If your hair has lost its luster from product buildup, or you just can’t seem to keep the oil down, it might be time for a clarifying shampoo. We’ll tell you about our top picks for the best clarifying shampoo so you can decide which is best for you.
What’s the Best Clarifying Shampoo?
We put our hair care and product experts to work to find the best clarifying shampoos on the market today. Our top picks include both value and luxury price points, as well as a myriad of other highlights for all people and hair types.
Our Top Picks:
- Best Overall: Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo Cleanse & Refine
- Best for Oily Hair: Paul Mitchell Shampoo Two
- Best for Product Buildup: Biolage Normalizing Clean Reset Lemongrass Shampoo
- Best for Dyed Hair: Redken Detox Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo
- Best for Brightening: Kenra Clarifying Shampoo Deep Cleanse
- Best for Allergies: Avalon Organics Natural Shampoo, Clarifying Lemon
- Best for Men: MITCH Heavy Hitter Daily Deep Cleansing Shampoo
We’ll look deeper into what makes these products the best. However, before we dig deeper into the best products, you’ll want to know if and when you might need a clarifying shampoo.
Why You Need a Clarifying Shampoo
Sometimes, you find that your hair isn’t looking its best, no matter what you do. If that’s the case for you, you might consider trying a clarifying shampoo.
The main point of clarifying shampoo is to remove product buildup from your hair. But, how do you know if using a clarifying shampoo might be the right move for restoring your hair?
- Your hair still seems dirty and oily after you wash it
- Your highlights are looking dull
- You can’t get your hair to hold a style
- You often use dry shampoo
- You have excessively oily hair
- You use a lot of styling products
- You swim in a chlorinated pool
- You have hard water
Clarifying shampoo has stronger surfactants than regular shampoo, which remove residue, oil, and other impurities that attach to your hair. So, if the above categories relate to you, it might be time to try a clarifying shampoo to bring your hair back to life.
But, honestly, everyone should keep a clarifying shampoo in their hair-care arsenal to remove buildup from time to time. You’ll be surprised at how much shinier and healthier your hair becomes when you add it into your hair care routine.
Best Clarifying Shampoo: Our Top 7 Picks
Let’s take a look at the best clarifying shampoos on the market in 2023. Each one is a little different, so you’ll want to read on to figure out which one will be best for you.
1. Best Overall: Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo
Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo is the best and most popular shampoo because it features plant-based, natural ingredients and works for all hair types, including color-treated hair. The first time you use it, you will notice an immediate difference.
It leaves hair full and shiny. Beyond being a clarifier for removing excess hair products, Degrease is especially good for people who have naturally oily hair. It can help keep oily hair under control when other shampoos have failed. However, those with oily hair may need to use it daily for continued results.
You will need to shampoo the product into your hair twice, letting it sit for 2-3 minutes each time to get the best results. It won’t foam up as much the first time as the second time, but that’s normal for a natural shampoo.
2. Best for Oily Hair: Paul Mitchell Shampoo Two
Paul Mitchell’s Shampoo Two formula clarifies and removes buildup from hair, and is especially good for naturally oily hair. It helps restore oily hair to its natural state, leaving your hair healthy, and bouncy without stripping your hair.
People who normally have to wash their hair daily report that they can go more days between washes with Shampoo Two. If your hair has become so oily that it won’t even hold hair dye, then this may be the right clarifying shampoo for you.
However, it’s not formulated for color-treated hair. Thus, you should only use it a couple of times a month to prevent fading your color faster. It’s important to work the shampoo into your scalp and let it sit for a while to help break down all the residue buildup.
You may end up needing to wash and rinse a couple of times to get the full effect, and it will suds up once it has done its work. You’ll also want to follow up with a deep conditioner like Paul Mitchell’s Super-Charged Treatment.
3. Best for Product Buildup: Biolage Normalizing Clean Reset
- Refreshing lemongrass scent
- Works for all hair types
- Doesn’t dry out hair
- Sometimes leaves behind a residue
- Overdries the scalp for some people
Biolage Normalizing Clean Reset is an excellent product for removing hair product buildup in hair, whether it be from styling products or shampoo and conditioner. It will work when other products have failed.
The product will leave your hair feeling shiny and lighter without excess oils. It’s also great if you have naturally oily hair and normally need to use dry shampoo to keep the oil down between washes.
This product is also excellent for keeping hair looking nice if you have soft water with lots of chlorine in it or spend a lot of time swimming in a chlorinated pool and need to wash your hair daily. It won’t cause your scalp to over-produce oils like some shampoos do.
4. Best for Dyed Hair: Redken Detox Hair Cleansing Cream
Redken Detox Hair Cleansing Cream can remove all types of buildups from your hair, including hair care products, hard water, oil, and pollution buildup. It includes AHA Fruit Acid and Cleansing Complex to strengthen and deep-clean your hair.
If hard water mineral or product buildup has left your hair limp, you’ll appreciate how much softer, shinier, and bouncy your hair will have after use. Even your scalp will feel moisturized. It even works on fine and fragile hair without overdrying or thinning.
If you’ve had difficulty with your hair coloring evenly because of oil or product buildup, you’ll like how much more evenly your hair dyes after using Redken Detox. It also helps restore life and luster to dyed and highlighted hair.
