Best clarifying shampoo 2022: Thoroughly clean and remove impurities from your hair

Katie Byrne
27 Sep 2022

Give your hair the ultimate cleansing experience with the best clarifying shampoos from Schwarzkopf, Aveeno and others

While washing your hair until it squeaks might be the tried-and-tested method you’ve used since childhood to determine how clean your hair is, clarifying shampoo is here to take your haircare routine to the next level.

Clarifying shampoos are specifically formulated to eliminate grease and dirt, and they can be as beneficial for your scalp as they can for your hair. And if you use styling products which can build up and leave residue, clarifying shampoo can tackle it.

In a nutshell: much like you’d use a make-up remover to cleanse your skin, a clarifying shampoo can be used to cleanse the hair.

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Best clarifying shampoos: At a glance

What is clarifying shampoo and why should I consider buying one?

Clarifying shampoos are specifically formulated to tackle the build-up of impurities and residue on your hair, which makes them ideal for people who live in hard water areas, who style their hair using products, or who go swimming regularly, as they can help restore hair to its cleanest state.

While it might sound like a luxury hair treatment that’s far beyond your usual quick shampoo-and-conditioner routine, clarifying shampoos are actually available at price points to suit all budgets. However, due to their cleansing strength, some clarifying shampoos aren’t recommended for frequent use and, as a general rule, experts suggest capping your usage at once or twice a week.

As with all hair products, you need to be mindful of how it affects your hair and scalp, and stop if you notice any adverse effects.

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How do I know if I need a clarifying shampoo?

Clarifying shampoo is a great choice if you have naturally oily hair, but there are a few additional factors that can influence whether or not it’s a wise choice for you. If you fall into any of the categories below, you might want to consider swapping your current shampoo for a clarifying shampoo.

  • You live in a hard water area. Hard water is higher in minerals (like magnesium and calcium), which can attach themselves to your hair and affect its condition, leaving it dehydrated and lifeless.
  • You use product in your hair. Whether it’s the occasional spritz of hairspray or a daily run-through of tendril-taming mousse, hair products can leave a residue that regular shampoo might not be able to remove.
  • You swim regularly. If you love swimming in a pool, your hair will likely experience a buildup of chlorine which can dry your hair out – making it prone to cracking or splitting – or produce unwanted tints and tinges on coloured hair.

That said, a clarifying shampoo can be used by anyone who wants to ensure their hair is perfectly clean. Factors such as pollution and water quality can affect anyone, so investing in a clarifying shampoo can be a simple, fuss-free way to help your hair detox.

When should I use a clarifying shampoo?

Due to their dirt-stripping nature, most clarifying shampoos can result in hair feeling a tiny bit dry, so experts recommend using a clarifying shampoo alongside regular shampoos, rather than as a complete alternative. While the general consensus seems to be to use them no more than twice a week, some pros suggest that monthly use is enough to ensure your hair is cleansed. However, there are some products – such as the Duck & Dry Full Feathers Nourishing Shampoo that we tested – that are gentle enough that they’re appropriate for daily use.

Unfortunately, clarifying shampoos’ enthusiasm for ensuring hair is squeaky clean can mean that freshly-dyed hair can suffer, with colour fading quicker than anticipated. So if you plan to dye your hair, give it a grace period of at least a week before you reach for your bottle of clarifying shampoo.

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The best clarifying shampoos you can buy in 2022

1. Noughty Detox Dynamo Shampoo: Best budget-friendly clarifying shampoo

Price: £7.99 | Buy now from Noughty

The first thing you should know about Noughty’s Detox Dynamo Shampoo is that it smells delicious. A blend of peppermint and sorrel leaf results in a shampoo that smells good enough to eat (though we wouldn’t recommend it), while its eye-catching packaging will add a stylish touch to any shower.

As well as leaving hair feeling gorgeously cleansed, what we really love is its eco credentials. With its 97% natural composition, the shampoo is vegan-friendly and cruelty-free. Crucially, it’s also free from a host of baddies like parabens, sulphates, silicones and phthalates. Noughty recommends using it every third wash, so make sure you keep your regular shampoo to hand.

Another big tick in its favour? Detox Dynamo is the cheapest clarifying shampoo on our list, making it the perfect pick if you’ve got a smaller budget.

Key specs – Size: 250ml; Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Noughty

2. Duck & Dry Fine/Full Feathers Shampoo: Best clarifying shampoo for fine or thick hair

Price: £18 | Buy now from Duck & Dry

Duck & Dry isn’t just a fabulous hair salon with locations dotted around some of the most exclusive areas of London – it also provides products for people to keep their hair (and feathers) in top condition.

We tested the Full Feathers Shampoo, which is specifically created for thick hair, while the Fine Feathers Shampoo is the equivalent product for people with finer hair, if you’re keen to find a clarifying shampoo that’s specifically tailored to your hair type.

