The 12 Best Clarifying Shampoos of 2023

When using one of these effective formulas, all it takes is a quick lather and rinse to give your scalp a total reset.

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Best Clarifying Shampoos

InStyle / David Hattan

Here’s a hard truth when it comes to haircare — your scalp needs attention. It’s the root (no pun intended) of most issues you can experience, especially when it comes to greasy strands, dull or drab hair, and breakage. While incorporating a scalp scrub can certainly help, a good clarifying shampoo can give your mane a much-needed deep clean and make all the difference.

Clarifying shampoos completely detox your hair and scalp, removing impurities like pollution, product build-up, and excess oil that can weigh hair down and make it look like a greasy mess. But, the thing is many clarifying shampoos can be harsh, stripping hair of color and leaving your strands feeling like straw. That’s why we set out to find the best options that refresh and reinvigorate your hair without drying it out in the process.

Throughout our search, we talked to a variety of hair experts to learn more about clarifying shampoos and to get some of their top picks. In the end we were able to narrow down the pool to the 12 best clarifying shampoos that give hair a new lease on life.

Best Overall

Ouai Detox Shampoo

Ouai Detox Shampoo


What We Love: This clarifying shampoo efficiently removes oils and product build-up on all hair types.

What We Don’t Love: Despite having an uplifting sweet scent, you can still get an occasional whiff of pungent apple cider vinegar.

Clarifying shampoos are notorious for being harsh. While they really give your scalp and hair a deep clean — removing product build-up and excess oil — it can be difficult to find one that can adequately cleanse every hair type without causing dryness or irritation. The search is officially over, though, because Ouai Detox Shampoo is effective enough to cleanse away all dirt, grime, and debris, but gentle enough for all skin and hair types, even sensitive scalps. 

The sulfate-free formula boasts three impressive ingredients: Apple cider vinegar, keratin, and chelating agents that work to remove impurities and exfoliate the scalp, while also strengthening your strands, smoothing them out, and adding glassy shine. In short, this shampoo breathes new life into hair after just one wash so it looks and feels fresh. 

This shampoo works wonders on all hair types, but especially oily hair, helping to extend the time between washes by a few days. We’re also partial towards the delicious floral scent, but just be wary that you might catch a pungent whiff of apple cider vinegar. Though the added fragrance does a great job of masking it, the polarizing scent can sometimes peak through.

Price at time of publish: $32

Size: 10 oz | Key ingredients: Chelating agents, apple cider vinegar, keratin | Scented: Yes

Best Budget

Suave Essentials Daily Clarifying Shampoo

Suave Professionals Essentials Daily Clarifying Shampoo


What We Love: This shampoo is incredibly affordable (under $5!) without skimping on quality.

What We Don’t Love: While the scent is fresh and uplifting, it lingers a lot longer than desired.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend a ton of money to give your hair and scalp a total refresh. Sure, many of the clarifying shampoos on this list are over $20, but it’s still possible to deep clean your hair on a budget. And we’re sure that Suave Professionals Essentials Daily Clarifying Shampoo can fit into anyone’s budget, as it costs less than $5.

This shampoo’s pH-balanced formula effectively rinses away product build-up, dirt, grime, and other residue you find in your hair, but is still gentle enough for daily use. You don’t have to worry about your hair drying out when using this, either. This was designed to actually retain moisture, so your hair will look shiny and lush after every use.  If you do decide to make this your primary shampoo, though, be sure to follow up with a moisturizing conditioner for the best results. 

We love a good added fragrance to our hair products, and this fresh, uplifting scent delivers, but it also tends to linger all day. So keep that in mind if you like to wear hair perfume

Price at time of publish: $3

Size: 30 oz | Key ingredients: Citric acid, sodium chloride | Scented: Yes

Best Splurge

Shu Uemura Delicate Comfort Clarifying Shampoo for Dry Scalp & Hair

Shu Uemura Delicate Comfort Clarifying Shampoo for Dry Scalp & Hair

Shu Uemura

What We Love: Infused with Japanese cherry blossoms, this shampoo hydrates hair while simultaneously deep cleaning.