5. Best for Brightening: Kenra Clarifying Shampoo
Kenra Clarifying Shampoo helps remove 99% of buildup from hair products as well as mineral deposits from hard water and well water. If you have grey, highlighted, or bleached hair, it also works as a brightener.
It also contains mica to help promote shine and restoration and will leave your hair squeaky clean. It shouldn’t dry out your hair. In fact, it’s really great for removing dry scalp flakes.
However, you’ll end up with the best results pairing it with a nice conditioner like Kenra Moisturizing Conditioner. Kenra is color-safe as long as you only use it once a week. However, you should expect it to wash out some of the color if you use it immediately after dying.
6. Best for Allergies: Avalon Organics Natural Clarifying Lemon
If you have allergies to common shampoo ingredients like Cocamidopropyl Betaine, it can be difficult to find a good shampoo, let alone a clarifying one. When you do, it usually smells like patchouli or ends up being discontinued.
However, Avalon has been a trusted name in organic hair care products for a long time, so it’s not going away any time soon. Plus, it smells like freshly-squeezed lemons and has more lather than lots of natural shampoos.
Avalon’s lemon shampoo has all organic, vegan ingredients and is phthalate-free, sulfate-free, and paraben-free. So, you can feel good about what you’re putting on your hair. Plus, it clarifies and leaves your hair shiny, healthy, soft, and squeaky clean.
However, it is a little strong, so it’s a good idea to use a robust conditioner with it. After using this product, you’ll find that your hair stays looking and feeling clean for two to four days unless you get it dirty from sweating.
7. Best for Men: MITCH Heavy Hitter
- Doesn’t strip away natural oils
- Helps with dandruff
- Can cause hair to thin with everyday use
MITCH Heavy Hitter is a good choice if you’re looking for a clarifying shampoo with a more manly scent. It has a masculine, woodsy smell that won’t leave your hair smelling like a flower garden while getting rid of daily buildup from other hair care products.
The scent is a fresh and invigorating scent similar to Burbury cologne. Even though it’s not listed as a dandruff shampoo, you won’t find yourself experiencing dandruff problems while you use it. It also won’t dry out your hair.
However, you won’t want to use it every day of the week because some people find that it ends up thinning their hair over time. When you order, be sure to choose the shampoo-only version rather than the 2-in-1 version because the 2-in-1 version doesn’t work the same.
Finding the Best Clarifying Shampoo for You
Different surfactants have different benefits for your hair. Noticing what ingredients are in your clarifying shampoo can help you understand which benefits to expect. Choose a shampoo with these ingredients if you need the deepest clean:
- Alpha-olefin sulfonate
- Ammonium laureth sulfate
- Ammonium-sodium lauryl sulfate
- Sodium lauryl sulfate
- Sodium-olefin sulfonate
Choose a shampoo with these ingredients if you need a milder cleanser:
- Chlorides (also softens hair)
- Bromides (also softens hair)
- Cetyl-fatty alcohols
Read Next: 10 Ingredients in Shampoo to Avoid
How Often You Plan to Use It
If you use a clarifying shampoo more than a couple of times per week, it will leave your hair dull and dry. You will notice this effect even more if you choose a product containing the deepest-cleaning ingredients.
If you plan to use a clarifier on your hair a couple of times per week, you will want to choose one with milder ingredients. However, if you only use a clarifying shampoo for occasional buildup issues, choose one with stronger ingredients.
Having Color-Treated Hair
If you have color-treated hair, the heavy surfactants in a clarifying product can end up damaging your hair color. Thus, it’s important to check the label to find out if it’s color-safe or not. If the label doesn’t say that it’s color-safe, you can assume that it’s not.
Skin and Scalp Conditions
If you have a skin or scalp condition like dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, or psoriasis, you’ll need ingredients like salicylic acid that help control these conditions.
Otherwise, the product may not be suitable. Surfactants in clarifying products can even worsen these conditions by drying out your scalp and making it produce more oils.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between clarifying shampoo and regular shampoo?
Regular shampoo can leave a buildup on hair shafts, while the formula of a clarifying shampoo helps to remove that buildup. The surfactants that get rid of residue and oils in your hair are much stronger in clarifying shampoo than in regular shampoo.
Is a clarifying shampoo really necessary?
Most hair care experts recommend using a clarifying shampoo occasionally to remove hair buildup. So, if you feel like your hair has become dull from excess buildup, a clarifying shampoo may be able to help.
What can I use if I don’t have clarifying shampoo?
You can mix a tablespoon of baking soda with two tablespoons of white vinegar for a homemade hair clarifier. Of course, it’s not going to smell very pleasant.
Is baby shampoo a clarifying shampoo?
While baby shampoos don’t generally contain sulfates and harsh cleansers, they are not formulated to be clarifying shampoos.
Can you use Dawn as a clarifying shampoo?
The ingredients that help Dawn dishwashing liquid to remove oils from your dishes can help remove oil buildup from your hair. However, it won’t have the softening or moisturizing qualities you may find in some clarifying shampoos.
So, What’s the Best Clarifying Shampoo?
The most popular and best clarifying shampoo is Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo. However, we have included six others on our list that have advantages for oily hair, product buildup, dyed hair, brightening, allergies, and men. Now, it shouldn’t be difficult to find one that will work best for your hair needs.