Found: The 10 Best Clarifying Shampoos To Remove Buildup & Soften Your Strands
There are myriad reasons someone might gravitate toward a clarifying shampoo: Perhaps you have an oily scalp that's prone to buildup. Maybe you have notoriously flat hair that's begging for a lift at the roots, or you have low porosity hair that needs extra help to open the hair shaft. Or maybe you just crave that invigorated, scrubbed-clean feeling post-shower—scalp care truly knows no bounds.
Regardless of motive (or hair type, might we add), a clarifying cleanse can transform your dull strands into the soft, shiny locks you adore. Although, finding the best clarifying shampoo for your hair can feel like a grind; you know you'll need potent cleansing agents to effectively clean your scalp, yet you don't want to strip the skin bone-dry (which can lead to even more oil and grease, it turns out).
We should also note here that clarifying shampoos are not for daily use: In fact, only whip these out when you need a seriously thorough cleanse. Because they are so strong, they will be too stripping for hair, causing brittleness, breakage, as well as an irritated scalp. Ultimately, you'll be the judge of how often you need one based on your hair type or scalp condition, but just know that these likely shouldn't be your go-to.
Good news: These 10 selects cater to both concerns, and they're pumped with additional hair-healthy ingredients for a shiny-looking mane. Prepare for a really good hair day.
OUAI Detox Shampoo
Apple cider vinegar is the workhorse in this formula, as it deeply cleanses the scalp and even leads to shiny, soft hair (it brings your hair's pH levels back down and seals the cuticle shut). ACV can also help with dandruff: The acidity makes it a less favorable environment for the yeast to thrive, which can help itchy flakes subside. Massage into your scalp, let it sit for a few minutes, and rinse with cold water for the shiniest of strands.
Detox Shampoo, OUAI ($30)
Davines Purifying Shampoo
This purifying number contains dandelion root extract, which is naturally antimicrobial and rich in polyphenols1—a winning combo for reducing inflammation on the scalp. Coupled with glycerin to hydrate, it’s a top-notch lather.
Purifying Shampoo, Davines ($32)
Shea Moisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Deep Cleansing Shampoo
This shampoo checks all the clarifying boxes: With African black soap, bamboo charcoal, tea tree oil, and willow bark extract (a natural form of salicylic acid), it's able to lift the most stubborn of buildup, then argan and jojoba oil are there to calm and soothe. Of course, we can't forget about the brand's signature certified organic shea butter—thrown into the mix, it makes for quite the well-rounded wash.
African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Deep Cleansing Shampoo, Shea Moisture ($11.99)
Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo
Just as how you might reach for a charcoal face mask to draw impurities from the pores, a charcoal shampoo follows the same beat: This shampoo is infused with Binchotan charcoal to lift excess oil and product buildup from those follicles. It also has coconut oil, which drenches the scalp in moisture (preventing it from over-drying) and panthenol to protect the skin barrier.
Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo, Briogeo ($42)
Hair Rules Aloe-Grapefruit Purifying Shampoo
All of hairstylist Anthony Dickey's products focus on tending to your hair texture and scalp, so you know his purifying shampoo is going to lay on the scalp-healthy ingredients. Specifically, it's formulated with grapefruit oil (which has natural astringent properties—great for grease) and lemongrass extract to help remove buildup. But before you deem it too stripping, rest assured it's pumped with aloe juice and hydrolyzed wheat protein to soothe and strengthen the hair shaft.
Aloe-Grapefruit Purifying Shampoo, Hair Rules ($22.99)
R+Co Oblivion Clarifying Shampoo
Generally, you should only use clarifying shampoos a couple of times a week (perhaps only once if you're prone to scalp dryness), but this formula is actually mild enough to use on the daily. For those who can't seem to escape from greasy hair—this everyday shampoo is here to save your oily locks. Rosemary leaf extract, witch hazel, and tea tree oil are the clarifying superstars, while coconut oil is there to make sure it stays hydrating. Just be mindful that witch hazel doesn't work for every and all scalp types—but if it works for your skin, by all means.
Oblivion Clarifying Shampoo, R+Co ($27)
dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Soothing Shampoo
Lo and behold, another ACV number. Although, this one is arguably gentler than a twice-a-week confection: It's jam-packed with soothing ingredients (think lavender, aloe, and ginseng root extract) that nourish the follicles while you scrub.
Apple Cider Vinegar Soothing Shampoo, dpHUE ($30)
Oribe The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo
Sure, the words volcanic ash may raise a few brows, but this ingredient is actually great for congested hair. It's been used for centuries to cleanse and purify, and it works similarly to activated charcoal—it's able to gently draw out impurities in the scalp and provide a natural lift at the roots. Plus, the product lends quite the fun, foamy application: It has the whipped texture of a mousse yet works into a lather when mixed with water.
The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo, Oribe ($44)
Pattern Clarifying Shampoo
Actress, producer, and activist Tracee Ellis Ross created her debut hair care line specifically with textured curls in mind. And as many curly girls know, there's a delicate balance between clarifying the scalp and drying out those coils (as curlier textures are more prone to dryness). That's why along with cleansing agents—like rosemary leaf extract—her formula is full of moisturizing adds to truly nourish the hair while you wash: aloe, coconut oil, castor oil, and sunflower seed oil, to name a few.
Clarifying Shampoo, Pattern ($20)
IGK First Class Charcoal Detox Clarifying Shampoo
In addition to smelling seriously amazing (an IGK trademark, it seems), this shampoo has the quintessential clean clarifying agents: activated charcoal, witch hazel, and tea tree oil. Just make sure to lather up weekly (perhaps twice a week if you're in dire need of a good cleanse) and follow up with a hydrating conditioner to seal in moisture—the purifying formula can dry out the strands without proper care.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.