Let go of accumulated toxins, excess oils, and pollutants stifling your hair growth
- What is a Clarifying Shampoo?
- What is the Difference Between a Clarifying Shampoo and a Regular Shampoo?
- What are the Benefits of Using a Clarifying Shampoo?
- How do I Know If I Need to Use a Clarifying Shampoo?
- Choosing a Clarifying Shampoo
- 15 Best Clarifying Shampoos
- Is a Clarifying Shampoo Good for Your Hair?
- How to Use a Clarifying Shampoo?
I know my hair is crying out for extra tender loving care when my scalp starts to feel itchy, and I frantically keep scratching it all day, especially after a swim or a workout. On top of it my locks look dull and lifeless despite using my regular shampoo and hair styling products. Without fail, this means it’s time for me to grab my clarifying shampoo for a hair detox.
You may wonder why particularly a clarifying shampoo? What makes it so beneficial to your hair? Can anyone with a different hair type, texture and concerns safely use one? How should people go about using a clarifying shampoo?And, what are the best options out there based on your specific hair care needs?
Scroll down to find out more, and to know which clarifying shampoo to pick for your particular hair concerns.
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What is a Clarifying Shampoo?
A clarifying shampoo is a deep cleansing treatment that helps to detox your hair. It works by removing accumulated buildup from various products, sweat, chemicals, hard and chlorinated water found on your scalp and in your hair strands.
In this regard, a clarifying shampoo is an important hair therapy to include in your hair care routine, as it helps maintain and restore the health of your hair to support your hair growth.
Minerals found in hard water, your own seat, chlorine and harsh chemicals from swimming pools together with styling products such as gels, hair dye, mousses, waxes, and hairsprays can leave residue on your scalp and hair strands over time. These can end up clogging up your hair follicles, leaving you with dull, greasy, and sometimes dry and damaged hair.
To restore your hair shine, softness, and its capacity to absorb the nourishing ingredients found in your hair care products, a clarifying shampoo will be of great help.
However, a clarifying shampoo is not designed to replace your regular shampoo, which you should continue to use as per your hair care routine to maintain an adequate level of moisture and hair health.
Hair product manufacturers and hair care professionals recommend using a clarifying shampoo occasionally, once or twice a week or every other day in the month, if your hair is prone to dryness. This very much depends on your hair type, texture and treatments, and the level of buildup you experience with your hair on a weekly basis.
What is the Difference Between a Clarifying Shampoo and a Regular Shampoo?
Like most regular shampoos, a clarifying shampoo contains between 80 and 90% water, depending on the hair product formula.
The main difference between a clarifying shampoo and a regular shampoo lies in their active ingredients. A clarifying shampoo differs from regular hair cleansers in that they contain much stronger surfactants.
Surfactants in product formulas act like soaps to remove accumulated impurities, excess oil, and any residual product and hard water deposits found on your scalp and in your hair.
The most common surfactants you will find in some clarifying shampoos and hair cleansing products include:
Ammonium-sodium lauryl sulphate: this is perhaps the strongest cleansing ingredient that you may find in the deepest cleansing clarifying shampoos. They are added into shampoo formulas for the treatment of the most extreme hair and scalp buildup or very oily hair.
Bromides or chlorides: these are gentler cleansing ingredients that can help soften your hair strands to make them more manageable and much easier to style.
Cetyl-fatty alcohols: these surfactants have milder cleansing properties that gently help remove buildup without stripping your hair of all its moisture.
What are the Benefits of Using a Clarifying Shampoo?
There are a number of key benefits from using a clarifying shampoo as part of your hair care routine. As a deep hair and scalp cleanser, a clarifying shampoo helps:
Restore your hair and scalp to a healthier state: by clearing up your hair and scalp, a clarifying shampoo helps your hair recover its breathability, its natural shine, softness and volume, thus making your hair much easier to detangle and style again.
