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When hair is in need of a really deep clean—like the kind that needs to tackle a week’s worth of product buildup—a clarifying shampoo will get the job done.
While all shampoos are cleansing, clarifying shampoos are much more efficient at the task, formulated with ingredients that are capable of removing excess oils, flakes, pollution and layers of styling creams, sprays, gels, and powders from the hair and scalp.
Ouai Detox Shampoo ($30) at Sephora.
On top of handling product buildup, many formulas help rinse away chlorine from swimming pools and minerals from hard water, which can warp hair color and leave hair feeling dry and brittle if left unattended for too long.
Some of the best clarifying shampoos are also multitasking, meaning in addition to cleansing they will also boost moisture, strengthen hair, promote scalp health and more.
Ahead, 10 standout options to shop now.
On top of its impressive strengthening and cleansing qualities, thanks to apple cider vinegar and keratin, Ouai’s Detox Shampoo wins the title of best-smelling. It’s scented with the brand’s signature Melrose Place fragrance, which holds notes of bergamot, lychee, cedarwood and white musk.
While technically a clarifying pre-shampoo treatment, this spray-on product is truly outstanding at removing impurities and minerals that collect on hair from hard water. It’s meant to be used on dry hair and left on for three minutes. After rinsing, shampooing, conditioning and styling, hair is said to feel noticeably lighter and softer.
Like many other Aveeno products, this sulfate-free clarifying shampoo utilizes colloidal oat extract for a soothing effect on the scalp. Reviewers sing its praises for leaving hair smooth, soft and shiny. And at $7 a bottle, it’s a hard deal to beat.
What really sets this clarifying shampoo apart from the rest is its unique gel-to-foam texture. The formula’s blend of pink clay and charcoal works to absorb oils, dirt, and product buildup that collects on the scalp.
Some clarifying shampoos have a bad reputation of drying out hair, but Taraji P. Henson’s gel shampoo is made with honey to actually boost hair’s moisture levels. Scalp health is another main focus of this standout formula—willowbark extract exfoliates while aloe soothes.
Living Proof’s product is dubbed “triple detox” for a reason. The high-powered formula works to remove product buildup, pollution and metals from hard water from the hair. The scalp gets attention, too, with oil-absorbing charcoal and a witch hazel-infused complex that forms a lipid layer to soothe and support the scalp’s barrier. It’s perfect for a deep, once-a-week cleanse when dry shampoo usage has hit its peak.
Tracee Ellis Ross’s clarifying shampoo gets tons of five-star reviews for gently cleansing curls and coils without stripping the hair of moisture and for its light jasmine, bergamot and sandalwood fragrance. The formula is infused with a trio of ingredients—matcha green tea, aloe vera and panthenol—to strengthen the hair, too.
With so many charcoal shampoos out there, it can be difficult to know which one is worth coveted space in your shower. IGK’s comes out on top for many reviewers who note the activated charcoal and tea tree oil-infused formula leaves hair feeling super clean and soft.
Not only can chlorine leave hair dry, brittle and prone to breakage, but the chemical found in swimming pools can also wreak havoc on hair color—specifically causing brassiness or turning lighter hair colors green. If swimming is a regular part of your weekly schedule, consider adding a chlorine-removing shampoo, like this cult-favorite formula from Paul Mitchell, into your wash routine.
While ridding hair of excess oil, product buildup, and minerals, Kristin Ess’s incredibly popular formula also works to give hair added volume and a shiny glow.