9 Best Clarifying Shampoos for Removing Buildup and Residue

Clarifying shampoos are ideal for oily hair, hard water areas, or frequent dry shampoo users. These shampoos, with high cleansing ingredients, are like supercharged regular shampoos, efficiently cleaning hair and scalp.

John Mouzakis, a professional hairstylist, says the best clarifying shampoos remove product residues in one wash, thanks to chelating agents that bond with metals in water. Modern formulas are less harsh, incorporating moisturizing elements.

To identify top clarifying shampoos, we tested various popular and highly-rated products on different hair types, assessing ingredients, cleansing efficiency, and effects on hair and scalp. We also sought expert advice.

Here, we share our findings and reveal which products earned our approval.

What is Clarifying Shampoo?

Clarifying shampoo is a deep-cleaning product that removes dirt, oil, and product build-up from your hair and scalp. It doesn’t have as many moisturizing ingredients as regular shampoos, so it’s not meant for daily use.

Best Clarifying Shampoos

1. Ouai Detox Shampoo

OUAI Detox Shampoo - Clarifying Shampoo for Build Up, Dirt, Oil, Product and Hard Water - Apple Cider Vinegar & Keratin for Clean, Refreshed Hair - Sulfate-Free Hair Care (10 oz)

Ouai Detox Shampoo is a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo designed for all hair types. It contains apple cider vinegar, keratin, and chelating agents that work together to remove impurities, excess oil, and product buildup. This formula not only deeply cleanses the hair but also exfoliates the scalp, strengthens hair strands, and adds glossiness.


  1. Suitable for all hair types, including sensitive scalps.
  2. Effectively cleanses and removes oil and buildup.
  3. Strengthens hair and adds shine.
  4. Helps extend time between washes, ideal for oily hair.
  5. Gentle formula without harsh chemicals.


  1. The scent of apple cider vinegar may be noticeable to some.
  2. May not suit those sensitive to floral fragrances.
  3. The cost may be higher compared to regular shampoos.

2. Shu Uemura Clarifying Shampoo

Shu Uemura Clarifying Shampoo

The Shu Uemura Clarifying Shampoo is a unique hair product that combines deep cleansing with hydration. Inspired by Japanese hot springs, it removes build-up, dirt, and impurities using salicylic acid and antioxidants. It also contains Japanese cherry blossoms for moisture and has a spa-like scent.


  • Deep cleanses and hydrates hair.
  • Inspired by Japanese hot springs.
  • Removes build-up and impurities.
  • Contains antioxidants and essential minerals.
  • Infused with Japanese cherry blossoms for moisture.
  • Spa-like scent for a pleasant experience.


  • May not provide an extremely deep cleanse for heavy build-up.
  • Not ideal for excessive flakes, grime, or product residue.

3. Suave Essentials Daily Clarifying Shampoo

Suave Naturals Daily Clarifying Shampoo 12 oz

Suave Essentials Daily Clarifying Shampoo is a budget-friendly hair cleanser designed for daily use. It effectively removes build-up from styling products, natural oils, and environmental pollutants, leaving hair clean and refreshed. The shampoo is gentle, suitable for all hair types, particularly normal to oily hair, and its pH-balanced formula helps maintain hair’s natural health.


  • Affordable and effective for regular use.
  • Gentle formula, ideal for daily cleansing.
  • Suitable for all hair types, especially oily hair.
  • pH-balanced to support hair health.
  • Light, pleasant scent.


  • Not ideal for very dry or color-treated hair.
  • May strip essential oils and hair dye.

4. Neutrogena Exfoliating Shampoo With Pink Grapefruit

Neutrogena Exfoliating Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo for Oily Hair and Scalp, Anti-Residue Shampoo with Pink Grapefruit, pH-Balanced, Paraben & Phthalate-Free, Color-Safe, 12oz

The Neutrogena Exfoliating Shampoo with Pink Grapefruit is a specialized hair care product designed to address scalp issues like flakiness and product buildup. It achieves this by using gentle exfoliants to cleanse the scalp, removing dead skin cells and impurities. Pink grapefruit is added for its refreshing scent and natural astringent properties, which help balance scalp oil production. It’s gentle enough for regular use and appeals to those who prefer natural ingredients for scalp health and sensory enjoyment.


  • Effectively targets scalp issues like flakiness and buildup.
  • Contains natural pink grapefruit extract with a refreshing scent.
  • Balances scalp oil production, making it suitable for oily scalps.
  • Gentle enough for regular use.
  • Appeals to those who prefer natural ingredients.


  • Specific fragrance may not be to everyone’s liking.
  • Individuals with very sensitive scalps should patch-test.
  • Might not provide intensive moisture for extremely dry hair.

