Clarifying Shampoos: Why Your Hair And Scalp Need A Detox

By Krissy Cabrera
Published 22 Mar 2015 / Updated 30 Nov 2020

Clarifying Shampoos: Why Your Hair And Scalp Need A Detox

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Clarifying shampoos are NOT your regular type of shampoo.

In fact:

If you haven’t used a clarifying shampoo before, you should now!

At least once a week.

Here’s why …

A clarifying shampoo cleans up all the slippery silicones, waxes, moisturizers, and plain old gunk from your regular shampoo, and styling products. Michelle Villet
Founder of Beauty Editor Magazine - Beauty Editor

Your regular hair styling products accumulate junk on your scalp and your hair.

And for this reason:

Many people are turning to a new hair care routine called the No Poo method.

No-poo means going weeks without washing your hair with a shampoo.

That’s right.

Even up to 6 weeks !!

Fair enough, if you want to avoid the harsh chemicals and residues from shampoos.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Baking Soda are in fact good natural alternatives to clean your hair.


Clarifying shampoos do the same job.

Without the messy hair masks, the smell, and figuring out how to mix vinegar and baking soda to get the right pH balance.

A clarifying shampoo is your ideal and neat solution to STOP residues building up in your hair and scalp.

Here’s our edit of the best you can buy right now.

Our Top 10 Clarifying Shampoo Brands (Updated 2021)

This guide covers everything you need to know about clarifying shampoos.


I didn’t know about it until I got my first keratin treatment.

I had a clarifying shampoo with the set to use as pre-treatment (primer).

There is a good benefit for using a clarifying shampoo as part of the process.

Let’s find out if YOU need a purifying treatment for your hair.

Does your hair suffer from any of these symptoms?

  • Dry
  • Frizzy and brittle
  • Limp
  • Breaks easily
  • Feels itchy
  • Does not absorb conditioners
  • Too much dandruffs
  • Hair feels heavy and weighed down

If so …

It’s time to detox your hair and scalp.

I’ve lived in hot places like Miami, Dubai, and the Middle-East.

And I can relate to such hair problems.

These problems are common, but also ignored by many.

By problems, I mean minor hair loss, dry scalp, dandruff, and many more uncomfortable conditions.

Clarifying Shampoos for hard water areas like Dubai
Buildup and residues that still remain in your hair after washing

Let’s NOT ignore these little problems.

These are the warning signs that your hair needs help!

When your hair stops absorbing conditioning treatments, you know something is not right.

Excess sebum, pollution, dead skin cells, and hard water block the pores on your scalp. They create a barrier on your hair shafts, preventing moisture from setting in.

Too much of these also cause bacterial growth that eats away the roots of your hair.

In other words:

You’ll notice gradual hair loss.

How Often Do You Detox Your Scalp?

Try running a soft brush through your scalp and watch carefully.

No doubt you’ll find flaky stuff, dust, and lint falling out.

Here’s the thing …

Just like your skin needs exfoliating every now and then, your scalp does too.

What you need is a Clarifying Shampoo.

Let’s look at how it benefits you.

The Benefits Of Clarifying Shampoos

This is what a clarifying treatment does to your hair and scalp:

  • Thoroughly cleanses hair and scalp with a single wash
  • Rejuvenates dry scalp and keeps it healthy
  • Keeps sebum levels balanced
  • Clears pores
  • Unclogs unwanted dirt from building up
  • Prevents bacterial growth
  • Soothes itchy scalp
  • Protects from hair loss
  • Adds volume to limp hair
  • Brings weighed down hair back to life

Good hair starts from a healthy scalp just like plants need a fertile rich soil to flourish.

Healthy scalp and clarifying shampoo
Healthy scalp is like fertile rich soil

So, don’t let your hair suffer from the root!

Get yourself a clarifying shampoo, and see the positive difference from a single wash.

What Is A Clarifying Shampoo?

Have you noticed?

Nowadays, it seems like almost everyone checks the back of their bottles for ingredients.

I’m guilty of this too.

The top ingredient you’ll find in clarifying shampoos is Sodium Laureth Sulfates (Wikipedia link), also known as SLS.

It’s used in cosmetic products like toothpaste, skin cleansers, and household cleaning detergents.

Is it safe for your hair?

Yes, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review approved that SLS is safe to use in rinse-off products.

