14 Clarifying Shampoos for When Your Hair Needs a Serious Deep Clean

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No matter whether your hair and scalp are oily, you live somewhere with hard water, or you just love going five days in between washes and loading up on dry shampoo in the meantime, you can benefit from a clarifying shampoo. Formulated with higher levels of cleansing ingredients, think of these as shampoos on steroids, souped-up versions that are extra-effective at de-gunking both your hair and scalp. And whereas they once came with the connotation of being harsh, drying, and stripping (and understandably so), the latest versions are none of the above, doing the heavy-hitting cleansing without taking a toll on your hair.

Meet the Expert

John Mouzakis is a stylist and co-owner of 3rd Coast Salon in Chicago. He has over a decade of experience in the industry, working as both a hairstylist and educator across the globe.

Use any one of the best clarifying shampoos below and prepare to be amazed at how fresh and clean your hair looks afterward.

Our Top Picks
This sudsy shampoo whisks away all kinds of excess residue, gunk, and grime.
This pick only costs a few dollars, and it's gentle, pH-balanced formula gets the job done.
Trust us, this luxurious shampoo feels like a high-end hair treatment and not just a boring clarifying shampoo.
Best Splurge, Runner-Up:
Ouai Detox Shampoo at Sephora
This splurge-worthy pick is lightweight, removes hard water deposits, and makes hair super soft.
This affordable shampoo, featuring apple cider vinegar, deep cleans both the scalp and hair.
This touts two oil-absorbing ingredients to sop up excess grease and remove odors, residue, and other unwanted gunk and grime.
This cleanser uses sulfate-free surfactants to clean without removing your color.
This pick purifies your hair and scalp while making sure your curls aren't stripped of their natural moisture.
Best for All Hair Types:
Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo at Amazon
For any and every hair type and texture, this formula gets the clarifying job done but also delivers plenty of moisture.
Best for Sensitive Scalps:
Girl+Hair Clarifying ACV Rinse at Amazon
If you have a sensitive scalp, this apple cider vinegar shampoo is gentle enough not to cause any irritation.

Best Overall: Davines SOLU Shampoo

Davines SOLU Shampoo
What We Like
  • Works for all hair types

  • Transforms into light foam

  • Adds plenty of shine

What We Don't Like
  • May strip color

This sudser is a go-for for Byrdie Senior Editor Karli Bendlin, and it's so clarifying that it’s meant to be used to deep clean hair before a perm. But trust us, go ahead and use it whether or not you’re getting a perm. It quickly transforms into an airy foam that whisks away all kinds of excess residue, gunk, and grime, all while leaving hair with mega-watt shine.

Size: 8.45 fluid ounces | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget: Suave Essentials Daily Clarifying Shampoo

Suave Essentials Daily Clarifying Shampoo
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Gentle formula

What We Don't Like
  • Can be drying

Not quite sold on the fact that you need a clarifying shampoo and/or just don’t want to shell out the big bucks for one? This guy will cost you a few dollars, a very small price to pay regardless, but even more so when you consider the efficacy. Gentle and pH-balanced, it still gets the job done and also has a very lovely, fresh scent.

Size: 12 fluid ounces | Scent: Fresh | Sulfate-Free: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Splurge: ORIBE The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo

ORIBE The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo
What We Like
  • Nourishing

  • Unique mousse consistency

  • Exfoliates scalp

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

There’s no sugar-coating it—there’s something about the idea of a clarifying shampoo that just feels, well, kind of clinical. But trust us, there’s none of that with this luxurious shampoo, which has high-end hair treatment vibes. The whipped foam boasts a luscious texture and high-end scent (in true Oribe fashion), though that doesn’t keep it from being a heavy-hitting treatment, using volcanic ash to exfoliate your scalp and hair and take oil and product build-up with it.

Size: 7.1 fluid ounces | Scent: Cote d’Azur | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Splurge, Runner-Up: Ouai Detox Shampoo

Ouai Detox Shampoo
What We Like
  • Combines clarifying and chelating benefits

  • Smells great

  • Lightweight

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

  • Should only be used weekly

“This is a lighter clarifying shampoo that leaves hair softer than many other formulas do,” says Mouzakis of another one of his picks. It lathers up nicely and contains both apple cider vinegar for clarifying purposes and chelating agents to remove hard water deposits. There’s also strengthening keratin in the mix, always a nice plus.