5. Pattern Beauty Cleansing Shampoo

Pattern Beauty Cleansing Shampoo

Pattern Beauty Cleansing Shampoo is a haircare product designed by Tracee Ellis Ross, specifically for curly, textured, and dry hair. It combines cleansing and hydration, using ingredients like matcha green tea, aloe vera, and panthenol to moisturize and strengthen hair. Rosemary leaf extract helps to remove build-up and flakiness from the scalp.


  • Tailored for curly and textured hair.
  • Hydrates and strengthens hair with natural ingredients.
  • Effective for regular maintenance cleansing.
  • Clears scalp of build-up and flakes.


  • Not ideal for intense detoxification or deep cleansing.
  • May not suit all hair types beyond curly and textured.

6. Adwoa Beauty Clarifying Gel Shampoo

Adwoa Beauty Clarifying Gel Shampoo

Adwoa Beauty Clarifying Gel Shampoo is a deep-cleansing shampoo suitable for all hair types, especially curly, kinky, or wavy hair. It features a gel consistency that offers a refreshing departure from traditional creamy shampoos. This unique formula effectively removes product buildup, dirt, and excess oils without depleting your hair’s natural moisture.


  • Removes product buildup and excess oil without drying out your hair.
  • Contains peppermint and tea tree oils known for their soothing and antimicrobial properties.
  • Provides a cooling and invigorating feeling on the scalp.
  • Free from harsh sulfates, parabens, silicones, and artificial colors, catering to health-conscious consumers.
  • Ideal for curly, kinky, or wavy hair textures, but works well for all hair types.


  • Some may prefer the traditional creamy texture of shampoos.
  • Might be a bit higher in price compared to basic shampoos.

7. R+Co Water-Activated Enzyme Exfoliating Shampoo

R+Co Submarine Water Activated Enzyme Exfoliating Shampoo | Revitalizes + Nourishes + Hydrates Hair | Vegan + Cruelty-Free | 3 OZ

R+Co Water-Activated Enzyme Exfoliating Shampoo is a specialized hair care product designed to deeply cleanse and maintain scalp health. Upon contact with water, this shampoo activates, releasing natural enzymes and exfoliants that gently remove dead skin cells, product buildup, and excess oil from the scalp. This process aids in creating a healthy scalp environment, promoting better hair growth.


  • Utilizes natural enzymes, making it suitable for sensitive scalps.
  • Effectively exfoliates, promoting a healthier scalp and hair growth.
  • Free from sulfates, parabens, and mineral oil, catering to those seeking natural hair care options.
  • Ensures fresh activation of ingredients for maximum effectiveness.


  • May not be necessary for those without scalp issues or buildup.
  • Could be more expensive than regular shampoos due to its specialized nature.

8. Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo

Drybar On The Rocks Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo is a hair care product designed for deep cleansing and nourishing thick hair. It combines argan oil, avocado oil, and keratin to detoxify hair from product residue and environmental pollutants. This shampoo aims to make hair shinier, smoother, and more manageable by providing both cleansing and conditioning benefits.


  • Deeply cleanses hair, removing buildup and impurities.
  • Enriched with argan oil for moisturization and shine.
  • Contains avocado oil and keratin for nourishment and strength.
  • Ideal for thick hair that requires regular detoxification.
  • Improves hair manageability and smoothness.


  • Requires thorough rinsing to avoid waxy residue.
  • May not be suitable for all hair types, especially those that are fine or oily.
  • The rich formula could be heavy for some users.

9. Drybar On The Rocks Shampoo

Drybar On The Rocks Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo

Drybar’s On The Rocks Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo is a high-end hair cleanser. It uses activated charcoal to deeply clean hair by attracting and removing impurities, dirt, and oil. Additionally, it contains vegetable protein for strengthening hair and moringa seed extract for hydration and detoxification. Specially formulated without sulfates, parabens, and phthalates, it’s suitable for color-treated and chemically processed hair.


  • Activated charcoal effectively removes dirt and product buildup.
  • Vegetable protein helps reduce breakage and damage.
  • Contains natural ingredients like moringa seed extract.
  • Free from harsh chemicals, making it suitable for color-treated hair.


  • May be more expensive compared to regular shampoos.
  • Might not suit all hair types, especially those not prone to oiliness or product buildup.
  • Some users might find it leaves residue if not thoroughly rinsed.

10. IN COMMON Beauty Universal Shampoo

Olaplex No. 4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo, 250 milliliters

IN COMMON Beauty’s Universal Shampoo is a multifunctional hair care product designed for various hair types. It combines natural ingredients and advanced technology, offering vitamins, minerals, and proteins to enhance hair health. This shampoo gently cleanses, removing impurities without stripping natural oils, and is formulated without sulfates and parabens.


  • Suitable for a wide range of hair types.
  • Strengthens and protects hair with natural ingredients.
  • Improves hair texture and increases moisture.
  • Gentle cleansing action that preserves natural oils.
  • Free from harsh chemicals like sulfates and parabens.