SLS is a heavy cleaning agent also known as surfactant. It cleans thoroughly but there is one problem…

It does not moisturize.

Sulfates make your hair dry if used frequently.

Regular shampoos hardly contain surfactants because their purpose is to gentle cleanse and moisturize. This is why your hair feels shiny and smooth after a wash.

But shiny and smooth hair on the outside does not mean clean and healthy hair.

What Does A Clarifying Shampoo Do?

Clarifying shampoos do the complete opposite. They are designed with heavy cleansing agents but less moisturizing care.

Regular Shampoo Vs Clarifying Shampoo
Regular Shampoo Vs Clarifying Shampoo

This is why sulfate based clarifying lotions and shampoos are not recommended for daily use.

When To Use A Clarifying Shampoo?

This is important:

Do not use a clarifying shampoo everyday, unless the solution is designed for everyday use.

A single wash is enough to feel the deep cleansing action.

If you use styling products such as hair sprays, masques, or leave in conditioners on a daily basis, use it twice a week.

Using twice a week is also recommended if you live in a locality with hard or salinated water.

If you don’t use hair products daily, then use a clarifying treatment once a month.

Here’s a quick guide on how often you should use a clarifying shampoo depending on your hair type and styling routine.

Hair and Scalp Condition How Often Recommended
Fine and Thin Hair 2 X per Week R+CO Oblivion Clarifying Shampoo
Medium Hair 1 X per Week Joico K Pak Clarifying Shampoo
Thick Hair 2 X per Month Joico Clarifying Shampoo
Coarse Hair 2 X per Month Redken Cleansing Cream
Natural Hair 2 X per Month Mixed Chicks Clarifying Shampoo
Kinky Hair 2 X per Month Ouidad Waterworks
Relaxed Hair 2 X per Month Elasta QP
Damaged Hair 1 X per Week Shea Moisture Intensive Hydration Shampoo
Color-Treated Hair 1 X per Month Matrix Biolage Colorlast Shampoo
Blonde Hair 2 X per Month Joico Blonde Life Shampoo
Grey Hair 1 X per Week DesignLine Super Silver Shampoo
Keratin-Treated Hair 1 X Every 2 Months LuxeOrganix Cleansing CoWash
Bleached hair 1 X Every 2 Months Not Your Mother’s Blonde Moment Clarifying Shampoo
High Porosity Hair 1 X per Week Shea Moisture High Porosity Clarifying Shampoo
Low Porosity Hair 2 X per Month Shea Moisture Low Porosity Clarifying Shampoo
Oily Hair 2 X per Month Acure Curiously Clarifying Lemongrass Shampoo
Dry Hair 2 X per Month Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo
Dry Scalp 2 X per Month Seven Minerals Aloe Vera Shampoo
Dandruff Problems 1 X per Week Wick & Strom Ketoconazole Shampoo
Sensitive Scalp 2 X per Month Tree To Tub Soapberry Shampoo
Oily Scalp 2 X per Month L’Erbolario Walnut Sebum-balancing Shampoo
Active Gym lifestyle 1 X per Week Klorane Dry Shampoo
Hard Water Area 1 X per Week Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Shampoo
You Swim Frequently 2 X per Week Malibu C Swimmers Wellness Shampoo

How To Use A Clarifying Shampoo?

It’s easy.

Use it like any other shampoo you have at home.

How to use clarifying shampoo
How to use clarifying shampoo
  • Apply a small amount on your wet scalp
  • Gently massage for a minute
  • Then rinse

Remember, it won’t lather that much at first depending on your scalp residue.

Then apply a lesser amount on your wet hair. Let it sit for 2 minutes. This will free your scalp from product build up.

Then rinse with warm water to clean it all up.

Let’s look at the types of buildup that affects your hair…

Types Of Residue Build Up In Your Hair And Scalp

Scalp Build Up

Scalp clarifying
What is scalp build up?

Do you want to know what causes scalp build up every day?

Infrequent washing combined with an active lifestyle also contributes to scalp perspiration building up.

For those who follow the rule of minimal washing to keep your hair healthy, a clarifying shampoo should be part of your routine.

Less washing yes, but effective washing is what you need.

Yellow Crusty Scalp Build Up

Dry scalp build up has a crusty and yellow appearance.

Your scalp’s natural process of renewing skin cells causes the dead skin cells to clump together. Combined with excess sebum that your scalp secrete, the oily clumps become more visible.

