This Is How Clarifying Shampoos Get Your Hair Ultra-Clean

Plus, discover some of our experts' go-to products.

woman smiling while washing hair in shower
Photo: Ridofranz / Getty Images

Has your hair been looking dull, limp, or lifeless? As much as you may want to pump it full of product in an attempt to revitalize your strands, many stylists recommend doing the opposite. That's where clarifying shampoos come into play. These products are able to remove all the gunk that could be making your hair look heavy and weighed down. Intrigued? Keep reading to find out how (and why) to incorporate them into your routine—plus, discover some of our expert's favorite formulas.

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What are clarifying shampoos?

So often, clarifying shampoos are thought of as formulas that strip the hair. While that's true to some extent—they do safely remove the build-up of product, oils, and chemicals from the surface of the scalp and strands—it's more accurate to think of their effect as a thorough clean. According to Aveda's global artistic director of hair cutting, Ricardo Dinis, "Clarifying shampoos are deep cleansers that are designed to detox or purify your hair from stubborn build up." As for how they differ from conventional formulas? "Most shampoos are made to gently cleanse your hair with a lower amount of cleaning agents compared to moisturizing ingredients," Dinis explains. "In comparison, clarifying shampoos are all about the cleaning. They contain fewer conditioning agents and more surfactants in order to clean as thoroughly as possible."

What are the benefits of deep cleansing?

A deep cleanse has many benefits for your scalp and hair; it can make the latter look shinier and healthier and reduce flakes or itchy sensations on the former. The reason for this, says celebrity stylist and R+Co co-founder Garren, is that clarifying shampoos remove product build-up, oil, and flaky skin—all of which can hinder the appearance of healthy hair—while clarifying the hair shaft and rebalancing strands on the whole. "When we're layering pomades and mousses and sprays over each other, we need to remove that build-up and start with a fresh slate," he explains. In addition to removing dirt, dead skin cells, and product build-up, Dinis adds that these cleansers can also wash away mineral deposits from hard water, like chlorine and other minerals (which are most often found in swimming pools).

Who should use a clarifying shampoo?

If you use a lot of styling products that contain silicones and waxes or take frequent dips in the pool, you should own a clarifying shampoo, Dinis notes. Of course, they have a function outside of these two scenarios. According to celebrity hairstylist and artistic director Paul Labrecque of Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa, clarifying shampoos come in handy before chemical treatments and coloring services, as well. "They can remove any barriers on your strands before undergoing treatment," he explains, noting that the end look and feel will be better as a result.

How often should you use a clarifying shampoo?

While some clarifying shampoos are gentle enough for daily use, Garren recommends testing one out once per week and increasing frequency on a case-by-case basis. "You can usually tell when your hair needs it. You might notice that it is dull and weighed down—or you're not seeing the usual results from your favorite shampoo, conditioner, or styling products," he shares.

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Aveda Rosemary Mint Purifying Shampoo
Courtesy of Nordstrom

Dinis recommends this shampoo from Aveda which feels clarifying on contact thanks to tingly mint; micelles and white vinegar gently remove build-up, leaving smoother, stronger hair in their wake.

Shop Now: Aveda Rosemary Mint Purifying Shampoo, $18,

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R+Co Oblivion Clarifying Shampoo
Courtesy of Dermstore

Garren, on the other hand, sings the praises of R+Co's formula. The trick to this product? Let it sit for two minutes before you rinse it out.

Shop Now: R+Co "Oblivion" Clarifying Shampoo, $27,

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Lasio Hypersilk Replenishing Shampoo
Courtesy of Amazon

Infused with keratin to bolster strands from root to tip, Lasio's formula is as nourishing as it is clarifying, notes Labrecque.

Shop Now: Lasio "Hypersilk" Replenishing Shampoo, $26.50,

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Suave Essentials Daily Clarifying Shampoo
Courtesy of Target

You can't beat the price of this clarifying option from Suave (it's under $3), which has quite the cult following. Though it can be used once per day, we'd suggest incorporating the product into your shower routine once a week—it really works.

Shop Now: Suave Essentials Daily Clarifying Shampoo, $2.29,

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Oribe The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo
Courtesy of Dermstore

And if you are looking to splurge? Bookmark Oribe's iteration, which is entirely unique—it comes in mousse form.

Shop Now: Oribe "The Cleanse" Clarifying Shampoo, $44,

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