Hair Products

13 Best Clarifying Shampoos for Natural Hair (Sulfate-Free & Not So Sulfate-Free)


clarifying shampoo for 4c hair

If you’ve got natural hair, chances are you’ve heard the cautionary tale about avoiding clarifying shampoos like the plague, fearing they’ll destroy your precious brittle hair in a single wash.

But let’s set the record straight: regardless of hair types, the occasional clarifying wash is essential.

I used to dread anything that left my hair “squeaky, clean” because I thought oily hair meant healthy hair.

But my thick curls suffered—frizzing up, drying out, with an itchy, flaky scalp—until I realized they were just craving a fresh clean start with a curly hair-friendly clarifying shampoo, not one of those harsh clarifiers.

These powerhouse cleansers excel at giving you a deep cleanse but choose wisely to avoid stripping your hair strands of vital nutrients.

My first dip into clarifying—a scary, sulfate-packed shampoo—was a revelation for my curls.

With monthly “fresh start” washes, my 4a curly hair boasts newfound volume and is some of the healthiest hair I have ever had, while my scalp feels soothed.

Look for milder formulas infused with natural oils for replenishment.

Luckily, you don’t need to search far for the best clarifying shampoo, I did that for you. Here’s my curated list, primed for tackling excess product build-up:

Related Post: An Easy Guide For A Natural Hair Wash Day Routine

What Is A Clarifying Shampoo

A clarifying shampoo serves as a potent deep cleanse, effectively eliminating product buildup, dirt, grease, and silicones from both hair and scalp.

Unlike regular shampoo, which is a gentle cleanser, clarifying shampoo offers a stronger approach to cleansing.

When looking for the best clarifying shampoo, opt for those that tick the following boxes:

  • Sulfate-free (This is very optional)
  • Enriched with emollients
  • Infused with moisturizing agents
  • Offers ample slip for easier detangling

Related Post: How To Clarify Curly Hair & How Often You Should Be

My Top Recommended Shampoos For A Deep Cleanse

1

Olaplex No. 4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo

Olaplex No. 4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo

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2

OGX Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Shampoo for Oily and Greasy Hair

OGX Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Shampoo

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3

K18 PEPTIDE PREP™ Color-Safe Detox Clarifying Shampoo

K18 PEPTIDE PREP Detox Clarifying Shampoo

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4

PATTERN Beauty by Tracee Ellis Ross Cleansing Shampoo

PATTERN Beauty Cleansing Shampoo

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5

OUAI Detox Shampoo - Clarifying Shampoo for Build Up

OUAI Detox Shampoo – Clarifying Shampoo

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How To Tell If Your Hair Needs A Deep Cleanse:

  • Hair feels heavy or weighed down, indicating excessive product build-up
  • Curly hair loses its bounce and definition, suggesting product buildup
  • Minor scalp irritations like the scalp become itchy or irritated due to product buildup of excess oils and impurities
  • Natural hair appears dull, lackluster, or greasy despite regular washing
  • Hair products seem less effective or don’t absorb into the hair as well as usual
  • Increase in dandruff or flakiness on the scalp
  • Noticeable decrease in hair volume and movement
  • Hair feels rough or straw-like to the touch, indicating a need for deep cleansing

Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty: how often should you clarify your hair?

Are clarifying shampoos suitable for all curl types? And what should you prioritize when looking for the ultimate clarifying shampoo for your curly hair?

Oh, and stick around for the lowdown on the 13 finest formulas of 2024.

Related Post: The Best Wash & Go Hair Products For Natural Hair

Is Clarifying Shampoo Good For Natural Hair?

why does my hair feel waxy after washing

Technically, clarifying shampoo isn’t good for any hair type, but it’s a necessary regimen for natural hair in between your regular shampoo.

These shampoos often pack harsh clarifiers, like sulfates, which effectively loosen and eliminate grease, oils, and residues from your hair strands, giving you a “fresh”—but also leaving you with dry hair.

Many styling products like a leave-in conditioner or hair creams contain waxes or silicones that cause product buildup.

That can only be eradicated from your hair strands with cleansing shampoos.

So, even if you’re diligently co-washing your hair every few days, or just using your regular shampoo every wash day—but you’re also using products prone to excess product build-up—you won’t be effectively cleansing your scalp and hair strands, eventually leading to lackluster, dry, or greasy hair over time.

Related Post: Why Does My Hair Feel Waxy & Sticky After Washing?

How Often Should I Clarify My Hair?

You should clarify your hair at least once a month to maintain healthy hair and avoid oily and dry scalp.

However, it’s important to listen to your hair and notice signs of product buildup, such as heaviness, dullness, or decreased curl definition.

It’s better to clarify when needed rather than strictly sticking to a schedule.

Additionally, there are certain times when you should clarify your hair, regardless of when you last clarified:

  • After swimming: Salt water, chlorine, and other chemicals in pool water can strip hair of its natural oils and leave behind excess product build-up on your hair and scalp.
  • After coloring your hair: Hair dye and chemical treatments can leave behind residue and cause buildup on the hair and scalp, so make sure to clarify your color-treated hair.
  • After wearing a protective style: Braids, weaves, and other protective styles can trap sweat, oil, and product residue, leading to product buildup on the scalp.
  • If you sweat a lot: Sweat contains salt and other impurities that can accumulate on the scalp, leading to product buildup and minor scalp irritations.