Support your hair growth: the unclogging of your hair follicles and scalp from product buildup, sweat and associated scalp conditions such as dandruff, acne, and scabbing with a clarifying shampoo helps stimulate your hair natural growth process and strength.
Eliminate the tint from chlorinated water: a clarifying shampoo helps remove the colourful greenish tinge that regular pool swimmers sometimes experience as a result of unhealthy levels of chlorine and harsh chemicals accumulated on their scalp and hair.
How do I Know If I Need to Use a Clarifying Shampoo?
There are a few telling signs that might indicate when you need to give your hair and scalp the extra cleansing that they need. Chances are you might need to use a clarifying shampoo when:
- Your hair looks and feel an awful lot greasier and heavier than usual
- Your hair looks dull, lifeless, stiff and a lot more difficult to manage
- Your hair still feels dirty even after your regular wash routines
- Your scalp starts to feel itchy, irritated, dry and flaky very often
- A noticeable greenish tinge appears on your hair after your use of the swimming pool
- If you exercise frequently and use lots of dry shampoos and styling products
Choosing a Clarifying Shampoo
To select the right clarifying shampoo for your hair, you need to consider your hair type and texture, your scalp concerns, and the treatments applied on your hair, if any, such as chemical straightening products or hair dyes.
The best approach is to check product labels and descriptions at the point-of-sale. This will help you find out whether the clarifying shampoo you are seeking to purchase is suitable for you, whether you have normal, fine, dry, colour-treated hair, natural afro-hair, or permed hair.
You will also be able to discover if the clarifying shampoo you wish to go for addresses specific scalp conditions such as dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, or psoriasis, if any.
Take time to read through the ingredients list to find out whether a product formula will work for you. Clarifying shampoos formulated with a large amount of anionic surfactants deliver the deepest cleanse, and may be helpful to people with normal hair and no colour treatment.
Anionic surfactants commonly found on shampoo ingredient labels include:
- Ammonium laureth sulphate
- Ammonium lauryl sulphate
- Alpha-olefin sulfonate
- Sodium lauryl sulphate
- Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate
- Sodium stearate
Below is a selection of our top picks for different hair types, textures, treatments, and scalp conditions
- Best for all hair types: OUAI Haircare Detox Shampoo
- Best for dry/dehydrated hair: Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo
- Best for hair growth: Nioxin 3D Care System System 1 Step 1 Cleanser Shampoo: For Natural Hair With Light Thinning
- Best for fine, damaged hair: Olaplex Shampoo No.4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo
- Best for colour-treated hair: Pureology Purify Colour Care Shampoo
- Best for oily hair: Beauty Pie Super Healthy Hair™ Detox Wash Shampoo
- Best for naturally curly hair: Malibu c scalp wellness shampoo
- Best for sensitive scalps and seborrheic dermatitis: Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo
- Best for dandruff and flaky scalp: Typology Exfoliating and Volumising Shampoo Duo
- Best for swimmers and hard-water areas: Joico K-Pak Clarifying Shampoo
- Best for all damaged hair types: Briogeo Scalp Revival™ Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-exfoliating Shampoo
- Best for scalp care: Christophe Robin Purifying Scalp Scrub with Sea Salt
- Best for gentle exfoliation: Davines Detoxifying Scrub Shampoo
- Best for medium to fine, straight to curly, non-coloured hair: Bumble and Bumble Sunday Shampoo
- Best for long-lasting clean hair: Living proof Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo
15 Best Clarifying Shampoos
1. OUAI Haircare Detox Shampoo
Best for all hair types
This gentle cleansing shampoo works well for all hair types, including colour and keratin-treated, and Brazilian blow-outs. Its formula enriched with apple cider vinegar and tamarind seed extract helps soothe oily and itchy scalps, improve shine and retain moisture.
2. Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo
Best for dry/dehydrated hair
Formulated with nourishing argan oil and jojoba extracts and a concoction of lavender, rosemary and chamomile essential oils, this shampoo draws impurities out and softens hair strands. Hydrating panthenol helps restore moisture balance and imparts a glossy finish.