What We Don’t Love: If you’re looking for a heavy duty detox, this won’t provide that.

Most clarifying shampoos are great at, well, clarifying — they don’t always provide other benefits like boosting volume or hydrating hair. This pick from Shu Uemura, isn’t like most clarifying shampoos, though. Inspired by the way Japanese hot springs help rejuvenate the body and relieve stress, this shampoo reinvigorates the scalp, gently removing build up with a mix of salicylic acid and biotech ferments that are rich in antioxidants and essential minerals. 

The shampoo doesn’t just renew the scalp and hair though, it also replenishes moisture and leaves hair looking voluminous, thanks to nutrient-rich Japanese cherry blossoms. Using this transforms your entire bathroom into an oasis (in part due to the sandalwood, vanilla, and jasmine scent), and when you emerge, your hair will look good as new.

Keep in mind though, that because this shampoo has a slew of benefits, it’s not the best at getting a very deep clean. If you’re looking for something to really slough away all traces of flakes, grime, and build-up, you may want to try something else. 

Price at time of publish: $59

Size: 13.4 oz | Key ingredients: Salicylic acid, citric acid | Scented: Yes

Best for Dry Hair

Pattern Beauty Cleansing Shampoo

Pattern Beauty Clarifying Shampoo


What We Love: Made with matcha green tea, aloe vera, and panthenol, this shampoo works to restore moisture as well as remove product build-up and grease.

What We Don’t Love: This only mildly clarifies, so it’s better for quick refreshes rather than deep cleans.

The brainchild of superstar actress Tracee Ellis Ross, Pattern Beauty was created to empower and uplift those with curly, textured hair. And because curly, coily hair often has a tough time retaining moisture, all of the products Pattern Beauty puts out are designed to keep hair well-hydrated — even on days when a deeper clean is necessary. This shampoo doesn’t just work wonders on curls and kinks, though, it also beautifully cleanses all hair types, especially those that lean dry. 

Antioxidant-rich matcha green tea, aloe vera, and panthenol surround the hair in a moisture cushion to strengthen it and keep the much needed hydration locked in, while rosemary leaf extract gets to work clearing out light product build up, excess oils, and dry flakes on the scalp. The end result is refreshingly clean without dry or frazzled strands. 

Similar to the Shu Uemera pick above, because this works to keep your mane moisturized it only mildly clarifies. So this is better for weekly maintenance cleansing, rather than an intense refresh.

Price at time of publish: $20

Size: 7.8 oz | Key ingredients: Matcha green tea, aloe vera, panthenol | Scented: Yes

Best Drugstore

Neutrogena Exfoliating Shampoo for Oily Hair and Scalp with Pink Grapefruit

Neutrogena Exfoliating Shampoo for Oily Hair and Scalp with Pink Grapefruit


What We Love: You can use this on color-treated hair without worrying about it losing vibrancy. 

What We Don’t Love: It can sometimes leave the scalp feeling rather dry.

You may be familiar with Neutrogena’s pink grapefruit skincare line, which includes the ever-popular Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Cleanser, but the brand also utilizes the citrus fruit in some haircare products, including this clarifying shampoo.

In this impressive drugstore formula, grapefruit doesn’t just give the shampoo its fresh scent — it actually acts as a natural gentle exfoliant that dissolves oil and product build-up while also giving hair a gorgeous, healthy shine. Because it doesn’t use any harsh exfoliants, this shampoo is also ideal for those with color-treated hair as it won’t strip the color, helping you maintain vibrancy between salon visits.  

As with any exfoliant (even gentle ones), there is a possibility that your scalp will be left feeling a bit dry after using this. To avoid any discomfort, we recommend using this only once or twice a week, rather than using it daily. 

Price at time of publish: $13

Size: 12 oz | Key ingredients: Grapefruit extract | Scented: Yes

Best for Oily Hair

R+Co Submarine Water-Activated Enzyme Exfoliating Shampoo

R+Co Submarine Water-Activated Enzyme Exfoliating Shampoo


What We Love: This deep-cleaning shampoo utilizes a variety of fruit extracts to naturally revitalize your hair and scalp.

