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The 14 Best Clarifying Shampoos for a Cleaner, Healthier Scalp—and Head of Hair

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Photo by Jeremie Morey/Getty Images

Ever wanted a reset button for your hair? Clarifying shampoo can be just that. Regardless of your hair type, chances are you put your hair through a lot on a daily basis. Clarifying shampoo deep-cleanses any chemicals, waxes, residue, and other gunk left behind by your hair products and the environmental stressors of daily life.

“Clarifying shampoos are great to use as needed,” says Briana Cisneros, a Wella Professionals North American Ambassador and hair educator. “They are formulated to get all of the debris off and any unwanted product buildup.” She notes that you shouldn’t use them in place of your regular shampoo, though—and no more than once a week.

But some hair types should use clarifying shampoo sparingly. “If you have fragile, bleached hair and don’t experience any product buildup, I would steer clear and focus on rehydration,” says Cisneros, who also warns that “if you have pastel colors or red hair color that fades easily, I wouldn’t use clarifying shampoo because it might strip some of the color out.” But if those don’t apply to you, clarifying shampoo may be something you want to try—and we’ve listed 14 below that you can add to your regular hair care routine now. Just don’t forget to finish with a great conditioner

IPSY Picks at a Glance:  

1. Best Budget-Friendly Clarifying Shampoo: NEUTROGENA Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo with Pink Grapefruit

2. Best Hydrating Clarifying Shampoo: LIVING PROOF Perfect hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo

3. Best Overall Clarifying Shampoo: KÉRASTASE Bain Hydra-Fortifiant Shampoo

4. Best Clarifying Shampoo for Natural Hair: MOROCCANOIL Clarifying Shampoo

5. Best Clarifying Shampoo for Fine Hair: ORIBE The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo

6. Best Clarifying Shampoo for Sensitive Scalps: OUAI Detox Shampoo

7. Best Color-Safe Clarifying Shampoo: CHRISTOPHE ROBIN Brightening Shampoo with Camomile and Cornflower

8. Best Clarifying Shampoo For Oily Hair: R+CO Oblivion Clarifying Shampoo

9. Best for Itchy Scalps: BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

10. Best Clarifying Shampoo Oil: AMIKA Reset Pink Charcoal Scalp Cleansing Oil

11. Best Clarifying Spray: COLORWOW Dream Filter Pre-Shampoo Mineral Remover

12. Best Pollution-Fighting Clarifying Shampoo: SLEEK’E Silk’e Repair Therapy Shampoo

13. Best Clarifying Shampoo For Volume: NUUVO Black Clay & Charcoal Detox Shampoo

14. Best Clarifying Shampoo For Curly Hair: PATTERNClarifying Shampoo


About the Expert:

Briana Cisneros is a Wella Professionals North American Ambassador and hair educator.

1. Best Budget-Friendly Clarifying Shampoo:

NEUTROGENA Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo with Pink Grapefruit

NEUTROGENA Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo with Pink Grapefruit
Courtesy of NEUTROGENA

Price: $

Key Ingredients: Pink Grapefruit, Glycerin

Benefits: Clarifying, Gentle, Non-Drying

This simple formula is inexpensive but mighty: Use it once to remove up to 90 percent of product residue, leaving your strands shiner and healthier-looking almost instantly. And because it’s on the mild side, it won’t over-strip your hair of its natural oils, and it’s safe to use on color-treated strands. 

2. Best Hydrating Clarifying Shampoo:

LIVING PROOF Perfect hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo

LIVING PROOF Perfect hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo
Courtesy of LIVING PROOF

Price: $$

Key Ingredients: Activated Charcoal, Anionic Polymer, Witch Hazel Leaf Extract

Benefits: Clarifying, Hydrating, Oil-Absorbing

Because clarifying shampoos, by definition, remove buildup, they can sometimes dry hair out too (which is why you don’t want to overdo it). But this deep-cleansing shampoo from LIVING PROOF contains a scalp moisturizing and soothing complex to help prevent over-drying.