Thorough hair cleansing balances the sebum levels on your scalp and gets rid of crusty build up.

White Build Up On Scalp (Dandruff)

White scalp build up are peeling dead skin.

This causes dandruff, flaking, and itchy scalp.

The best remedy for this is the Nizoral Anti-Dandruff shampoo

Itchy Scalp Build Up

Dead skin build up on your scalp causes your scalp to become itchy.

This gets seriously uncomfortable.

What your scalp needs, is intense moisture.

I use Apple Cider Vinegar, and find it super effective.

Masssage the vinegar on your scalp, leave it for around 10 minutes then wash.

Do it twice a week and see the results.

This stuff works!

Both men and women can do it at home. I highly recommend Apple Cider Vinegar as it cleanses the scalp and also maintains a healthy pH balance.

Conditioner Build Up On Your Scalp!

Yes! This surprised me as well…

Did you know?

Your conditioner does not rinse off completely!

This causes a rich and heavy build up on your hair, making it feel waxy and greasy.

Waxy, Oily, And Greasy Scalp Build Up

Your scalp produces sebum. It’s a natural process.

The waxy nature of sebum combined with letf over conditioners make your hair and scalp greasy and oily.

This type of build up is also necessary to take care of and clean at least one a week.

Thick Sebum Scalp Build Up

If your scalp produces sebum excessively, it becomes a problem.

The best way to balance this natural process is again Aple Cider Vinegar rinse.

Sebum scalp build up is a common thing, but if you let it happen, it grows quickly into a thick layer of scalp build up.

Hard Water Scalp Build up

best shampoo for hard water areas
Hard water and salinated water build up

Hard water makes your hair dry and brittle.

Salinated water accumulates calcium and chlorine in your hair and on the pores of your scalp.

Both carry high mineral content like magnesium, that dissolves in your hair when washing.

The problem:

This creates a scaly film layer on your hair preventing your hair from absorbing moisture.

If not treated, your hair becomes porous and breaks easily.


Clean your hair and scalp every week with a good chelating shampoo for hard water.

How To Get Rid Of Scalp Buildup (Solutions)

First determine what type of build up is accumulating on your scalp and hair.

Then take action based on the recommendation below:

Here’s how you remove buildup and residues from your scalp:

Type Of Scalp Build UpCausesSolution
Yellow Crusty Scalp Build UpDead skin cells, Renewing skin cells, Excess sebum oily clumpsNeutrogena T/Sal
White Scalp Build Up (Dandruff)Peeling dead skin on scalpNizoral Anti-Dandruff
Itchy Scalp Build UpDead skin cells, Air pollutantsFekkai Apple Cider Vinegar Shampo
Conditioner Build UpDaily conditionersRedken Shampoo
Waxy, Oily, Greasy Scalp Build UpDaily conditioners, excess sebumMaple Holistics
Hard Water Build UpHard water, Salinated water, Swimming poolsMalibu C Wellness System

Sometimes, there’s a lot more than just scalp buildup.

A clarifying shampoo cleans each individual hair strand to remove what your shampoo and soap leaves behind.

I call them the by-products of their cleaning process.

Also known as Residues.

Let’s take a look at the different types of residue shampoos that complement your hair type.

Your hair type and texture matters when choosing your shampoo.

The Different Types (Get The Right One)

Anti Residue Shampoo

The by products of your regular shampoo stick to your hair.

How can you tell if there are shampoo residues on your hair?

It’s easy.

It takes longer to blow dry your hair.

shampoo anti residue
Shampoo residue in hair makes it hard to blow dry

Hair residue is also known as impurities that sit in your locks making them hard to blow dry and moisturize.

A residue free shampoo fights all this grime.

If problem lies less on the scalp and more on your hair, then a residue free shampoo offers the benefits of deep washing.

A clarifying shampoo also refreshes and invigorates your hair and scalp.

Deep Cleansing Shampoo

Feel the power of rich antioxidants, zingy lime, and mint in your scalp.

As an added bonus:

A clarifying shampoo does not only clean. It gives your scalp and hair a good refresh with added antioxidants.

How To Get Rid Of Oily Hair

A common frustration for people with oily hair is: the more you wash, the more oily it appears and if you don’t wash…

It looks plain horrible!

