In recent years, it’s become somewhat of an (albeit odd) bragging right to see how many days you can last before washing your hair. And whether that’s two days or five, the fact of the matter is most of us are shampooing less frequently, which can lead to dulling buildup on your scalp and strands. This is where a clarifying shampoo comes in.
What is a clarifying shampoo exactly?
A clarifying shampoo is basically a supercharged cleanser that’s formulated to remove stubborn buildup (think oils, silicones, dry shampoo, hair spray and even residual shampoo and conditioner) from your hair. It’s also used to lift the chlorine that’s left on hair after swimming in a treated pool and remove the mineral deposits that result from hard water.
How often should I use a clarifying shampoo?
That mostly depends on your hair texture, lifestyle and styling routine. If you’re someone who regularly uses a lot of styling products, you’ll want to use a clarifying shampoo once a week to cut through any buildup (which can weigh down your strands and dull them).
If you use styling products sparingly or have naturally drier hair, you’ll want to limit your use to once or twice a month, as a clarifying shampoo is so good at its job that it can be drying when used excessively. Regardless of how often you use a clarifying shampoo, always follow up with a conditioning treatment on the mid-lengths and ends of your hair to restore moisture.
Ready to shop the best clarifying shampoos? Here, our top eight picks for super-clean strands.
1. Best for Fine Hair
Biolage Clean Reset Normalizing Shampoo
This clarifying wash transforms greasy, lank locks into squeaky-clean and bouncy strands that are able to withstand the typical elements (like sweat and, um, gravity) that usually bring fine hair down within hours. “[This] makes my hair last two days usually (sometimes I can even pull off three), instead of less than one,” says one Amazon fan. Also of note: The fresh lemongrass scent.
2. Best for Natural Hair
Alikay Naturals Moisturizing Black Soap Shampoo
This sulfate-free shampoo relies on natural raw black soap to get deep into the scalp to remove any gunk and buildup. (The pointed nozzle tip helps you get a targeted application.) Featuring a blend of coco seed powder, plantain skins and tea tree oil, it nourishes your strands from scalp to root while imparting a delightfully tropical scent. (Note: The formula is a bit thinner in consistency than most traditional shampoos but as long as your hair is fully saturated with water, it will suds up considerably.)
3. Best for Curly Hair
Elucence Volume Clarifying Shampoo
The catch-22 of caring for curly hair is that you want to regularly remove buildup to keep your curls springy, but you don’t want to zap your strands of moisture, which causes frizz. Thankfully, this cult-favorite clarifier gets both jobs done thanks to a host of purifying and balancing ingredients like salicylic acid, white willow bark, panthenol and biotin. As one fan on Amazon explains, “It effectively leaves my hair feeling very refreshed and clean without over drying (as my curly hair is prone to do). [It] has transformed my over-dry, frizzy, fuzzy, slightly wavy and sometimes crispy-feeling hair into the soft, curly, bouncy hair that it used to be.”
4. Best for Color-Treated Hair
R+Co Oblivion Clarifying Shampoo
Created by a trio of professional hairstylists who have, collectively, tended to the heads of everyone from Timothée Chalamet to Gisele, this gentle clarifying cleanser is free of color-stripping sulfates and full of hydrating coconut oil and glycerin to give you clean, never coarse hair. A Dermstore fan raves that “it does a great job of refreshing my hair without making it feel ‘stripped.’”
$27 at Dermstore
5. Best for An Itchy Scalp
Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub
A favorite of the French and this beauty editor alike, this sea salt scrub turns the rigmarole of shampooing into a spa-like experience. Massage a dollop into your scalp to quell any itching and clear up flakes without causing any further irritation. The creamy lather spreads evenly across your head and rinses out easily.
6. Best for Oily Hair
Bumble and Bumble Sunday Clarifying Shampoo
If you have the type of hair that falls flat within hours of stepping out of the shower, consider this part of your new Sunday ritual. This deep cleansing formula lifts away excess oils and mineral build up swiftly. Rosemary leaf extract supports scalp health, while sage cleanses the shaft of each strand. One bride-to-be used it the day before her wedding to ensure her hair would stay bouncy through the reception. "It worked wonders," she gushed. Another reported it made her hair "feel like feathers."
7. Best for Dry Hair
Moroccan Oil Clarifying Shampoo
If you fear that a clarifying shampoo will be too stripping on your already parched ends, we recommend giving this nourishing formula a whirl. With argan oil, keratin and jojoba seed extract, it hydrates and strengthens strands while delivering a deep clean. One Sephora reviewer lauds it for “perfectly cleansing [her] mixed race hair,” while another claims it gave her“shine for days.”
8. Best All Around
Neutrogena Anti-Residue Gentle Clarifying Shampoo
Do a quick search for “best clarifying shampoo” and you’ll come across this drugstore hero, no doubt. Tried and true, it’s certainly one of the OGs, formulated to clear up oil and residue and leave strands cleaner, softer and shinier. As one Target fan explains, “This totally strips out all the bad things that I do to my hair on a regular basis and gives me a clean palette to start all over again.”