Clarifying Shampoos Explained & 6 Of The Best

Unlike a traditional shampoo, it’s best to think of clarifying shampoo formulas as exfoliators, designed to remove product build-up from your scalp for a more thorough cleanse. Here, Jimmy Green of Redken and Pureology explains why they’re a great remedy for dull, limp or heavy hair – plus, we share 7 of the best…
By Sapna Rao /

Clarifying Shampoos Are Essentially Deep Cleansers

“Clarifying shampoos are designed to remove product build-up in your hair. They’re more of a deep cleanser than traditional shampoo, and work well to remove hairspray, mousse and gel. You’ll find they are so good at exfoliating, they can even remove minerals from hard water and chlorine, as well as other environmental factors. People often worry they might be ‘stripping’ and while they do get rid of grime, the newer formulas are much gentler than before.”

They’re Suitable For Everyone

“Because they can remove all impurities from your hair, everyone can benefit from using a clarifying shampoo. The idea is that anything that follows – like shampoo or conditioner – can do its job better. Cleansing away dirt and debris ensures any leave-in treatment or styling products will be evenly distributed throughout the hair, too. It’s why stylists often recommend using one the night before (but never after) you’re having any colour applied – everything will adhere far better.”

There Are Some Formulas To Avoid 

“Not all formulas are created equal – hence why they have this ‘stripping’ reputation. Many of the newest formulas have been created using gentler ingredients, but when you’re shopping for one, look out for EDTAs. These latch onto your hair and can be quite stripping and drying. That’s not to say you should avoid using them altogether – especially if they sit alongside other nourishing ingredients – but products that contain these should be used less frequently. Instead, find clarifiers that contain fruit extracts. This is a much gentler and more hydrating way to get rid of dirt.”

You Don’t Need To Use Them Daily 

“In an ideal world, if you’re doing two shampoos, the first should be with a clarifying formula. Follow up with a traditional shampoo that’s tailored to your hair type. For example, if your hair is highlighted, you may want to begin with a gentle clarifier, before using a strengthening or toning shampoo like Redken’s Blondage or Pureology’s Strength Cure Bets. The key thing to remember is clarifiers should be used alongside your current routine, but never replace it. You don’t have to use them daily, either – in fact, it’s often advised you only use one when it’s most needed. Every two weeks will suffice if you regularly use styling products or heat on your hair.” 

Here Are 6 Of The Best…

Specifique Bain Divalent Shampoo, £20.23 | Kérastase

Best For: Greasy Hair 

Greasy hair girls should make this their go-to. Smartly formulated, it regulates the production of natural oils by dissolving excess sebum at the root. At the same time, it also hydrates the scalp using ingredients like vitamin B6 and glycerine, both of which promote a softer feel and healthier looking finish – plus a bit of volume.

Available at

No. 4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo, £28 | Olaplex

Best For: Restoring Shine

This new release from Olaplex promises to remove impurities, hard-water minerals, product build-up and excess oils to leave behind cleaner, healthier-looking hair. Slot it into your weekly haircare routine to detox strands from root to tip and replenish them in the process. It’s also a great step before you use any masks or other Olaplex treatments to make sure the formulas really get to work.

Available at

Purifying Shampoo With Thermal Mud, £29 | Christophe Robin

Best For: Sensitive Scalps

Containing mineral-rich thermal mud, this shampoo rebalances oily scalps by removing excess product build-up and conditioning the lengths with a potent Baltic Sea algae infusion – which also smooths the hair cuticles to reduce frizz and prolong the time in between washes.

Available at

Scalp Shampoo, £25 | Sachajuan

Best For: Irritated Scalps

If you suffer from itchiness and dandruff, this shampoo contains piroctone olamine and climbazole to offer a gentler cleanse, while still ridding the scalp of build-up and any external pollutants and aggressors contributing to irritation. Then, menthol, salicylic acid and ginger extract work together to soothe the area and restore moisture to both the scalp and hair.

Available at

Clarifying Scalp Soak, £25 | Hello Klean

Best For: An All Rounder 

This vegan hair soak was specifically formulated with harsh shower water in mind – the minerals found in hard water can sometimes give hair a lacklustre look. This multitasking formula remedies this by detoxifying the scalp with apple cider vinegar, gently unclogging the follicles without stripping the scalp of healthy nutrients. It also boosts moisture with an infusion of vitamin B5 and rice seed protein, aiding damaged strands so hair feels stronger over time.

Available at

Detox Shampoo, £24 | Ouai

Best For: An Intense Detox 

Regular SL readers will know Ouai is a favourite of ours and this detox shampoo definitely delivers on its promise. Aside from the aesthetic packaging and spa-like scent, its apple-cider vinegar infused formula works hard to buff away dead skin gently but effectively. After freshening up the scalp, it also infuses the hair cuticles with moisture and shine to reveal fresher, glossier-looking strands. The best bit? Although it’s powerful, it actually helps colour look fresher and brighter.

Available at

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