To make it worse…

You just can’t help but touch it all the time.

I agree, oily hair looks shapeless and neglected.

And that’s why you should use a good dry clarifying shampoo for oily hair to maintain it.

What shampoo is good for oily, greasy hair and scalp?

Look no further…

Maple Holistics is the best shampoo for oily scalp.

Add Volume And Bounce To Fine Hair


There’s one important thing you need to look for in a clarifying shampoo for fine hair…

It must not make your hair flat to stick to your scalp.

Clarifying For Coarse Hair

Your hair becomes coarse when there are too much water mineral deposits and chlorine in it. Harsh chemicals from your shampoos and constant use of hot dryers, curling irons also make it worse.

Getting your smooth and silky hair back is easier than you think though.

The Ouidad Water Works Clarifying Shampoo uses the power of Grapefruit and Orange power extracts to fix it.

The best clarifying shampoo for coarse hair: Paul Mitchell’s Clarifying Shampoo and Conditioner is the popular choice, but many people seem to opt for Ouidad due it’s fair price and good results.

Get the same results and for a lot less cheaper.

Clarifying Shampoo For Natural Hair

The truth about natural hair:

The most important thing is texture and maintaining the texture without using harsh chemicals.

Natural hair (African American hair) also means relaxer free hair.

Did you know?

According to the Boston Globe, more and more African American women are adopting the chemical free hair regime.

No relaxers, no dye, no chemicals, and no sulfates.

Natural black hair styles are on the rise.

And to maintain your natural curls…

You’ll need sulfate-free clarifying shampoos with Shea Moisture African Black Soap.

The best clarifying shampoo for natural hair?

In my opinion, it has to be the Shea Moisture African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo.

Like I mentioned above, the main ingredient in a cleansing shampoo is SLS sulfates.

But if your hair is too dry and damaged, and you want to avoid chemicals, you can go for the more gentle clarifying solutions.

Organic Clarifying Shampoos

No Parabens and no harsh preservatives…

This is what defines an organic clarifying shampoo.

An organic shampoo won’t have any frangrance or scent. What you get with an organic alternative is essential oils, lemon oils, and sometimes shea butter added in the mix.

What to look for when buying organic shampoos:

  • Certified organic ingredients
  • No parabens
  • No harsh preservatives
  • No artificial colors
  • No SLS or other sulfates
  • 100% vegetarian
  • No animal testing

Based on Forum Reviews, Aubrey Organic shampoo is the preferred choice.

Vegan Shampoos

The organic shampoos mentioned above are classed as vegan shampoos. Their manufacturers also claim no animal testing has been performed.

Other options available are:

  • EO Botanical brand
  • Acure Organics Lemongrass
  • Ion Clarifying shampoo

Watch this space I will be doing a full review for vegan and organic clarifying shampoos soon.

What About Daily Clarifying Shampoos ?

Clarifying daily in general is not a good idea at all.

This will have a drying effect on your hair and strip necessary lipids out.

You may have heard about Suave daily clarifying shampoo. It’s dead cheap and a reputable brand.

But my take on the Suave Clarifying shampoo is:

  • It has sulfates, therefore daily use is a big NO
  • It still leaves coatings on your hair
  • Doesn’t do a good job on oily scalp
  • It can cause dandruff if used daily

Dilute it with water to minimise the effects of sulfates in your hair, if you’re using Suave daily.

If you are not convinced with off the shelf shampoos and prefer natural methods, I have good news for you.

There are plenty of ways to clarify your hair using natural methods.

Homemade Clarifying Shampoo (DIY Recipes)

Learn how to make your own cleansing conditioner and clarify your hair naturally.

Clarifying Hair Masks

You can detoxify your hair using a clay hair mask.

A common method used is the Bentonite clay mask which helps relieve toxins from your hair and scalp.

Bentonite Clay For Hair

Bentonite clay for natural hair is highly absorbent.

It clarifies your hair without stripping moisture or making your hair dry.

Better yet…

Bentonite clay mask makes your hair feel pure and silky with an overnight treatment.

