested the Black Vanilla shampoo, its luxuriously rich texture and consistency made it stand out. The pleasant, indulgent scents of black vanilla and other aromatic ingredients made the washing experience soothing, invigorating, and a pleasure to use on every wash day.
Without any sulfates or irritants, this gentle moisturizing hair cleanser is safe to use on natural hair and color-treated hair alike.
8. Alikay Naturals Moist Black Soap Shampoo
- Made with pure black soap.
- No sulfates.
- Scalp soothing formula.
- Contains natural organic ingredients.
- No lather.
- May feel too heavy.
Alikay naturals is a unique shampoo made with raw black soap, plantain skins, and tea tree oil to cleanse the hair while maintaining moisture levels.
Plantain skin or plantain peel contains many beneficial compounds such as tannins, saponins, flavonoids, vitamins, zinc, and natural enzymes that exfoliate the scalp to remove dead skin cells. Plantain skin is a highly effective purifying cleanser for the skin and hair.
Tea tree oil is a volatile essential oil made from the leaves of the tea tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia), a plant native to Australia. Used for centuries to promote healthy hair and skin, tea tree oil provides the following benefits as an ingredient in shampoos:
- Anti-inflammatory properties: It relieves dry scalp symptoms and reduces itching, flaking, and dandruff.
- Antimicrobial properties: Fights against bacteria and fungi that can cause scalp infections and hair loss.
- Stimulates hair growth: Stimulates blood circulation in the scalp, which helps to promote hair growth.
- Unclogs hair follicles: Helps to unclog hair follicles by removing excess sebum, dirt, and styling product build-up.
- Moisturizing hair: Moisturize the hair, making it appear shiny and healthy.
Due to the lack of sulfates, the Alikay naturals shampoo doesn’t lather well. It has a very thin and watery consistency, which you may have to get used to. But it does leave the hair squeaky clean, and moisturized.
9. Avlon Affirm Moistur Right Clarifying Shampoo
- Strengthens hair with keratin.
- Prevents hair breakage.
- Improves curl definition.
- Improves hair elasticity.
- Contains mild surfactants.
The Avlon affirm shampoo is a rich-foaming sulfate-free clarifying shampoo designed for black hair to eliminate dirt and residues without stripping.
The shampoo contains essential nutrients in the form of argan oil, royal jelly Pequi, Buriti oil, and keratin as its core ingredients to maintain optimal moisture balance while strengthening the overall hair fiber elasticity.
Argan oil is known for its healing and moisturizing properties, which can help the hair retain moisture for longer while improving the condition of the hair’s cuticle layer.
Pequi, also known as “souari nut” or “souari butter,” is a fruit native to the Brazilian Cerrado. Pequi oil is commonly used in hair and skin care products, particularly for Afro hair. Rich in fatty acids, such as oleic, linoleic, and palmitic acid, it helps to moisturize and nourish the hair, making it more manageable and less prone to breakage. For people who are in the process of transitioning to natural hair, Pequi oil can help with texture and curl definition while reducing frizz and improving the hair’s elasticity.
Buriti oil, extracted from the bright yellow-orange fruit of the Moriche Palm tree, is high in unsaturated fatty acids and nutrients that can help strengthen the hair cells to reduce and prevent breakage and split ends. It can also soothe dry and damaged hair when used as a hot oil treatment.
Keratin is the essential building block of protein for hair. It can be found in the hair, nails, and skin. It is the most abundant protein in humans, making up about 90% of our total body protein. Keratin improves the elasticity and tensile strength of the hair.
The Avlon affirm shampoo can help people with curly hair who struggle with breakage and damaged hair due to previous chemical treatments.
The only downside is that the shampoo does not strictly pass the Curly Girl Method test due to some mild surfactants present in the formula. So use it sparingly only to give your curls a thorough detox and strength boost when needed.
Afro-Textured Hair Care and Its Unique Product Needs
Afro-textured hair, common among people of African descent, is naturally curly or kinky and characterized by tight curls, coils, or zig-zag patterns, and is often thicker and denser than other hair types.
Historically, many women with Afro-textured hair have resorted to relaxing treatments to straighten their hair due to societal beauty standards and difficulty in styling and maintaining it.
But when the natural hair movement emerged in the 1970s and 80s, encouraging women to embrace their natural god-given texture, many women began to transition away from relaxers and towards products that were designed specifically for their hair type. Afro-textured hair is typically more porous than other types of hair, which makes it prone to dryness and breakage. It also tends to be more fragile than other types of hair because its structure is not as densely packed together. Because of this, finding the right products to care for them can be quite challenging.
Popular natural hair care methods like the Curly Girl Method, the No Poo Method, and co-washing have helped many, but it is important to note that these methods don’t provide the deep cleansing capabilities of a traditional clarifying shampoo, which is often avoided by natural hair people due to its sulfates and strong ingredients that may strip natural oils from the hair.
Is Clarifying Shampoo Good for Natural Hair?
Clarifying shampoo can be beneficial for natural hair as it helps to remove product buildup and impurities, which is a common problem for people with afro-textured hair.
Buildup in hair can include styling products, excess oils, hard water minerals, and environmental pollutants that get trapped in dense layers and intricate textures. Removing these impurities can help to restore the hair’s natural balance and improve its overall ability to work well with styling products as well as absorb optimum moisture.