What We Don’t Love: The tube is significantly smaller than other options on this list.

If you have oily hair, you probably feel the need to wash your hair every single day. Though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, doing so adds so much time to your styling routine. Can you imagine how much time you’d have on your hands if you could skip a wash day (or two)? Well, with R+Co Submarine Water-Activated Enzyme Exfoliating Shampoo, that can become your reality. 

This concentrated shampoo is a bit different from other products on this list — it needs to be activated with water. To do so, squeeze a quarter-sized dollop into your hand and run it under water. Then, massage it into your scalp and watch it work its magic. With AHA alternative technology it quickly removes every trace of oil, product build-up, dirt, and debris in seconds. Because that ingredient is so potent, it can cause irritation — but it doesn’t. Bilberry and tomato extracts calm and stimulate the scalp so you don’t experience any flare-ups. All you’re left with is a fresh, squeaky clean scalp and shiny hair.  

The shampoo diminishes oil production so much that you can extend your style by a day or two. And, you only have to use it once a week to keep your scalp in check (we recommend using a moisturizing shampoo in between to keep your hair silky soft). Granted, even with once a week usage you might need to repurchase relatively often because the bottle is only three ounces. While that small size has its drawbacks, it also makes this shampoo travel-friendly. 

Price at time of publish: $36

Size: 3 oz | Key ingredients:  AHA alternative technology, fermented radish root, tomato extract | Scented: Yes

Best for Curly Hair

Adwoa Beauty Blue Tansy Clarifying Gel Shampoo

Adwoa Beauty Blue Tansy Clarifying Gel Shampoo

Adwoa Beauty

What We Love: The formula features blue tansy, which has strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties.  

What We Don’t Love: As with other multifaceted clarifying shampoos, this one only provides a mild detox.

Those with curly hair know that their hair type requires a lot of products to stay well hydrated. Curl creams, gels, and leave-in conditioners are crucial for keeping your coils in tip-top shape, but using them is a double-edged sword — they also can cause quite a bit of build up. To prevent your hair and scalp from getting flakey and weighed down, incorporating a clarifying shampoo can make all the difference — and the Blue Tansy Clarifying Gel Shampoo from adwoa beauty was made specially for those with curly hair types. 

The shampoo gives your hair and scalp a total reset, removing toxins and build-up from the roots to create the perfect canvas for the next time you have to style your hair. At the same time, the  product’s namesake ingredient, blue tansy, strengthens and softens hair to help maintain your curl pattern and keep coils adequately hydrated.

We also love the texture of this shampoo: The gel formula provides a little bit of slip to make detangling a bit easier. This shampoo does so much — from moisturizing and detangling to detoxing — but you shouldn’t expect a serious deep clean with this. It mildly removes build up, so if you’re feeling extra flakey you might need something a little more heavy duty. 

Price at time of publish: $25

Size: 14 oz | Key ingredients: Blue tansy | Scented: No

Best for Colored Hair

Drybar On The Rocks Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo

Drybar On The Rocks Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo


What We Love: This shampoo utilizes activated charcoal to detox your scalp without stripping away color. 

What We Don’t Love: If you enjoy a sudsy lather, you won’t find that here.

Many clarifying shampoos are too harsh to use on color-treated hair — on top of detoxing the scalp, they can also strip the color from your strands. Over the years, gentler clarifying formulas have emerged that are safe enough to use on dyed hair, but none compare to Drybar On the Rocks Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo. 

This deep-cleansing, yet mild clarifying shampoo uses activated charcoal to remove built-up grime, pollution, and oils. Rather than acting a harsh surfactant, charcoal actually absorbs the impurities and rinses them away, thus maintaining your color and keeping it fresher for longer. As a bonus, charcoal also works to soothe and balance itchy, dry scalps creating a better environment for your hair to grow. 

One aspect we really enjoy about using a good clarifying shampoo is the lather experience — something about getting an extra sudsy lather makes hair feel undeniably fresh. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t froth up like many others, but even though it doesn’t we enjoy the results. 