3. Best Overall Clarifying Shampoo:

KÉRASTASE Bain Hydra-Fortifiant Shampoo

KÉRASTASE Bain Hydra-Fortifiant Shampoo
Courtesy of KÉRASTASE

Price: $$$

Key Ingredients: Edelweiss Native Cells, Ginger Root

Benefits: Clarifying, Reduces Breakage, Removes Sebum 

Most of us have experienced the heartache of running our fingers through our hair, only to realize our strands are breaking off and falling out more than we’d like. If this sounds like you, and you’ve noticed your hair breaking more than usual, you may need to start at the root and clear out the buildup. This formula helps strengthen weakened strands, so over time, you may notice way less hair fallout—which is a win in our book.

4. Best Clarifying Shampoo for Natural Hair:

MOROCCANOIL Clarifying Shampoo

MOROCCANOIL Clarifying Shampoo
Courtesy of MOROCCANOIL

Price: $$

Key Ingredients: Argan Oil,  Plant Extracts, Keratin

Benefits: Clarifying, Color-Safe, Strengthening

MOROCCANOIL is known for its nourishing formulas, and their clarifying shampoo is no different. And because it’s rich in vitamin E and fatty acids, plus keratin for extra smoothing properties, it helps nourish natural hair even as it deep cleans. The formula is also infused with panthenol (a.k.a. vitamin B5) to leave hair with a final, glossy finish.

5. Best Clarifying Shampoo for Fine Hair:

ORIBE The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo

ORIBE The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo
Courtesy of ORIBE

Price: $$$

Key Ingredients: Volcanic Ash, Green Tea Extract, Oribe Signature Complex

Benefits: Clarifying, Exfoliating, Strengthening

This shampoo is sure to make your shower routine feel just like a trip to the salon. This mousse transforms into a lather to gently and deeply cleanse without stripping your hair of its natural oils, making it the perfect prep for future hair treatments or to cleanse your scalp before going in for a color or highlight touch-up. Start with once-a-week use and buildup to your desired frequency to purify your hair.

6. Best Clarifying Shampoo for Sensitive Scalps:

OUAI Detox Shampoo

OUAI Detox Shampoo
Courtesy of OUAI

Price: $$

Key Ingredients: Chelating Agents, Apple Cider Vinegar, Hydrolyzed Keratin

Benefits: Clarifying, Exfoliating, Strengthening

Want fresh-feeling hair? Let us show you the OUAI. With gentle ingredients like apple cider vinegar and strengthening keratin proteins, this formula helps you achieve a flake-free, healthier scalp after just one use. If your major hair concerns are excess oils and a flaky scalp, this detox shampoo is what you want to reach for as a new everyday shampoo.

7. Best Color-Safe Clarifying Shampoo:

CHRISTOPHE ROBIN Brightening Shampoo with Camomile and Cornflower

CHRISTOPHE ROBIN Brightening Shampoo with Camomile and Cornflower
Courtesy of CHRISTOPHE ROBIN

Price: $$$

Key Ingredients: Camomile Extract, Cornflower Extract

Benefits: Clarifying, Color-Brightening

It’s not always easy to find a clarifying shampoo that’s safe for color-treated hair—but that’s where this baby comes in. This shampoo will help brighten your color-treated hair without using harsh toners or adding extra chemicals to your strands. Simply use daily until your desired color is achieved, and then once a week after that to maintain.

8. Best Clarifying Shampoo For Oily Hair:

R+CO Oblivion Clarifying Shampoo

R+CO Oblivion Clarifying Shampoo
Courtesy of R+CO

Price: $$

Key Ingredients: Rosemary Leaf extract, Coconut Oil, Tea Tree Oil

Benefits: Clarifying, Purifying, Repairing

Just because you have oily hair doesn’t mean you need to reach for products with harsh chemical ingredients. This one from R+CO is perfect for oily hair types and is mild enough for more frequent use. It’s enriched with rosemary leaf extract, coconut oil, witch hazel, and tea tree oil, which is not only used for acne but can also help naturally remove product buildup from your scalp. Plus, it smells just like paradise (no, really—the scent name is “relative paradise”!).