  • Relatively more expensive compared to some other shampoos on the market.
  • The fragrance of the shampoo might not appeal to everyone, as scent preferences vary.

11. Olaplex Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo

Olaplex Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo

The Olaplex Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo is a hair care product that cleanses and strengthens hair. It uses Olaplex’s patented technology to repair broken disulfide bonds in hair, addressing damage from chemical treatments, heat styling, and environmental stressors. This shampoo also acts as a clarifier, removing build-up, oil, and impurities.


  • Repairs and strengthens hair at a molecular level.
  • Effectively clarifies, removing impurities and build-up.
  • Suitable for all hair types, especially beneficial for damaged or treated hair.
  • Promotes healthier, stronger, and more resilient hair with regular use.
  • Gentle formula, free from harsh chemicals.


  • May be pricier compared to regular shampoos.
  • Some users might not prefer the specific feel or scent.
  • Could be too strong for extremely sensitive scalps.

12. Matrix Anti-Breakage Shampoo

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo, 8.5 oz

Matrix Anti-Breakage Shampoo is a hair care product designed for fine hair. It cleanses, adds volume, repairs hair cuticles, and prevents damage. The shampoo contains liquid proteins to balance hair pH and maintain moisture, and salicylic acid to clarify the scalp and control oil production.


  • Enhances volume in fine hair.
  • Repairs and prevents hair breakage.
  • Balances hair pH and retains moisture.
  • Clarifies scalp and regulates oil.
  • Suitable for oily hair types.


  • Scent may not appeal to everyone.
  • Quick-fading fragrance.
  • Specific to fine hair, may not suit all hair types.

How to Choose for Clarifying Shampoos

When it comes to picking the perfect clarifying shampoo for your hair, there are a few key things to keep in mind. Our experts recommend considering your hair type, the health of your scalp, and the ingredients that cater to your unique hair concerns. Here’s a breakdown of what to look for:

1. Ingredients

To ensure a gentle yet effective cleansing experience, look for clarifying shampoos with the right ingredients. Opt for those that can remove buildup without harming your scalp and hair health.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Known for resetting your scalp’s pH level.
  • Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate: Derived from coconut oil, it removes oil and buildup without causing irritation.

Since clarifying shampoos can strip natural oils from your hair, it’s essential to search for moisturizing ingredients to prevent dryness. Look out for ingredients like glycerin, argan oil, jojoba oil, aloe vera, honey, and shea butter, as recommended by our experts.

Stay away from harmful ingredients that can damage your hair, such as:

  • Formaldehyde: A known carcinogen.
  • Parabens and Phthalates: Can cause future health problems as the body can absorb these preservatives.
  • Sulfates: Can strip hair of natural oils and be irritating to the scalp.

2. Hair Type

Different hair types have unique needs when it comes to clarifying shampoos.

  • Dry/Damaged Hair: Choose a sulfate-free shampoo with moisturizing ingredients like glycerin to prevent excessive dryness.
  • Fine Hair: Opt for a lightweight formula without heavy oils or butters.
  • Oily Hair: Standard clarifying shampoos can help remove excess oil, but consider your individual preference for sulfates.
  • Keratin-Treated Hair: Be cautious, as clarifying shampoos may diminish the longevity of the treatment.

3. Scalp Condition

If you have pre-existing scalp conditions like psoriasis or dandruff, it’s advisable to avoid clarifying shampoos, as they can worsen these conditions.

What are the benefits of clarifying shampoos?

Clarifying shampoos are great for:

  1. Removing buildup from hair and scalp.
  2. Beneficial for those who use styling products like hairsprays and waxes.
  3. Can help with dandruff and oily scalp issues.

Who should use a clarifying shampoo?

Clarifying shampoos are good for everyone, especially if you exercise a lot, use many hair products, or don’t shampoo often. The frequency and type of clarifying shampoo depend on your hair type, condition, and scalp health.

Does clarifying shampoo remove color?

Yes, clarifying shampoos can fade color-treated hair, but they won’t affect your natural color. To protect your hair color, choose a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo.

How often should you use a clarifying shampoo?

Limit your use of clarifying shampoo to once a week, but there’s no fixed rule; it depends on your hair’s oiliness and product buildup. Expect visible results after a few uses. Swimmers can use it weekly to remove chlorine, while others should assess their hair’s condition after a couple of washes. Use it as needed and follow with conditioner or a hair mask for hydration.

Can you overuse a clarifying shampoo?

Yes, overusing clarifying shampoo can strip hair of natural oils, leading to dryness and breakage. It can also dry out your scalp, disrupt its microbiome, and make hair brittle.

How long do clarifying shampoos take to work?

Clarifying shampoos work in just one use. For optimal results, leave the shampoo on your hair for a few minutes before rinsing. If there’s heavy buildup, shampooing twice consecutively can be more effective.


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