Price at time of publish: $26

Size: 8.5 oz | Key ingredients: Charcoal, vegetable protein | Scented: Yes

Best for Thick Hair

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo


What We Love: Made with Moroccanoil’s signature ingredient, argan oil, this shampoo nourishes hair while it detoxes the scalp.

What We Don’t Love: It can sometimes leave a waxy film on hair.

Thick hair naturally has the tendency to get weighed down — add on build-up from dry shampoo and volumizing mousses, and thicker hair can start to look seriously limp. Resetting and detoxing thick hair can actually create more body, and when we’re in need of a deep clean we like to lather on Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo.

The lightweight formula is superb at washing away grime and pollution, and thanks to nourishing ingredients like argan oil, avocado oil, and keratin, this shampoo also strengthens hair, making it shinier, smoother, and ultimately more manageable. One lather and rinse can usually do the trick, but make sure you really work the shampoo out of your hair, otherwise it can sometimes leave a waxy film that makes hair feel dirty (even though it’s clean). 

Price at time of publish: $26

Size: 8.5 oz | Key ingredients: Argan oil, avocado oil, keratin | Scented: Yes

Best for Fine Hair

Matrix Instacure Anti-Breakage Shampoo

Matrix Instacure Anti-Breakage Shampoo


What We Love: On top of gently removing build-up, this shampoo also boosts volume, repairs hair cuticles, and prevents future damage. 

What We Don’t Love: The scent leaves a bit to be desired.

When fine hair needs a refresh, it’s important to look for a shampoo that not only deep cleans, but can also boost volume, too, to make your mane look fuller. This can be difficult to find when it comes to clarifying shampoos, but Matrix Instacure Anti-Breakage Shampoo perfectly does both — plus, it also helps repair damaged hair.

Rather than using harsh exfoliants to help slough away product build-up, this shampoo harnesses the power of liquid proteins to help balance hair’s pH without completely stripping it of moisture (read: Hair will still feel silky soft after using this). Salicylic acid efficiently clarifies while also balancing the scalp to curb oil production, too. 

On top of reviving the hair and scalp, you’ll notice that hair looks significantly smoother with less-frizz and breakage. In our eyes, this is a very well-rounded shampoo that addresses a variety of concerns beautifully. The one thing it’s lacking? The scent is a bit grandma-ish, but it fades quickly so it’s easy to overlook. 

Price at time of publish: $22

Size: 10 oz | Key ingredients: Liquid proteins, salicylic acid | Scented: Yes

Best for Damaged Hair

Olaplex No. 4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo

Olaplex Nº.4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo


What We Love: While this shampoo does an incredible job of refreshing hair and scalp, it also  repairs broken strands for better overall hair health.

What We Don’t Love: To get the best results you’ll want to use this shampoo in unison with additional Olaplex products.

Like we’ve said before, clarifying shampoos can be notoriously drying — so if you have heat- or color-damaged hair, you may think it’s best to steer clear. In most situations, that is true, but damaged hair still needs a heavy duty refresh sometimes, and when it does Olaplex No. 4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo comes to the rescue. 

Featuring Olaplex’s patented bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate technology, it actually removes impurities (like pollutants, oils, and flakey skin, among other things) while restoring the health of your hair. So rather than hair feeling like straw post-cleanse, it feels brand new with increased softness and shine. That said, the shampoo on its own can only do so much — it really does work best when paired with other Olaplex products, like the No. 3 Hair Perfector.

Price at time of publish: $30

Size: 8.5 oz  | Key ingredients: Broad-spectrum clarifying system, bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate: | Scented: No

Best for Sensitive Scalps

IN COMMON Beauty Clear Haze Universal Shampoo

IN COMMON Beauty Clear Haze Universal Shampoo


What We Love: This shampoo dispenses as a whipped foam, which makes it easy to massage into your scalp. 

What We Don’t Love: This works best when using In Common’s three-part haircare system.

This unique shampoo is a little different than the other picks on this list. The main differentiator? Its lightweight foamy texture, which seamlessly reaches your roots and scalp without feeling harsh or drying. It works well with all hair types and textures, but we especially love it for those with sensitive scalps because it’s got a bevy of nourishing ingredients that soothe and calm. 

