In the beauty industry, there’s a curious collection of buzzwords that are often featured on products. What’s even more curious, though, is that very few people actually know what they mean.
There’s one descriptor that seems to pop up more often than any other, however: clarifying shampoo. Unlike your curl boosters and dry hair savers, clarifying shampoo is a product category that works for all hair types. It sounds a little clinical, like something you might find in the doctor’s office, but clarifying shampoo is a must-have for most manes.
To better understand why you might buy a second shampoo to keep in your shower (on top of your already sizeable hoard of beauty products, no doubt), we sat down with Jamie Wiley, Pureology brand ambassador, for her thoughts on all things clarifying. Spoiler alert: She gave us the low-down on all things shampoo.
Blowout-loving women and flaky-scalped gentlemen, can we have your undivided attention? There’s something your hair care routine is desperately missing. When used as recommended by your stylist, clarifying shampoo can make a big difference in the look and feel of your hair.
What is clarifying shampoo?
Think about the way you deal with your skin. During a regular week, you try to apply night cream and SPF. When you start to feel a little oily, however, you’ll be more likely to add a face mask into your daily routine.
The same way you might supplement your beauty routine an extra step, your beauty routine can be divided into everyday necessities and products designed for extra TLC. You have a go-to shampoo and conditioner formula, a heat protectant, and a blowout cream. For days when your hair just isn’t working, however, you’ve got a stockpile of extra products. That’s where you’ll find clarifying shampoo.
“Clarifying or purifying shampoo is used to remove residue and buildup on the hair caused by hair products, hard water, minerals from water, and chlorine,” Wiley says.
If you’re finding that your hair is falling limp and looking underwhelming, try to review your routine and see what’s changed recently. Did you move to a new area where the shower water is just so-so? Have you been packing on the product lately? It’s important to know what could be causing all your mane drama or else you won’t be able to deal with it appropriately.
Once you’ve been able to single out the cause (or causes) of your hair woes, it’s time to understand the product you’re investing in.
What makes clarifying shampoo different from all the other varieties out there?
When we talk about clarifying shampoo, we’re actually discussing a very specific formulation designed with the intent of helping to remove excess residue and returning hair to its healthy-looking, clean glory.
Because the formula is designed to leave hair squeaky clean, some women struggle with dryness after using clarifying shampoos. To minimize this, Wiley is all about creating a routine intended to moisturize after cleansing.
“Use the clarifying shampoo followed with a moisturizing shampoo, and then finally a conditioner,” she says.
Not sure which clarifying shampoo is right for your specific hair concerns? This is where a trusted stylist comes in. A professional who’s well-versed on your lifestyle, hair maintenance routine and concerns can help you determine the right product at your next appointment.
When in doubt, the gold rule of hair care is to treat your mane as if it’s incredibly fragile. Brush it gently (from the ends to the roots, detangling as you go), skip tight updo whenever possible, and swap your cotton pillowcase for something with a little more slip. That’s the key to healthy-looking, happy hair.
What’s the right way to make clarifying shampoo a part of your routine?
Good question! Wiley recommends washing your hair with clarifying shampoo on a biweekly basis. You’ll be cleaning your hair without drying it out.
“You will want to incorporate into a shampoo routine once every two weeks. Don't go longer than a month,” Wiley says. “When you are needing to shampoo your hair more often because you are feeling 'greasier' than normal, that is when you know it’s time to clarify!”
As with all shampoos, it’s as much about the application as it is the formula. Use your fingers to thoroughly scrub your hair. If you’d rather take the easy way out, purchase a shampoo brush to help slough away unwanted oils and excess residue.
If you have concerns about the quality of the water you’re washing your hair in, spend a little extra cash on a shower head designed to soften water while filtering out chlorine. Feeling extra spendy before a special event? Try washing your hair in filtered or bottled water. Many beauty gurus swear by it for hair that looks beautiful and feels soft.
When you start thinking about stopping by the salon for a fresh color, Wiley recommends scheduling time to use a clarifying shampoo beforehand.
“At some point in time your hair needs a clean slate...definitely before a color service is done,” she says. “This will help remove any buildup and prepare your hair to accept the fresh new color. It will last longer and actually be shinier!”