3. Nioxin System 1 Step 1 Cleanser Shampoo: For Natural Hair With Light Thinning
Best for hair growth
The derma-purifying shampoo helps deep cleanse your scalp and hair, and strengthen your hair structure. Ideal for thinning hair, the shampoo helps support the natural hair growth process by promoting thicker and fuller-looking strands.
4. Olaplex Shampoo No.4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo
Best for fine, damaged hair
The sulphate-free and pH balanced shampoo harnesses scientifically proven Olaplex Bond Building Technology™ to remove product buildup, chlorine, and pollutants that can damage your hair. Upon rinsing, hair and scalp feel healthier, softer, vibrant, and deeply cleansed.
5. PUREOLOGY Purify Colour Care Shampoo
Best for coloured hair
The sulphate-free, salt-free, colour-preserving formula derived from coconut, corn and sugar helps to get rid of pores-clogging buildup whilst preserving your hair colour. The combination of witch hazel, baking soda and tea tree oil efficiently helps reduce excess sebum in the hair.
6. Beauty Pie SUPER HEALTHY HAIR™ Detox Wash Shampoo
Best for oily hair
© BEAUTY PIE
Activated charcoal, apple cider vinegar, moringa seed peptides, and ColourPlus amino acids in this shampoo help draw out excess oils and toxins whilst preserving hair colour. This salon-strength formula conditions and restores shine, volume, and strength to your hair.
7. Malibu C Scalp Wellness Shampoo
Best for naturally curly hair
© MALIBU C
The 100% vegan gentle scalp shampoo helps soothe and hydrates dry scalp while leaving curly hair full of body and shine. The combination of menthol and spearmint essential oil and menthol helps to draw out hair impurities whilst refreshing your scalp and curly locs.
8. Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo
Best for sensitive scalps and seborrheic dermatitis
This clarifying shampoo is considered a holy grail by people with sensitive scalps and those prone to seborrheic dermatitis ( a form of eczema). Infused with salicylic acid, rosemary oil, menthol, and ginger extract to soothe irritated scalps, remove dandruff, and maintain a healthy moisture balance.
9. Typology Exfoliating and Volumising Shampoo Duo
Best for dandruff and flaky scalp
The two-step clarifying formula is designed for people suffering from flaky scalp and dandruff. The pre-shampoo exfoliating gel with 5% PHA exfoliant and jojoba beads helps remove dandruff and impurities from the scalp. The volumising shampoo, enriched with 1% almond protein and biotin, restores hair strength and brings body and volume to your hair.
10. Joico K-Pak Clarifying Shampoo
Best for swimmers and hard-water areas
The salon-quality shampoo specifically formulated for swimmers, people living in hard water areas, and those with heavily-styled hair will restore health and strength to your weakened hair and scalp. The formula is enriched with hydrating aloe, amino acids and vitamin E.
11. Briogeo Scalp Revival™+ Coconut Oil Micro-exfoliating Shampoo
Best for all damaged hair types
This nourishing shampoo helps remove dead skin cells and product buildup from your scalp and hair follicles to support healthy hair growth. The formula contains hydrating panthenol and coconut oil to add moisture and cleansing binchotan charcoal and tea tree oil to detoxify.
12. Christophe Robin Purifying Scalp Scrub with Sea Salt
Best for scalp care
© Christophe Robin
The gentle scrub infused with sea salt crystals works best for people with very sensitive and inflamed scalps and for those with oily scalps. The formula contains bisabolol, a Brazilian candeia tree extract that helps soothe scalp and cleanse away dirt and dead skin cells.
13. Davines Detoxifying Scrub Shampoo
Best for gentle exfoliation
The paraben and sulphate free detoxifying shampoo is formulated with scrub particles and gentle surfactants, some of them like Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate are of natural origin. It gently scrubs away accumulated buildup on scalp and hair to reveal healthier locs.
