The Best Clarifying Shampoo to Remove Buildup from Your Hair and Scalp

Dry shampoo lovers, it's time to add a clarifying shampoo to your weekly regimen.

person in the shower massaging a sudsy product through their hair
Photo: Moyo Studio/Getty Images

Raise your hand if your hair is a little dirty right now (guilty). Between sweat-dripping workouts, reliance on dry shampoo, and two — er, three or four days — of styling between washes, it's really no surprise that you probably have a bit of dirt, grease, and gunk built up in there.

If this is you, listen up: The secret to cleaner and overall better-looking hair lies in your shampoo. No, there's no need to modify how often you wash your hair — you just need to add a clarifying shampoo to your hair-care arsenal.

What Is Clarifying Shampoo?

Why is it important to have a clarifying shampoo in your hair-care mix? One word: buildup. Your styling products, the type of water you have, and even not rinsing your conditioner out thoroughly can all be culprits when it comes to buildup in the hair and scalp. Your regular shampoo can only do so much to remove all the buildup, so think of a clarifying shampoo like a more intense version of your go-too 'poo, says Gina Rivera, founder of Phenix Salon Suites. This variety is the best shampoo for scalp buildup and general gunk accumulation in the hair, as it has extra ingredients — such as vinegar, charcoal, or an exfoliator, for example — that are powerful enough to remove all that dirt and residue from your tresses.

How Often to Use Clarifying Shampoo

As a good rule of thumb, you can use a clarifying shampoo every other week, says Penelope Love, hairstylist at Sam Brocato Salon in New York City. "If hair is limp, isn't holding a style, or starts to look dull, it's time to use a clarifying shampoo," she advises. And those who have hard water, often swim in chlorine pools, or use styling products daily may need to increase how often they use clarifying shampoos, notes Rivera.

However, don't enlist a clarifying shampoo as your everyday cleanser. These shampoos are so powerful that they can also strip your hair of its natural oils. To avoid damage or drying out strands from clarifying shampoo, it's important to condition or use a hair mask from mid-shaft to ends to add moisture back after you shampoo, recommends Love. Try incorporating a mask into your shower routine every week or every other week depending on your hair needs.

The Best Clarifying Shampoos

Convinced you need a detox? Here, the best clarifying shampoos for shiny, healthy, buildup-free hair. Any of these options — and especially those with exfoliators — are great choices for the best shampoo for scalp buildup, specifically.

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo product photo

This clarifying shampoo contains a variety of nourishing and strengthening ingredients, including argan oil and keratin, to help keep hair in great shape, explains Rivera. "I love this clarifying shampoo, especially for those that want to maintain moisture in their hair," she adds.

Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo

Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo product photo

Infused with oat and apple cider vinegar, this clarifying shampoo gently purifies, adds shine, and soothes your scalp. Also great? It's made without sulfates, dyes, or parabens, so it's safe for all hair types — even color-treated locks.

Aveda Rosemary Mint Purifying Shampoo

Aveda Rosemary Mint Purifying Shampoo

A mix of micelles (which gently whisk away dirt and oil) and white vinegar, a naturally derived clarifier, this shampoo cleans hair without stripping it dry. Morning showerers will love the invigorating rosemary, spearmint, and peppermint scent.

Ouidad Water Works Clarifying Shampoo

Ouidad Water Works Clarifying Shampoo product photo

The formula of this clarifying shampoo boasts exfoliating fruit acids; a blend of lemon, grapefruit, and orange flower extracts; and vitamins to remove gunk without drying out your hair and scalp. Plus, it's totally gentle enough to use on dyed hair.

Together Beauty Vx Volumizing Shampoo

Together Beauty Vx Volumizing Shampoo product photo

When you want shiny, fuller-looking hair, reach for this almost all-natural shampoo. Made with tilia bud, chamomile, sage extract, and peppermint oil, this product moisturizes, soothes, and adds volume. "It's great for people who need to keep moisture in their hair, like (those with) curly or coarse hair textures," notes Love.

Kenra Clarifying Shampoo

Kenra Clarifying Shampoo product photo

For those about to hit up the salon for a color service, use this gentle clarifying shampoo to remove residue and product buildup prior to your treatment. Bonus: Not only is it safe for colored tresses, but it's also great for swimmers and those with hard water since it contains mica to boost shine and restore moisture.

Redken Detox Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo

Redken Detox Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo product photo

Fruit acids are the superstars of this clarifying shampoo, which act as a gentle peel to break up the "glue" of skin cells and dry shampoo residue on your scalp. This shampoo was also formulated to remove copper and iron minerals, perfect for anyone who uses hard water to shower.

OGX Purifying+ Charcoal Detox Shampoo

OGX Purifying Charcoal Detox Shampoo product photo

Can't get through the day without a biiig spray of dry shampoo before styling and then a spritz of hairspray after? Yup, it's time to add a clarifying shampoo. The mighty purifying powers of charcoal and kaolin clay draw out pollution or daily grime from your hair in this cleanser.

Virtue Refresh Purifying Shampoo

Virtue Refresh Purifying Shampoo product photo

If you're looking to protect your highlights, make sure your shampoo is formulated without harsh surfactants, advises Rivera. This clarifying shampoo is sulfate-free and infused with keratin to strengthen locks while zapping impurities that can weigh hair down and cause it to be limp.

Paul Mitchell Shampoo Two Clarifying Cleanser

Paul Mitchell Clarifying Shampoo Two product photo

If you've got fine hair strands, this clarifying shampoo actually helps to minimize oil production, so hair becomes less oily over time. The color-safe formula gives your hair and scalp a deep cleanse while restoring shine and volume.

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