Bentonite Clay Mask Recipe (Mud Mask For Hair)


  • Bentonite Clay
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Essential Oils of your choice (I use rosemary oil)


  • Plastic / wooden bowl
  • Wooden spoon for mixing


  • Mix the Bentonite clay with Apple Cider Vinegar. Use enough ingredients that can cover your hair length
  • Add your essential oil and mix thoroughly


  • Section your hair into 6 sections preferably
  • Apply the mixture and let it sit for 20 minutes
  • Massage it into your hair. Do each section for 2 minutes pulling downwards
  • Rinse after 20 minutes with lukewarm water. Rinse thoroughly until it’s all gone.
  • Use a deep conditioner afterwards to seal in the moisture.

Coconut Oil Hair Mask

A coconut mask for hair contains Vitamin E, is anti-fungal and thickens your locks.

The anti-fungal properties of coconut oil will remove white scalp build up also known as dandruffs.

So here’s the recipe:

Coconut Oil Hair Mask Recipe For Deep Cleansing


  • 7 drops of essential oils (optional)
  • 4 tablespoon of coconut oil


  • Plastic bowl for mixing
  • Suitable spoon or brush to mix


  • Simply mix the essential oils with the coconut oil for a few minutes (I use Rosemary oil)


  • Massage the mixture in your hair
  • Leave for 30-60 mins depending on how long your hair is
  • Wash out thoroughly
Coconut oil washes out easily with any regular shampoo. Your hair will feel smooth and smell good after the treatment.

French Clay Mask For Hair

Montmorillonite also known as French Clay is a soft mineral that clarifies your hair.

It’s clarifying process is more gentle and this magical French green clay is highly absorbent.

It does not leave your hair dry and it won’t strip your hair of it’s natural oils.

Try the recipe and see how French Clay removes toxic substances (harsh soaps & shampoos) from your hair.

French Green Clay Hair Mask For Gentle Clarifying


  • 1 cup of French green clay
  • 1 cup of Aloe Vera juice
  • 1/2 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • a few drops of Rosemary oil or any essential oils


  • A glass bowl for mixing
  • Suitable spoon or brush to mix


  • Add the French clay in the glass bowl and mix in the Aloe Vera juice
  • Add the Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Finally add the drops of essential oils


  • Wet your hair first, then apply starting from the roots
  • Work the mixture thoroughly through your hair
  • Leave for 15 minutes, but don’t let it dry off
  • Rinse thoroughly

And voila!

Clarifying Hair With Apple Cider Vinegar

The most popular homemade clarifying treatment.

Check this out…

Is your hair looking dull and lifeless?

I guarantee you, a vinegar rinse for hair will immediately bring the springy bounce back into your hair.

It literally makes your curls POP.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) in hair neutralizes the pH levels of your follicles.

The Alpha-Hydroxy acid in ACV fights all the gunk left behind from your styling products to make your hair squeaky clean.

Here’s the recipe – how to use apple cider vinegar on hair.

How To Rinse With Apple Cider Vinegar


  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar


  • Spray bottle
  • Spoon for mixing


  • Add the water and the vinegar and mix well


  • After shampooing spray the mixture on your wet hair. Massaging it well into your hair and scalp
  • Leave it for 5 minutes
  • Rinse thoroughly

Caution: Don’t let it get into your eyes. It will sting.

Once your hair is properly dry, the vinegar small will go away.

Clarifying Hair With Baking Soda

And, I almost forgot…

Clarifying hair with baking soda is also a cinch.

Use a baking soda exfoliant to remove chlorine build up from your hair.


Washing your hair with baking soda can be abrasive to your hair.

So you need to get the right balance to avoid the grittiness and hard scrubbing effect.

The solution: Mix it with a conditioner rather than water.

Here’s a DIY baking soda recipe that is not harsh on your hair.

DIY Baking Soda Shampoo


  • 1/2 cup of baking soda
  • 1 cup of your favorite conditioner


  • Glass bowl
  • Spoon or brush for mixing
  • Shower cap


  • Mix the baking soda and your conditioner until it becomes smooth


  • Smooth the mixture into your hair
  • Put your shower cap on
  • Leave for 15 minutes
  • Rinse thoroughly


Do NOT try the baking soda and vinegar experiment.

Many people are now using this experiment, also called the no-shampoo (no-poo) alternative hair care.

I don’t recommend it.

Baking Soda mixed with Apple Cider Vinegar will completely deplete your hair of natural oils.


A clarifying shampoo is a must.

Even if you don’t use it every day, keep one handy. When your hair feels meh, stubborn, and takes too long to blow dry, give it a quick purge and you’ll notice the big difference straight away!