Your hair probably goes through a lot. From styling to products to salon appointments, it can get dried out, exposed to heat damage, and get some split ends or breakage. Buildup is another thing you might experience, too, especially if you use a lot of products, have an oily scalp, or even work out a lot. Basically, if your hair looks and feels limp, dull, or heavy, it might be due to excess buildup of leftover hair products or dirt. You might also notice some residue on your scalp when you're dealing with buildup.
So what can you do to get your hair back on track and start with a fresh slate, so to speak? Use a clarifying shampoo. These hard-working shampoos work to deeply cleanse the hair and scalp, making both feel super fresh and "brand new," pretty much.
It's important to note, though, that clarifying shampoos can be drying because they do such a good job with removing all the product grime and dirt. So, it's not something you'll want to use every day. Usage depends on your hair type and needs, but some stylists recommend using it once or twice a month. You can also use a leave-in treatment, conditioner, or mask to keep your strands hydrated.
Take a look at some of the best formulas we love below.
1. Oribe The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo
The cool thing about this shampoo is it's a mousse consistency and lathers up when you mix it with water. It contains volcanic ash to gently exfoliate the hair and scalp, plus sea kelp extract to purify. The formula also features the Oribe Signature Complex (watermelon, lychee, and edelweiss flower extracts), which protects against drying and damage.
2. Drybar On the Rocks Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo
The activated charcoal in this formula removes impurities and product buildup, but it's not super harsh on your hair. It also contains a vegetable protein to strengthen chemically treated or damaged hair.
3. Biolage Normalizing Clean Reset Shampoo
Good for all hair types, this refreshing shampoo removes dirt, impurities, and chlorine. It's safe to use on color-treated and natural hair. One reviewer wrote, "This shampoo not only has a fantastic fragrance, it effectively removed hard water buildup in our family's hair. Our hair is soft and squeaky clean. The shampoo can be drying, so we use it once a week. I highly recommend."
4. Ouai Detox Shampoo
The apple cider vinegar in this shampoo exfoliates and removes flakes and buildup, while hydrolyzed keratin softens and smooths the hair. It also leaves your hair looking shinier.
5. Pattern Clarifying Shampoo
This clarifying shampoo is specially formulated for curly hair. Not only does it gently remove buildup, but it also helps the hair receive moisture and enhances curls. Ingredients include rosemary leaf, safflower seed, and aloe vera extracts.
6. Neutrogena Anti-Residue Clarifying Shampoo
Neutrogena's anti-residue shampoo has over 20,000 ratings on Amazon with 4.5 out of 5 stars. It's non-irritating and it actually can help boost your hair's volume, too. One reviewer wrote, "Great product! This shampoo removed months/years of product buildup in my hair that I didn't even know I had. After just one wash, my hair felt lighter, finer, more voluminous, and I needed fewer styling products to achieve the same results."
7. Leonor Greyl Huile de Germe de Ble Deep Washing Treatment
This sulfate-free, deep cleansing shampoo works to clear the hair and scalp of residue and dirt, while also balancing sebum. Avocado and jojoba oils leave the hair shiny and wheat germ oil and vitamins A and E protect against environmental damage.
8. R+Co Oblivion Clarifying Shampoo
You don't have to worry about this shampoo stripping your hair dry—it contains glycerin to seal moisture in and coconut oil to promote thickness. Other ingredients include rosemary leaf extract, witch hazel, and tea tree oil to purify and remove buildup.
9. Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo
If you have color-treated hair, you can use Moroccanoil's shampoo without worry. It's color-safe and nourishing. One reviewer wrote, "I find that this particular clarifying shampoo is not as stripping on my hair as others are. I color my hair on a regular basis, and usually, these shampoos will make my color bleed, and run like crazy. But not this one! I didn’t notice much of any color, if any, wash away. Very pleased with this! Left my scalp feeling clean, and refreshed."
10. DevaCurl Buildup Buster Gentle Clarifying Cleanser
You can use this clarifying shampoo on all curl types—it's formulated to maintain moisture and smooth your curls. In addition to buildup removal, it also works to detangle the hair and make it more manageable.
11. Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo
Living Proof's detox shampoo removes buildup caused by product, pollution, and hard water. It contains activated charcoal to absorb oil, plus a scalp moisturizing and soothing complex with witch hazel to condition.
12. Love Beauty and Planet Delightful Detox Sulfate-Free Shampoo
This sulfate-free shampoo is formulated with charcoal and bergamot to cleanse the hair and scalp of excess dirt and oil. It's also infused with coconut oil to moisturize and nourish the hair.
13. Malibu C Un-Do-Goo > pH 9 Shampoo
This deep-cleaning shampoo is color-safe and works to remove styling product buildup. The formula is gentle enough so it retains moisture and pumps up the shine factor.
14. Adwoa Beauty Blue Tansy Clarifying Gel Shampoo
The key ingredient in this shampoo is blue-tansy flower oil, which nourishes the hair follicles to promote growth. It also contains jojoba oil to protect against dryness, breakage, and split ends, plus bamboo extract for shine and strength.
You can use this shampoo weekly to clear the hair and scalp of excess oil, product residue, and environmental irritants. In addition to charcoal powder, hops extract, and a coconut fatty acid blend, the formula also contains a healing protein that is similar to keratin, which works to refill keratin and repair damaged hair.
16. Sheamoisture Residue Remover Shampoo
SheaMoisture's clarifying shampoo is safe to use on both natural and synthetic hair. It can get rid of buildup from bonding glue and it won't strip the hair of its natural moisture. One reviewer wrote, "My wig was in need of some serious TLC. This shampoo left my wig nice and clean!"
More Clarifying Products
Sunday Riley's rinse-off serum is a multitasker—it exfoliates the scalp, dissolves oil buildup, and rehydrates the scalp. Ingredients include glycolic and salicylic acids, niacinamide, rose clay, and jasmine essential oil.
Infused with oats and apple cider vinegar, this clarifying rinse rebalances the pH, adds shine, and promotes a healthy scalp.
If your scalp is in need of some TLC, this treatment works to nourish, balance, and stimulate the scalp. It removes buildup while also delivering nutrients. Ingredients include baobab, amaranth, and moringa oils, plus basil leaf.
Christophe Robin's scalp scrub is both purifying and moisturizing, and is specially formulated to rebalance sensitive or oily scalps.
Use this scrub to soothe a dry and itchy scalp—it removes dead skin cells, unclogs pores, and rebalances pH levels. It's also color-safe.