In the formula you’ll find avocado oil extract, which penetrates the hair shaft for proper and effective moisturization. This fatty oil is also rich in vitamins and amino acids, creating the ultimate foundation for strong roots. Additionally, quartz actually assists in clearing stubborn build-up and oil on the scalp, so you’re left with a refreshed, clean feeling without any irritation. 

While you can buy the shampoo on its own, the brand recommends using it in one of their three step systems (Moisturizing, Strengthening, or Smoothing) for the best results. 

Price at time of publish: $35

Size: 6 oz | Key ingredients: Avocado oil extract, quartz  | Scented: No

What to Keep In Mind

Hair Type

All hair types can benefit from a good deep-cleaning every once in a while, but before you pick any clarifying shampoo, you should take your hair type into consideration. For example, if you have curly or relatively dry hair, you’ll want to find a formula that incorporates hydrating ingredients alongside the exfoliating ones so as to not totally dry out your hair. In this case, Pattern Beauty Cleansing Shampoo is a great option for both curly and dry hair because it utilizes aloe vera and panthenol to boost hydration while also whisking away build-up and oils. 

Those with oily hair should look for a stronger formula that can really curb oil production and keep hair looking fresh for a few days post-wash. R+Co Submarine Water-Activated Enzyme Exfoliating Shampoo is excellent for this, because it combines strong exfoliants to really loosen and remove grime and oils. As for fine hair, opt for a clarifying shampoo that can also boost volume to make hair look a bit fuller. We like Matrix Instacure Anti-Breakage Shampoo.

Hair Color

If you don’t color your hair, you incorporate just about any clarifying shampoo into your routine. But if you regularly color your hair, you should carefully choose a clarifying shampoo as many are known to strip dye. Look for products with gentle exfoliating agents, like salicylic acid and charcoal, that will effectively clean your hair and scalp without dulling your color. Out of all the picks on our list Drybar On The Rocks Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo, is ideal for colored hair because it detoxes the hair and scalp while helping hair maintain vibrancy. 

Your Questions, Answered 

What is clarifying shampoo?

“A clarifying shampoo is a deep cleaning [product] — it thoroughly cleanses the hair and scalp from all dirt, oil, and any impurities from product build-up,” explain Nikki Lee and Riawna Capri, Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylists and founders of IN COMMON Beauty. Because their main purpose is to thoroughly rid the scalp and hair of build-up, they don’t contain many moisturizing ingredients like traditional everyday shampoos — and therefore shouldn’t be used daily.  

Does clarifying shampoo remove color? 

“Clarifying shampoos can remove some semi-permanent and demi-permanent hair color. If you have recently gone darker or colored your hair red, you shouldn’t use a clarifying shampoo as it could remove some of the glosses or color that were used to achieve a rich or vibrant tone,” explains Angela Hazelton, New York City-based colorist at The Marie Robinson Salon

How often should you use clarifying shampoo? 

Clarifying shampoos should be used once every two weeks or once a month to remove buildup. They absolutely should not replace your everyday shampoo, as they strip color and oils. “If you wash every day, I recommend incorporating [a clarifying shampoo into your routine] every two weeks. If you wash one to two times a week, I incorporate a clarifying shampoo into your routine once a month,” says Helen Reavey, a New York-based Trichologist and founder of Act+Acre.

Why Shop With Us

Valeriya Chupinina is a full-time shopping and beauty freelance writer. Before freelancing, she wrote for Coveteur, HYPEBAE, Cosmopolitan, StyleCaster, Health, and Real Simple magazines. Now, she writes about beauty and fashion for multiple publications. In order to find the best clarifying shampoos, Chupinina put top brands to the test. In addition, she interviewed professional hairstylists, including Angela Hazelton, colorist at The Marie Robinson Salon; Helen Reavey, celebrity hairstylist, USTI certified trichologist, and founder of Act+Acre; Nikki Lee and Riawna Capri, Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylists and founders of IN COMMON Beauty, so they could provide their insights on clarifying shampoos and offer recommendations.

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