Size: 10 fluid ounces | Scent: Ouai’s Melrose Place scent | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Let it sit on your hair for a few minutes before rinsing to reap the best benefits. 

Best Drugstore: Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo

aveeno
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Adds plenty of shine

  • Volumizing

What We Don't Like
  • Can be drying

The namesake ingredient in this pick (ACV, obvi) deep cleans both your scalp and hair but also comes with soothing oats to help calm a stressed-out scalp. Sulfate-, paraben-, and dye-free, it’s another great pick for colored hair and also happens to add plenty of shine and volume, too.

Size: 12 fluid ounces | Scent: Fruity | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Oily Hair: Amika Reset Clarifying Gel Shampoo

Amika Reset Scalp Clarifying Gel Shampoo
What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Contains effective oil-removing ingredients

What We Don't Like
  • Can be drying

Those with oily hair can benefit from incorporating a clarifying shampoo, like this one, into their routine. This touts two oil-absorbing ingredients more often found in skincare—pink clay and charcoal—to not only sop up excess grease but also remove all kinds of odors, residue, and other unwanted gunk and grime. The lightweight gel-to-foam texture that won’t weigh down your hair is another plus, given that those with oily hair also tend to have finer hair.

Size: 6.7 fluid ounces | Scent: Cote d’Azur | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Colored Hair: Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo
What We Like
  • Safe for color-treated hair

  • Combines clarifying and chelating benefits

What We Don't Like
  • Can be drying

If you color your hair, proceed with caution when using a clarifying shampoo. After all, by definition, they’re more stripping than traditional formulas, which can spell disaster when it comes to unwanted color fading. That being said, there are plenty of options out there that are safe for colored hair, which can also benefit from a deep clean every once in a while.

Take this option, for example. It boasts a litany of different ingredients to get the job done: an anionic polymer that removes product residue, chelating agents that attach to dulling minerals in hard water, charcoal to absorb excess oil, and sulfate-free surfactants to clean without removing your color.

Size: 5.4 fluid ounces | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Curly Hair: Pattern Beauty Clarifying Shampoo

Pattern Clarifying Shampoo
What We Like
  • Moisturizes and hydrates

  • Contains antioxidants

  • Recyclable packaging

What We Don't Like
  • Strong scent

Does curly hair ever need a clarifying shampoo? The short answer is yes. Not only do those with curly hair tend to go longer in between washes, but they also tend to use more product, both factors that up the need of reaching for a clarifying formula occasionally.

Make it this pick, from the brand created by Tracee Ellis Ross to specially address the (unique) needs of curly girls everywhere. In this case, that means purifying your hair and scalp but also making sure your curls aren’t stripped of their natural moisture, thanks to ingredients such as aloe vera and panthenol.

Size: 7.8 fluid ounces | Scent: Jasmine, bergamot, sandalwood | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for All Hair Types: Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo

Bright turquoise blue bottle of shampoo on a white background.
What We Like
  • Works for all hair types

  • Safe for color-treated hair

  • Moisturizes and hydrates

  • Strengthening

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Have fine, straight hair? This is a great option for you. Blessed with thick curls? Yep, still a great option. For any and every hair type and texture, this formula gets the clarifying job done but also delivers plenty of moisturizing argan and avocado oils, as well as strengthening keratin in the process. Oh, and it’s safe for colored hair, too.

Size: 8.5 fluid ounces | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Scalps: Girl+Hair Clarifying Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

Girl and Hair Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse
What We Like
  • Tingly, refreshing feeling

  • Balances scalp pH

  • Targeted nozzle for easy application

What We Don't Like
  • Small bottle

For those whose scalp is on the sensitive side, the last thing you want to do is use a more intense or overly harsh shampoo that can cause further dryness and possible irritation. Instead, reach for this rinse. While you use it as a shampoo, it relies on apple cider vinegar rather than detergents to remove residue and help balance your scalp’s pH, and there are also hydrating shea butter and oil-absorbing tea tree oil in the mix, too. Plus, the targeted nozzle makes it easy to apply directly to your scalp.