14. Bumble and Bumble Sunday Shampoo
Best for medium to fine, straight to curly, non-coloured hair
© Bumble and bumble
This paraben, phthalate, and mineral oil-free detoxifying shampoo is ideal for fine,straight to curly, non-dyed hair that needs a gentle weekly detox from product residue, excess oil and pollutants. The deep cleansing treatment lifts away scalp and hair toxins for a fresh start.
15. Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo
Best for long-lasting clean hair
© Living Proof.
The gentle formula, infused with sulphate-free surfactants, helps free your hair from lingering product residue, pollution and hard water build-up. The exfoliating shampoo is enriched with witch hazel to moisturise both your hair and scalp and charcoal powder to absorb toxins.
Is a Clarifying Shampoo Good for Your Hair?
While a clarifying shampoo can be helpful to remove the excess buildup accumulated on your scalp and in your hair strands, an excessive use of it can lead to some adverse effects.
Might dry out your scalp and hair: using a clarifying shampoo more than once or twice per week, or very occasionally for hair prone to dryness, can strip your scalp and hair of all their moisture and healthy nutrients, leaving your hair dull, dry, and easily prone to breakage.
This is the reason why people with naturally curly, textured hair and afro-hair, whose hair are more prone to dryness, should only use clarifying shampoos very occasionally each month.
They are best served by a sulphate-free hydrating clarifying shampoo that will detox their scalp and hair whilst helping to retain a healthy level of moisture. 100% vegan and sulphate-free Malibu c scalp wellness shampoo or Olaplex shampoo No.4C bond maintenance clarifying shampoo are high quality options for them to consider.
Alternatively, use a DIY bentonite clay hair detox mask to deep cleanse your scalp and hair. Make sure you know what you are doing and use a time-tested recipe that works for you. Otherwise, you actually run the risk of further drying out your hair and scalp, and messing up your hair pH balance level. Not all hair DIY treatments are worth trying out.
Bear in mind that normal, undamaged, undyed hair has a pH level of 4.5 to 5.5.
Curly hair, specifically, needs a well-balanced pH to help control the cuticle so that your hair does not end up being limp, dry, stiff, brittle, fluffy, or frizzy.
Might cause hair dye to fade: cleansing your colour-treated hair too frequently with a clarifying shampoo may actually cause your hair colour to fade far too quickly.
Moreover, to retain your dyed hair colour, it is important to use a clarifying shampoo that is specifically formulated for colour-treated hair. Check the product label first to find out if it is suitable for dyed hair before making a purchase.
Might exacerbate skin conditions: selecting the inadequate clarifying shampoo and using it too frequently can exacerbate your pre-existing scalp conditions such as psoriasis, dandruff, and seborrheic dermatitis (a type of eczema).
As cleansing ingredients, surfactants contained in clarifying shampoos may inadvertently worsen these scalp conditions by drying out your scalp or making the underlying cells produce more oils.
To counter these effects, clarifying shampoos specifically formulated for these types of sensitive skin and scalp conditions contain ingredients like salicylic acid that help to effectively cleanse your scalp and hair whilst helping to treat these hair concerns.
How to Use a Clarifying Shampoo?
Apply your clarifying shampoo before deep conditioning your hair to help remove buildup. This will ease a better penetration of hair conditioners and hair masks.
For people swimming in the pool daily, consider using a clarifying shampoo once a week to prevent the accumulation of hard water and harsh chemicals, including chlorine, on your scalp and hair
Pour a small amount of clarifying shampoo in the palm of your hand, and apply to your damp scalp, massaging the product until you have a good lather.
Leave the shampoo on your hair as recommended by the product manufacturer.
Rinse the clarifying shampoo out completely before applying a conditioner.
Always use a deep conditioner after every clarifying shampoo session. This helps soften your hair and seal moisture in the hair cuticle, thus, preventing it from drying out.
Apply your regular hair conditioner to your middle and lower hair strands in an even layer, wait as recommended by the product manufacturer, and then rinse your hair out.