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What Is Clarifying Shampoo—and Do You Need One in Your Haircare Routine?

Give your scalp and strands a deep clean with a detoxifying shampoo.
  • Lyz Mancini
April 11, 2024

If you use a lot of styling products or frequently find yourself dealing with greasy roots, you may benefit from adding a clarifying shampoo to your weekly routine. These deep-cleaning formulas are among the best shampoos for buildup and, when used properly, can help refresh your scalp and strands. But if you’re unfamiliar with clarifying shampoos, you may have questions you’d like answered before you dive in. Like: What is clarifying shampoo designed to do? How often should you use one? And how do these formulas differ from standard shampoos?

We’re here to answer all of those questions—and then some. Ahead, we’ll explain what clarifying shampoo is, how to use one, and what you can expect when adding one of these detoxifying formulas to your routine. Plus, we’ll introduce you to a few of our favorite deep-cleaning formulas for a squeaky-clean scalp (and strands). Keep reading for all the details.

What Does Clarifying Shampoo Do?

All shampoos help remove debris, but clarifying shampoos provide a deeper, more intense cleanse than standard shampoo formulas. These detoxifying shampoos are specifically designed to remove dirt, oil, impurities, and product build-up to give your scalp and strands a fresh start. Because they’re so thoroughly cleansing, clarifying shampoos aren’t meant to be used daily. Instead, they’re used as needed to help purify your scalp and revive limp or dull strands.

What Are the Benefits of Using Clarifying Shampoo?

InArticleImagery Clarifying Shampoo EverPure Sulfate Free Clarifying Shampoo1
EverPure Clarify Shampoo Before and After

Clarifying shampoos can benefit your strands by removing product buildup and other debris that can weigh your hair down, disrupt your curl pattern, or leave your mane looking limp and dull.

  • Helps remove product buildup: Even if you shampoo daily, dirt, oil, and product residue can accumulate over time. As it does, your scalp and strands may start to feel dirty or greasy. Using a clarifying shampoo can help strip away this oily residue to instantly refresh your hair.
  • Adds volume and bounce: Buildup can leave your hair limp, disrupt your curl pattern, and make it hard for your hair to hold a style. Clarifying shampoos, as we mentioned, removes that weighty, style-disrupting buildup. When used properly, these detoxifying formulas should help restore your hair’s natural movement, add volume, and give your hair a bouncier, healthier appearance.
  • Prepares hair for treatments: Clarifying shampoos are essentially a “reset” for your scalp and strands. Using one a day or two before a chemical treatment (like a hair coloring service or perm) can help remove buildup that may interfere with your service and ensure you get the best possible results.
  • Revitalizes your color: You may not be able to see buildup with the naked eye, but a lack of shine or sudden dulling of your strands may indicate that there’s some residue sitting on your hair. Removing this residue with a clarifying shampoo can help boost shine and restore your color’s vibrancy (just be sure to choose a color-safe option if you have dyed hair).

Who Should Use Clarifying Shampoo?

Clarifying shampoo can be a helpful addition to almost any haircare routine, but it’s particularly beneficial if you have thin, oily hair or use a lot of styling products, as the residue from these can be tough to remove with standard shampoo.

Detoxifying shampoos can also be useful if you live in an area with hard water. For the unfamiliar, hard water is water with a high concentration of minerals, such as calcium or magnesium. When you shower in hard water, these minerals can stick to your strands and leave your hair looking dull, limp, or flat. So can chlorine—so if you’re a swimmer, it’s worth considering adding a clarifying shampoo to your haircare lineup.

How Often Should You Use a Clarifying Shampoo?

Because it provides such a thorough clean, clarifying shampoo isn’t meant to be used daily. How often you’ll want to reach on it depends on your hair type and lifestyle, as well as how much product buildup you’re facing.

Those with thin, oily stands may benefit from using a clarifying shampoo once every other week or so. If you have thicker or drier strands, meanwhile, once a month may be sufficient.

Your styling habits will play a role here, too. For example, if you have curly or coily hair and use a lot of styling aids (like leave-in conditioners or hair oils) you’ll want to use a clarifying shampoo more frequently—up to once a week. This goes doubly if you wait several days between hair washes.

Keep in mind, however, that there is no hard-and-fast rule dictating how often you should reach for a clarifying shampoo. Ultimately, if you feel like your usual shampoo isn’t providing as thorough a cleanse as you’d like or you’re experiencing greasy roots or product buildup, that’s a good indication that it’s time to deep-clean.

What Clarifying Shampoo Should I Use?

The best shampoo for buildup depends on your hair type and concerns. Keep reading for the lowdown on two of our favorite formulas to help you make your choice.

L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Clarifying Shampoo with Antioxidants

For those after a clarifying shampoo that can help reinvigorate their color, we recommend the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Clarifying Shampoo with Antioxidants. The color-safe formula is specifically designed to help remove hard water buildup to revitalize strands and reveal a brighter, more vibrant hue. It also helps remove weighty product residue and locks in hydration for clean, visibly restored strands. The creamy formula is suitable for all hair types and can be used as needed to help refresh your mane.

L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Pure Purifying Shampoo for Oily Hair

If your hair tends to be oily at the roots and drier at the ends, you need something that’ll deep-clean without drying out your hair. This detoxifying shampoo is ideal for that purpose. The skincare-inspired formula contains hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid and helps remove up to 100% of residue to leave your scalp and strands feeling cleansed and refreshed. The hydrating formula won’t strip your hair color, and it’s gentle enough for use on all hair types.

InArticleImageryclarifyingshampooElviveHyaluron  Pure Purifying Shampoo For Oily Hair2

Editor’s tip: For an extra-deep clean, consider applying L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Pure Oil Erasing Serum for Oily Hair to your dry scalp and waiting about 15 minutes before lathering up with your clarifying shampoo. The exfoliating serum dissolves oils and helps remove residue before you even hop in the shower.

How To Use Clarifying Shampoo

Now that you know what clarifying shampoo to use, keep reading to learn how to get the best results from your chosen product.

Step 1. Start with drenched hair

It might seem unnecessary to remind you of this step, but a good shampooing session begins with wet, saturated hair. This is particularly important for those with low hair porosity (which means your strands don’t readily absorb water). Make sure every part of your mane is fully soaked with water before adding shampoo.

Step 2. Apply shampoo to your roots

Next, dispense a quarter-sized amount of your chosen shampoo into your palms and massage it into your scalp. Create a thick, dense lather and work the product into your roots to help break up any product buildup or debris that’s weighing down your strands. You’ll want to focus the bulk of the shampooing on your scalp, as this is where oil and buildup tend to accumulate most. Once you’re done scrubbing your scalp, squeeze the lather through your lengths and ends and rinse your hair thoroughly.

Step 3. Finish with conditioner

Regardless of your hair type or how nourished you think your hair is, it’s always a good idea to use conditioner after shampooing your hair. While shampoo cleanses your hair of too much oil, conditioner is important for adding moisture back to your strands. We recommend picking a conditioner that coordinates with the shampoo you chose—either the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Restoring Conditioner with Antioxidants or the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Pure Rehydrating Conditioner for Oily Hair.

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