Size: 10.1 fluid ounces | Scent: Apple | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Heavy Duty Build-Up: Unite Weekender Shampoo

Unite Weekender Shampoo
What We Like
  • Safe for color-treated hair

  • Smells great

What We Don’t Like
  • Should only be used weekly

This is a top pick for stylist John Mouzakis, co-owner of 3rd Coast Salon in Chicago. The caveat? Use it just once a week; it will help clarify your scalp and hair without stripping natural oils or color. It’s safe for chemically-treated hair and extensions, too, and the refreshing, mandarin-lemon scent is a nice bonus.

Size: 8 fluid ounces | Scent: Citrus | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for City Dwellers: Redken Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo

Redken Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo
What We Like
  • Adds plenty of shine

  • Combines clarifying and chelating benefits

What We Don’t Like
  • May strip color

Stash this in your shower if you live in a city. Mouzakis says it helps remove not only product build-up but also pollution residue and minerals found in hard water (copper, iron, magnesium, calcium) that can change both the texture and color of your hair. Plus, the formula is pH balanced to help keep hair looking and feeling healthy and shiny.

Size: 8.5 fluid ounces | Scent: Citrus | Sulfate-Free: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Flaky Scalps: Ameliorate Clarifying Shampoo

Ameliorate Clarifying Shampoo
What We Like
  • Can be used daily

  • Trichologist-approved

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Clarifying shampoos can be a good way to help remove dead skin on the scalp… so long as the formula isn’t too stripping, which can end up exacerbating the situation. Enter this option. The mild shampoo clarifies but contains ingredients such as prebiotics and a unique hydration complex to help soothe your scalp while still getting rid of flakes. Plus, it can be used daily.

Size: 8.4 fluid ounces | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Natural: Alodia Nourish and Heal Organic Black Soap Hair Wash

Alodia Nourish and Heal Organic Black Soap Hair Wash
What We Like
  • Natural and organic

  • Works for all hair types

  • Affordable

What We Don’t Like
  • Watery texture can take getting used to

The ingredient list of this deep cleansing formula is super minimal and entirely natural and organic, think of things such as tea tree oil and cocoa seed powder to help break down gunk and residue that can clog the hair follicles. It’s safe and effective for all hair types and a great option for those sporting styles such as locs and weaves, too.

Size: 8 fluid ounces | Scent: Minty | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Unknown | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Final Verdict

When your hair (and/or scalp) needs a deep clean, reach for a clarifying shampoo. The Davines SOLU Shampoo (view at Davines) is our top choice, super-effective yet non-stripping and imparting plenty of shine. If you’re looking for a splurge-worthy pick, consider the Oribe The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo (view at Sephora) or the Ouai Detox Shampoo (view at Sephora), both of which also offer tons of other added benefits—and smell amazing. On the flip side, the Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo (view at Amazon) is a top drugstore pick, while the Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo (view at Sephora) is our recommendation for those who have colored hair since the formula is non-stripping. (Just make sure to pair it with a conditioner.)

What to Look for in a Clarifying Shampoo

Sulfate-Free

Ideally, you want a sulfate-free formula so that it won’t overdry your hair (since clarifying formulas can already innately be a bit more drying).

Hydrating and Strengthening Ingredients

Similarly, options that contain moisturizing ingredients (oils, butters) as well as strengthening ingredients such as keratin or biotin are also a nice way to ensure the health of your hair. 

FAQ
  • What are the benefits of clarifying shampoos?

    "Clarifying shampoos help remove build-up on your hair and scalp and can be especially beneficial if you regularly use styling products as hairsprays and waxes," says Mouzakis.

  • How often should you use clarifying shampoos?

    Mouzakis recommends using one no more often than weekly. “Overuse can end up stripping out color and drying out the scalp,” he cautions.

  • How long do clarifying shampoos take to work?

    According to Mouzakis, they’ll work in just one use. For the best results, let the shampoo sit on your hair for a few minutes before rinsing. And if you feel like you have a lot of build-up on your hair, you can even shampoo twice in a row, he says.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She colors her hair, so is judicious about using clarifying shampoos but tends to do so at least once a month or so or whenever she feels like her hair is feeling especially oily and/or generally weighed down.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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