Shiny, freshly colored hair sounds great to us. Clarifying shampoo, it is! If you’re going to invest in professional color services, it’s important that you prep your hair for the best results. You wouldn’t buy a designer cashmere sweater and then throw it in the wash with your dirty socks, so don’t do it with your hair color.
The only thing left to figure out is precisely which product to buy.
What’s the best way to choose a clarifying shampoo?
We’ve all had experiences purchasing a product that turns out to do far less than we were promised. When it comes to hair, there’s no room to mess around with formulas that don’t work. According to Wiley, the best way to guarantee a product performs is to spend money on a professional-grade product.
Yes, it may cost a little more, but knowing your hair care is backed by salon knowledge and used by experts really means something in the hair world. All that expertise adds up to a product that will keep your mane healthy-looking and happy.
“Use a professional clarifying shampoo like Pureology Purify Shampoo versus a store brand,” Wiley explains.
When in doubt about what to buy, consult your stylist or colorist. He or she already knows all about your hair routine and may even create your custom color, which means an extra insight into what your hair really needs.
Need a few product suggestions to get you started? Keep reading.
The Best Clarifying Shampoos To Buy Now
Redken Clean Maniac Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo
If you’re concerned that the water coming out of the showerhead is only so-so, a clarifying shampoo can help set your hair right. Redken’s Hair Cleansing Cream Shampoo helps to clarify and works to remove copper, iron, hard water minerals, and styling product buildup.
Redken Clean Maniac Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo, $38.50 MSRP
Mizani Moisture Fusion Clarifying Shampoo
While some clarifying shampoo formulas can leave your hair feeling stripped and dry, Mizani Moisture Fusion Clarifying Shampoo resets hair to get rid of product buildup impurities while leaving hair feeling clean, refreshed, and ready for a deep moisturizing treatment. Not to mention: It’s an ideal formula for all textures and curl types.
Mizani Moisture Fusion Clarifying Shampoo, $24.00 MSRP
Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Cleansing Oil Shampoo
If your dry strands are in need of a super hydrating formula, look no further than Shu Uemura Art Of Hair’s Cleansing Oil Shampoo. This paraben and silicone-free shampoo deeply cleanses to remove impurities and buildup while rejuvenating dry hair and scalp with soothing hair oils.
Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Cleansing Oil Shampoo, $57.00 MSRP
Biolage CleanReset Normalizing Shampoo
Formulated with lemongrass and citronella, Biolage CleanReset Normalizing Shampoo deeply cleanses without drying the hair. It’s just like the lemongrass plant that always seems to stay clean. For the best results, follow the shampoo session with a Biolage conditioner.
Biolage CleanReset Normalizing Shampoo, $18.00 MSRP
Kérastase Specifique Bain Divalent Shampoo
If you’re dealing with hair that goes from clean to greasy within hours, you need a salon-approved product that supports your hair needs. Kérastase’s Specifique Bain Divalent is a balancing shampoo for oily roots and sensitized lengths that helps to purify and soothe the scalp.
Kérastase Specifique Bain Divalent Shampoo, $33.00 MSRP
Pureology Purify Shampoo
If you’re been going heavy on dry shampoo and hairspray lately, you’ll want a clarifying shampoo that can help you start from scratch without affecting your color. Pureology’s Purify Shampoo is a sulfate-free formula that removes build-up and clarifies without stripping color.
Pureology Purify Shampoo, $29.50 MSRP
Ouidad Water Works Clarifying Shampoo
It’s no secret that curly hair deals with dryness more than any other hair type. That’s why we recommend opting for a clarifying shampoo formulated specifically for curls like Ouidad Water Works Clarifying Shampoo. This shampoo is formulated with non-stripping citrus extracts to remove build up while ensuring your ringlets maintain moisture.
Ouidad Water Works Clarifying Shampoo, $18.00 MSRP
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo
Whether you’re dealing with build-up from products, pollution, or hard water from your showerhead, opt for Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo. This non-stripping, color-safe shampoo gently removes build-up to give you softer, shinier, and more manageable hair.
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo, $28.00 MSRP
Bumble and bumble Sunday Shampoo
If your Sunday funday involves a bit of self-care, Bumble and bumble’s Sunday Shampoo can give your hair the end-of-week reset it needs. The weekly shampoo lifts away product residue, excess oil, and build up, so you can head back to work on Monday with a fresh start!
Bumble and bumble Sunday Shampoo, $27.00 MSRP
Looking for more personalized product recommendations? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.