Promising to deep-clean hair without stripping away natural oils, this shampoo is appropriate for daily use and a treat to use. Thanks to a blend of Aloe Vera, coconut and essential oils, it’s got a beautifully delicate scent, and it left our hair feeling silky smooth for several days. An accompanying conditioner is also available for a serious hydration fix.

Key specs – Size: 250ml Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Duck & Dry

3. Authentic Beauty Concept Deep Cleansing Shampoo: Best vegan-friendly clarifying shampoo

Price: £24 | Buy now from Nigel Bailey Hair

Authentic Beauty Concept’s Deep Cleansing Shampoo can be used on any hair type and, with its floral scent, it’s a sumptuous choice, perfect for adding a splash of decadence to the mundanity of hair-wash night. It left hair feeling grease-free and uplifted even after a day spent out and about in a pollution-filled city, while its fragrant blend of rose, violet and freesias added an extra touch of luxury.

This clarifying shampoo is brimming over with goodness too – its ingredients are sustainably sourced, and it’s cruelty-free, PETA-approved, and vegan-friendly, as well as being free from sulphates, parabens and silicones. It’s also rich in Fair Trade Violet Rice Extract, which has been ethically sourced in South East Asia and helps to strip the hair and scalp of grease and dirt.

On top of all that, the aesthetically pleasing bottle with its striking minimalist design will look great in your shower.

Key specs – Size: 300ml; Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Nigel Bailey Hair

4. Schwarzkopf Professional Bonacure Clean Performance Shampoo: Best clarifying shampoo for a salon-quality clean

Price: £15 | Buy now from Feel Unique

Schwarzkopf Professional is synonymous with salon-quality haircare - and its Bonacure Clean Performance Shampoo is no different. In fact, odds are that the hairdresser you visit will actually be using it as its composition makes it a great choice for hair prep prior to salon-based chemical hair treatments, such as perms and relaxers.

Free from silicones, artificial colourants and SLS/SLES sulphates, its vegan-friendly formula is suitable for all hair types and is particularly potent for oily hair. We liked its fresh minty scent and hair felt notably cleaner – if a tad dry on our non-oily hair, as might be expected – after using it.

The product is recommended for use on a weekly basis, so don’t throw out your other shampoo bottles just yet. But on that note, the bottle is made from 97% recycled material and the packaging is recyclable, which, combined with its vegan keratin alternative, makes it quite an impressive offering for eco-minded shoppers.

Key specs – Size: 250ml Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Feel Unique

5. Curlsmith Wash & Scrub Detox Shampoo: Best clarifying shampoo for curly hair

Price: £23 | Buy now from Curlsmith

If you’re the proud owner of beautiful curls, you’ll want to find a shampoo that is specifically formulated with your hair type in mind. The clue’s in the name with Curlsmith, which specialises in fuss-free solutions for people with curls of every style.

Its Wash & Scrub Detox Shampoo features tiny exfoliating particles that can truly break down dirt and residue on even the tightest of curls. It’s also formulated to help if you’ve got an angry scalp, promising to tackle flakiness and itching without drying out your curls.

Whether you’re struggling with dandruff or dryness, it could be the perfect product for you, with a dose of apple cider vinegar helping to even out the pH of the scalp and restore law and order to your hair.

Free from sulphates, parabens, silicones and a host of other haircare baddies, it’s also vegan-friendly and cruelty free.

Key specs – Size: 237ml; Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Curlsmith

6. Aveeno Clarify and Shine+ Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo: Best all-round clarifying shampoo

Price: £8.99 | Buy now from Boots

Devotees of the brand’s skincare products will be delighted to discover that Aveeno does haircare, too. Designed with dry scalps and dehydrated hair in mind, this shampoo is gentle enough to be used on a daily basis and boasts a pH-balanced formula that makes it a great pick for sensitive skin.

We loved the sweet scent of this shampoo, and it created the perfect lather that was very satisfying to wash out. It improved the texture and quality of our hair after just one use, with locks looking shinier and feeling bouncier. Unsurprisingly, as this shampoo has colloidal oats and apple cider vinegar high on its ingredients list, which are known respectively for their moisturising and clarifying powers.

A familiar drugstore brand with an accessible price point, Aveeno’s product is a genuine all-rounder that can be used by anyone due to its gentle composition. An accompanying conditioner is also available to complete your routine.

Key specs – Size: 354ml; Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Boots

7. Redken Amino-Mint Scalp Shampoo: Best clarifying shampoo for oily hair

Price: £20 | Buy now from Look Fantastic

Find yourself dealing with oily hair week after week? This clarifying shampoo has been specifically formulated to clean and nurture oily scalps, working to rebalance a skewed pH while still being gentle enough to avoid irritating sensitive skin.

With its minty-fresh scent – that’ll be the peppermint extract – this shampoo feels like an instant refresh for your head. Our hair was shinier after just one use, although you should be mindful of overuse if you’re not naturally oily as it could result in dryness. Its 7% Amino Acid Strength Complex helps to strengthen hair and you won’t need to use much to feel like hair has been thoroughly cleansed.

Key specs – Size: 300ml; Paraben-free? Yes

Buy now from Look Fantastic

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