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Which clarifying shampoos are best?

Our hair is constantly being inundated with harsh ingredients, from hard water to chlorine to hair products. Even some shampoos and conditioners can leave behind buildup long after they’re washed out. One way to combat these issues is to use a specially formulated clarifying shampoo.  

Everyone’s hair is different, so it might take some searching to find the ideal clarifying shampoo for your hair type. However, if you’re looking for non-stripping clarifying shampoo that’s safe for color-treated hair, the Living Proof Perfect hair Day (PhD) Triple Detox Shampoo is an ideal choice.

What to know before you buy a clarifying shampoo

What clarifying shampoo is

Clarifying shampoos are essentially a deep cleanser for your hair. Just as there are deep conditioning masks to condition your hair better than a normal conditioner, a clarifying shampoo is meant to cleanse your hair even better than a regular shampoo. 

What separates a clarifying shampoo from your everyday shampoo are the ingredients. In addition to cleansing your hair, standard shampoos contain moisturizers and other mild ingredients to protect or nourish the hair and keep it from being stripped by the cleanser. 

The ingredients in a clarifying shampoo are more potent than those of a regular shampoo. Most formulas contain special ingredients that act as a magnet to attract the impurities in your hair and wash them away. Because it is a harsher formulation, most clarifying shampoos are not meant to be used every day. 

Who can use clarifying shampoo

Almost anyone can use a clarifying shampoo. However, there are a few reasons why someone might need to use a clarifying shampoo. 

  • If you swim in a pool with chlorine, a clarifying shampoo can help keep your hair from turning green or get rid of green-tinged hair.
  • If your home has hard water, you most likely have a buildup of minerals in your hair, keeping moisture from penetrating your strands. A clarifying shampoo is recommended to get rid of the mineral buildup. 
  • If you often use leave-in hair products like dry shampoo, those products can linger in your hair and slowly build up, even if you use a regular shampoo. Using a clarifying shampoo will completely clear out the leftover product. 

How to use clarifying shampoo

Most people need to use clarifying shampoo about one to two times per month. However, if you swim frequently or have hard water, you could benefit from using a clarifying shampoo once a week. However, because clarifying shampoos are strong, you shouldn’t use them more than once a week. 

As needed, use a clarifying shampoo in place of your usual shampoo, making sure to follow it with a conditioner. If you have dry hair, using a hair mask after your clarifying shampoo will keep your hair from drying out and breaking.

What to look for in a quality clarifying shampoo


All clarifying shampoos are harsher than everyday shampoos because they are formulated to deep clean your hair. However, some ingredients make a clarifying shampoo harsher than others. For example, sulfates can strip colored hair. So if you have colored hair, check that your clarifying shampoo is sulfate-free. If you have very dry or dehydrated hair, check that a clarifying shampoo contains hydrating ingredients. 


The majority of shampoos and conditioners are scented. If you choose a shampoo with a strong smell, you’ll want to make sure you like it before purchasing a large bottle. However, if you’re sensitive to fragrance, opt for a fragrance-free formula. 


Clarifying shampoos often come in much smaller bottles than your everyday shampoo, since they aren’t used as often. When deciding which clarifying shampoo to buy, it’s important to compare the size to the price and ensure it’s cost-effective.

How much you can expect to spend on clarifying shampoo

Since there are high and low-end options with a myriad of different ingredients, you can expect to spend between $5-$40 on a clarifying shampoo.

Clarifying shampoo FAQ

Is clarifying shampoo safe for eczema-prone skin? 

A. Since clarifying shampoos are designed to strip hair of all the build-up left behind, they can be harsh on the scalp. While there are options more suitable for sensitive skin, it’s best to consult your doctor before using a clarifying shampoo.

Can I make my own clarifying shampoo with apple cider vinegar?

A. It’s not recommended to make your own clarifying shampoo. Clarifying shampoos are specially formulated with quality ingredients and precise amounts of those ingredients to be safe and effective. A DIY clarifying shampoo could be ineffective or even damaging to your hair or skin. 

What’s the best clarifying shampoo to buy?

Top clarifying shampoo

Living Proof Perfect hair Day (PhD) Triple Detox Shampoo

Living Proof Perfect hair Day (PhD) Triple Detox Shampoo

What you need to know: Free of silicone and sulfates, this clarifying shampoo is non-stripping and safe for those who color their hair.

What you’ll love: This shampoo is formulated to remove buildup caused by pollution, product use and hard water while still being gentle on hair. It also contains activated charcoal to remove oil from the hair and scalp.

What you should consider: It’s a little on the expensive side and comes in a smaller tube.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Sephora and Ulta

Top clarifying shampoo for the money

Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Clarify and Shine Shampoo

Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Clarify and Shine Shampoo

What you need to know: For a cost-effective option, this clarifying shampoo is packed with soothing ingredients. 

What you’ll love: Since it’s free of sulfates, dyes and parabens, this clarifying shampoo is safe for color-treated hair. Colloidal oatmeal, the first ingredient, is soothing and recommended to those with sensitive skin.

What you should consider: This shampoo contains silicone and isn’t as hydrating as some other options.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo

What you need to know: Those with dry hair will appreciate this hydrating formula that still gets hair clean.

What you’ll love: This shampoo has a variety of quality ingredients, including argan and avocado oils, essential fatty acids and lavender, chamomile and jojoba plant extracts. It also has the signature Moroccanoil scent. 

What you should consider: Since it’s a concentrated formula, it could be too strong for some hair types.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Sephora


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Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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