9. Best for Itchy Scalps:

BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

Price: $$

Key Ingredients: Binchotan Charcoal, Coconut Oil, Peppermint, Spearmint, and Tea Tree Oil Complex

Benefits: Clarifying, Hydrating, Balancing

If you suffer from dandruff, this is the reviving cleanser you want on your side. To save you from annoying itchiness and patches of dry skin, this formula uses Binchotan charcoal, which draws out impurities and balances oily hair, to reduce flakiness and soothe your scalp when it’s irritated. The detox treatment also works as a moisturizer to strengthen your strands with the help of coconut oil, peppermint, and biotin. 

10. Best Clarifying Shampoo Oil:

AMIKA Reset Pink Charcoal Scalp Cleansing Oil

AMIKA Reset Pink Charcoal Scalp Cleansing Oil
Courtesy of AMIKA

Price: $$

Key Ingredients: French pink clay, Charcoal, Oxygen

Benefits: Clarifying, Exfoliating, Detangling 

Don’t think oils can help deep clean? Just wait until you try this treatment, which breaks down buildup and refreshes your scalp so that good hair days happen every day. It’s especially good if you frequently use dry shampoo to stretch those no-wash days (okay, this is all of us). The oil-to-foam formula is free from sulfates, parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, and petrolatum, and it’s even keratin-safe. 

11. Best Clarifying Spray:

COLORWOW Dream Filter Pre-Shampoo Mineral Remover

COLORWOW Dream Filter Pre-Shampoo Mineral Remover
Courtesy of COLORWOW

Price: $$

Key Ingredients: Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Sodium Phytate

Benefits: Clarifying, Color-Brightening, Color-safe

Without using peroxide or dyes, this easy-to-use spray will clear out scalp buildup and debris caused by styling products in minutes. Simply spritz it on before cleansing, leave it on for up to three minutes, then shampoo as normal. It’s especially good for those with blonde, gray, or color-treated hair that looks orange, brassy, or green. 

12. Best Pollution-Fighting Clarifying Shampoo:

SLEEK’E Silk’e Repair Therapy Shampoo

SLEEK’E Silk’e Repair Therapy Shampoo
Courtesy of SLEEK’E

Price: $$

Key Ingredients: Vitamin B5, Citric Acid, Folic Acid

Benefits: Clarifying, Repairing, Protecting

This formula features folic acid, which naturally promotes hair growth, plus vitamin B to strengthen your strands. This shampoo is also vegan (so you can be kind to furry friends), and is made with all-natural ingredients like virgin coconut oil and citric acid. 

13. Best Clarifying Shampoo For Volume:

NUUVO Black Clay & Charcoal Detox Shampoo

NUUVO Black Clay & Charcoal Detox Shampoo
Courtesy of NUUVO

Price: $

Key Ingredients: Aloe Vera, Oat Flower Extract, Black Clay

Benefits: Clarifying, Soothing, Volumizing

This clarifying shampoo is the ultimate multitasker. It’s perfect to use before a color or treatment appointment to soothe scalp irritation and add a bit of volume to fine hair (tip: Use it two days before your appointment!). With ingredients like aloe vera to soothe and charcoal to remove impurities, it’s the ideal starter shampoo to try if you’ve never used purifying washes before.

14. Best Clarifying Shampoo For Curly Hair:

PATTERN Clarifying Shampoo

PATTERN Clarifying Shampoo
Courtesy of PATTERN

Price: $$

Key Ingredients: Rosemary Leaf Extract, Safflower Seed Extract, Aloe Leaf Extract 

Benefits: Clarifying, Color-Safe, Curl-Enhancing 

Curls crave moisture so when looking for the best shampoo for curly hair, pay close attention to the ingredients. This sulfate-free formula removes buildup without stripping away healthy oils, while also keeping the cuticle open to moisture. 

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Article Last Updated May 30, 2022 12:00 AM