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Best Clarifying Shampoo

By: Angela Stringfellow on March 07, 2018

Clarifying shampoos get rid of built-up residue

Most shampoos fall into the moisturizing category, meaning they contain ingredients like silicone and protein that are designed to soften the hair and lock in moisture. Unfortunately, these conditioning ingredients can build up over time, weighing down the hair and leaving it dull and limp. Styling products like gels and mousses can also leave residue behind.

For this reason, some experts recommend using a deep-cleansing shampoo, also known as clarifying shampoo, once a week to remove buildup. Clarifying shampoos contain the same basic ingredients as other shampoos, except they have slightly higher dosages of cleansing detergents and no conditioning additives.

Overall, the most popular clarifying shampoo in reviews is Neutrogena Anti-Residue (Est. $5 for 6 oz.). According to Refinery29's Taylor Bryant, hairstylist Ryan Trygstad recommends it as a budget alternative compared to pricier volumizing shampoos. TotalBeauty's Rosie Narasaki also recommends Neutrogena Anti-Residue in a roundup of the best clarifying shampoos, based on reader opinions. It softens and smooths hair, she says, leaving a squeaky-clean feeling by "instantly removing up to 90 percent of the residue left behind from your other products." It also rinses out easily, Narasaki notes, and it even helps to brighten dull hair.

These sentiments are echoed by users in the hundreds of reviews that we evaluated. Reviewers say it does an excellent job of removing oil and residue from the hair and scalp (the phrase "squeaky clean" comes up repeatedly in reviews) and leaves hair soft and shiny. Some users even note that it cured their dandruff, possibly because the condition was due to irritation from product buildup. Most users like the scent, which is generally described as woodsy or herbal, although a few find it too strong. Neutrogena Anti-Residue is meant to be used once per week, and more frequent use should be avoided, as reviewers say that it can leave hair too dry.

Corey Tuttle, a hairstylist at Honey Artists, recommends Fekkai Salon Professional Apple Cider Clarifying Shampoo (Est. $20 for 8 oz.), according to InStyle's Victoria Moorhouse. Tuttle says Fekkai Salon Professional is "a silicone-free purifying cleanser that clarifies and removed buildup and toxins that build up over time." Fekkai is infused with apple cider, which is actually a popular home remedy for removing buildup from hair, according to TotalBeauty's Rosie Narasaki. It's scented with apple and pear, she notes, and leaves hair feeling smoother and lighter without over-stripping it of natural moisture.

Users are fans of Fekkai Salon Professional Apple Cider Clarifying Shampoo, as well, with hundreds of reviewers offering mostly positive feedback. A few users report that using this shampoo helped to relieve conditions such as scalp breakouts caused by product buildup or eczema on the scalp. It's also useful for those who have oily hair, reviewers say. While most agree that it's not too harsh, several reviewers warn that it's not meant to be used daily – doing so will have an over-drying effect on your hair – and a few say that it's not ideal for those with color-treated hair, as it can strip the color from hair, resulting in dullness and fading.

Another clarifying shampoo that's useful for people with oily hair is Paul Mitchell Clarifying Shampoo Two (Est. $20 for 16.9 oz.), which earns recommendations from TotalBeauty and InStyle. TotalBeauty's Narasaki points out that Shampoo Two is designed to remove oils and product buildup, although unlike most clarifying shampoos, it's safe for use on color-treated hair. Dozens of users at Amazon and Makeup Alley say that Paul Mitchell Shampoo Two lathers nicely and has a pleasant, lemon-y scent. As with most clarifying shampoos, it can have an over-drying effect if used daily. That said, a few users report using it once weekly and say that after a few months of this routine, their hair is substantially less oily.

While Shampoo Two is designed for those with oily hair or product buildup, Paul Mitchell Clarifying Shampoo Three (Est. $25 for 16.9 oz.) is specifically designed to remove chlorine and mineral deposits resulting from hard water or swimming in a chlorine-treated swimming pool. Reviewers say it's also effective at reversing the greening effect that chlorine tends to have on blonde hair and correcting the overall damage caused by chlorine. However, reviewers do point out that it has a drying effect, and many suggest following up with a conditioning product.

If you're looking to spend a bit less on a quality clarifying shampoo, Suave Essentials Daily Clarifying (Est. $6 for 12 oz.) is a budget pick that also fares well with users. Formerly known as Suave Naturals Daily Clarifying, this shampoo does a great job of deep cleaning the hair and scalp, users say, but they're split over how harsh it is to the hair. The majority of users say that this shampoo really is gentle enough to use every day, leaving hair soft and manageable. However, a significant number assert instead that it's too drying for daily use and should only be used once a week at most, followed by a good conditioner -- so you'll likely need to experiment to determine what works best for your hair. Also, like Neutrogena Anti-Residue, this Suave shampoo got mixed reactions for its scent. Descriptions of the fragrance range from clean and fresh to musky to flowery, and users seem to either love it or hate it.

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