But not all clarifying shampoos are created equal. Some contain harsh ingredients that can make the hair more dry and brittle. That’s why you must avoid clarifying shampoos that contain sulfates and those that are too alkaline.
Luckily, there are many brands now that focus on products for textured hair, and many of those brands are making clarifying shampoos that address the specific moisture and protein balance of curly hair.
Benefits of Clarifying Shampoo for Natural Hair
A clarifying shampoo can serve multiple needs for natural hair. Besides a thorough wash and detox for the hair, it can also prime any curl texture for better product absorption, which is one of the reasons curly hair remains dry and dehydrated.
Product buildup often creates an impermeable layer on the hair’s surface (the cuticle layer) to prevent other products from penetrating the hair. This can happen from your creams, deep conditioners, waxes, and hairsprays. If you’re not using a clarifying shampoo every now and then to flush them out, chances are they are the reason why your hair is not responding well to your favorite products.
So here’s how a clarifying shampoo can help you:
It deep cleanses and detoxes: Clarifying shampoos are deeply cleansing, removing all traces of product buildup and dead skin cells. They also help detoxify your scalp and hair by removing dirt and impurities from the root to the tip of your strands. This helps prevent future buildups that may lead to dullness, frizziness, or breakage.
It Helps co-wash naturals: Co-washing, which is washing the hair with a conditioner instead of shampoo. It’s an excellent technique for keeping moisture in the hair, but the downside is that conditioners don’t rinse out easily like shampoos. Over time they leave a film-like coating of silicone and waxes on the hair. A weekly clarifying shampoo can help eliminate the surface residue and allow you to carry on co-washing without worrying about the long-term buildup.
It helps the hair absorb moisture: A clarifying shampoo can help hair absorb moisture by removing layers of dirt that can block the hair’s cuticle, making it difficult for moisture to penetrate. The hair cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair strand, and it protects the inner layers of the hair. When the cuticle is healthy and smooth, it allows moisture to penetrate the hair shaft and nourish the hair. However, when the cuticle is damaged or blocked by buildup, it can prevent moisture from your favorite products from entering the hair, making it dry, brittle, and prone to breakage.
It prevents dry itchy scalp: Clarifying shampoos contain gentle exfoliating agents that that remove dead skin cells from the scalp, which is part of the natural renewal process of the skin. Without a thorough cleanse, these dead skin cells can continue to accumulate, contributing to bacterial growth, inflammation, and uncomfortable itchiness.
Buying guide – How to Pick a Cleansing Shampoo for Natural Hair
When shopping for a natural hair-clarifying shampoo, look for these qualities:
- Sulfate-free: Sulfates are harsh chemicals that strip the hair and dry it out. They’re found in many shampoos and can also be labeled as sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, or even simply “SLES.” Look for a shampoo that doesn’t include these ingredients on the label.
- Moisturizing: Look for ingredients like shea butter, jojoba oil, coconut oil, argan oil, and essential oils that provide deep moisturizing capabilities to make the hair soft.
- pH-balanced: You may hear this referred to as “pH balanced” or just “ph.” It refers to how acidic or basic the shampoo is—and if you have natural hair, you want something that’s not too alkaline. Just keep in mind that most cleansers aren’t going to be extremely basic or acidic; they are somewhere in between those two extremes. If possible, try to avoid clarifying shampoos that are high in pH. A lower pH shampoo will promote a more natural shine and lock in moisture in the hair by sealing the cuticles.
- Color-Safe: It must be good for color-treated hair (if you have colored hair).
How to Use Clarifying Shampoo on Black Hair
- Wet the hair thoroughly: Before applying the clarifying shampoo, saturate your hair with water. This will help the shampoo distribute evenly throughout the hair.
- Use a small amount of shampoo: Start small and work it into a lather. Avoid using too much shampoo, as this can dry out the hair and cause breakage.
- Massage the scalp: Gently massage the shampoo into the scalp, using your fingers to work it through the hair.
- Rinse thoroughly: Rinse the hair thoroughly, making sure to remove all of the shampoo.
- Deep condition after: After using a clarifying shampoo, it’s essential to follow up with a deep conditioning treatment or a leave-in conditioner to restore moisture to the hair strands. This can help to keep the hair healthy and hydrated.
- Follow the usage frequency instructions: Although it’s recommended to use it once or twice a month, read the product’s instructions to make sure you’re not overdoing it.
How Often to Use Clarifying Shampoo on Natural Hair
How often you should use a clarifying shampoo depends on your hair type. If you have dry or curly hair, you may need to use a clarifying shampoo more than once per week.
Some people believe that using a regular shampoo daily is the best way to maintain healthy natural hair, while others argue that this isn’t necessary. If your scalp gets oily easily and you feel like it needs a wash, then by all means go ahead! But if not—and especially if your scalp tends toward being too dry – then try restricting yourself to once a week.
Are You Deep Cleansing Your Hair?
Clarifying shampoos may sound harsh and often the first thing that comes to mind is sulfates.
But not all clarifying shampoos are designed to strip the hair. There are many alternative options created by brands that care for people with afro-textured hair and their unique needs.
If you’re not deep cleansing your curls regularly for the fear of dryness or damage, you may be comprimising them with product buildup overload, which can impact growth in the long term.
Try one of the clarifying shampoos we recommend and see the difference it makes!