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No matter whether your hair and scalp skew 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 tresses.
Use any one of the best clarifying shampoos below and prepare to be amazed at how fresh and clean your hair looks afterward.
This sudser is a go-for for Byrdie Email Editor Karli Bendlin, so clarifying that it’s actually 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.
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, hypoallergenic, and pH-balanced, it still gets the job done, and also has a very lovely, fresh scent.
There’s no sugar-coating it—there’s something about the idea of a clarifying shampoo that just feels, well, kind of medicinal and 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 detoxifier, using volcanic ash to exfoliate your scalp and hair and take oil and product build-up with it.
The namesake ingredient in this pick (ACV, obvi) deep cleans both your scalp and strands, 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.
Those with oily hair can definitely 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 weight down your hair is another plus, given that those with oily hair also tend to have finer hair.
As the name suggests, this is a great clarifying option if you have hard water (AKA water laden with minerals that can leave your hair dull, dry, and dingy). It removes those minerals—and other gunk and grime—but deposits strengthening proteins and hydrating ingredients simultaneously, a major boon if your tresses could use a little extra TLC. Not to mention that there are also protective antioxidants in the formula to help ward off future damage.
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 totally safe for colored strands, 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.
Does curly hair ever need a clarifying shampoo? The short answer is yes, definitely. 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 spirals aren’t stripped of their natural moisture, thanks to ingredients such as aloe vera and panthenol.
Have fine, straight strands? 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.
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 onto your scalp.
Falling into a similar category as clarifying shampoos, you may have heard whisperings that you should be using a scalp scrub. And yes, there is truth to that, so why not combine these two ancillary products into a much more convenient one-stop-shop? Enter this multi-tasker, a whipped shampoo that uses Himalayan salt to buff away dead skin cells on your scalp, while also deep cleaning strands from roots to tips. And FYI, it also foams up surprisingly well.
If you’re a clarifying shampoo veteran and really want to take your game up a notch—and/or you just really, really need to deep clean your hair and scalp—reach for this serum. More treatment than shampoo, this is one of those products that you pull out when it’s time to call in the big guns.
How it works: Apply the formula directly onto your scalp and let it sit for anywhere from three to 30 minutes before shampooing and conditioning as usual. The formula uses exfoliating glycolic acid, oil-zapping salicylic acid, plus astringent rose clay to *completely* clean your scalp, creating a squeaky clean foundation. And while it does need to be washed out, the formula has a micellar water base, so it rinses cleanly.