By clarifying your hair as needed and paying attention to your hair’s signals, you can make sure that your scalp and curls remain clean, healthy, and vibrant.

Related Post: How Often Should You Wash Natural Low Porosity Hair?

The Best Deep Cleansing Shampoos For A Deep Cleanse

From hard water to natural ingredients and even harsh chemicals that can be found in our water or hair products, these are the best shampoos for a good deep cleanse:

Olaplex No. 4C Clarifying Shampoo

Olaplex Clarifying Shampoo is ideal for those with dry, damaged, or color-treated hair, offering deep cleansing without harsh chemicals.

It uses new technology to target product buildup, excess oil, and hard water minerals, while the bond protector ensures healthier hair.

This gentle cleanser promotes optimal hair growth and repairs hair from the inside out.

Olaplex No. 4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo

OUAI Detox Shampoo – Clarifying Shampoo

OUAI Detox Shampoo provides a deep cleanse to remove product buildup and excess oil from all hair types, which is especially beneficial for natural hair.

Infused with apple cider vinegar and hydrolyzed keratin, it leaves hair strands feeling refreshed and revitalized.

This sulfate-free cleanser is perfect for those seeking a fresh, clean start without stripping hair of its natural oils.

OUAI Detox Shampoo - Clarifying Shampoo for Build Up

OGX Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Shampoo

OGX Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Shampoo is perfect for oily scalp and greasy hair, providing a deep cleanse that leaves hair feeling light and fresh.

Infused with apple cider vinegar and essential oils, this sulfate-free shampoo tackles excess oil and product buildup effectively.

It’s a great option for a fresh, clean start on wash day.

OGX Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Shampoo for Oily and Greasy Hair

K18 PEPTIDE PREP Clarifying Shampoo

K18 PEPTIDE PREP Color-Safe Detox Clarifying Shampoo offers a deep cleanse while being gentle on color-treated hair.

Formulated with K18 Peptide for bond maintenance and repair, this shampoo removes impurities and product buildup without stripping color.

It’s the perfect shampoo for achieving healthier hair and optimal hair growth.

K18 PEPTIDE PREP™ Color-Safe Detox Clarifying Shampoo

PATTERN Beauty Cleansing Shampoo

PATTERN Beauty Cleansing Shampoo by Tracee Ellis Ross is designed for curly hair, especially type 4C hair, to deeply cleanse and remove excess product buildup.

Enriched with natural ingredients like aloe vera and coconut oil, this shampoo nourishes and hydrates while providing a thorough cleanse.

It’s sulfate-free, ensuring a gentle yet effective wash that maintains the hair’s natural moisture.

PATTERN Beauty by Tracee Ellis Ross Cleansing Shampoo

Shea Moisture African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo

Shea Moisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Deep Cleansing Shampoo is perfect for removing excess product buildup and impurities from natural hair.

Infused with shea butter and bamboo charcoal, it provides a deep cleanse while maintaining moisture balance.

This sulfate-free shampoo is ideal for achieving healthier hair without harsh chemicals.


Shea Moisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Deep Cleansing Shampoo

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo provides a deep cleanse, removing product buildup and impurities from the hair shaft.

Infused with argan oil and essential oils, it restores hair’s natural balance and leaves it feeling refreshed and revitalized.

This deep cleansing shampoo is great for achieving a fresh start and maintaining optimal hair health.

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo

EDEN Peppermint Tea Tree Clarifying Shampoo

EDEN BodyWorks Peppermint Tea Tree Clarifying Shampoo is excellent for curly hair, dry scalp, oily hair, and dandruff.

It uses natural ingredients like peppermint oil and tea tree oil to deeply cleanse and refresh the scalp.

This shampoo effectively removes product buildup and excess oil while soothing minor scalp irritations.

EDEN BodyWorks Peppermint Tea Tree Clarifying Shampoo

L’Oréal No Build-Up Micellar Shampoo

L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls No Build-Up Micellar Shampoo is a sulfate-free, silicone-free, and paraben-free option for curly hair.

Formulated with hyaluronic acid and castor oil, it gently cleanses hair strands without stripping moisture.

This micellar shampoo ensures a clean, buildup-free scalp for healthier curls.

L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls No Build-Up Micellar Shampoo

Neutrogena Exfoliating Clarify & Shine Shampoo

Neutrogena Exfoliating Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo with pink grapefruit is ideal for oily hair and scalp.

This anti-residue, pH-balanced shampoo exfoliates and removes excess product buildup for a fresh, clean start.

It’s free from parabens and is perfect for achieving shiny, healthy hair.

Neutrogena Exfoliating Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo

MONDAY Clarify Shampoo

MONDAY HAIRCARE Clarify Shampoo is perfect for oily hair, formulated with grapefruit extract, coconut oil, and vitamin E.

This shampoo deeply cleanses the scalp and hair strands, removing excess oil and product buildup.

Its gentle yet effective formula leaves hair feeling fresh and revitalized without harsh chemicals.

MONDAY HAIRCARE Clarify Shampoo 12oz for Oily Hair, Made with Grapefruit Extract, Coconut Oil and Vitamin E

CURLSMITH – Wash & Scrub Detox Shampoo

CURLSMITH Wash & Scrub Detox Shampoo is a vegan, exfoliating clarifying shampoo suitable for any hair type, including curly and natural hair.

Formulated with natural ingredients, it gently exfoliates the scalp to remove buildup and excess oil while promoting a healthy scalp.

This sulfate-free cleanser ensures a thorough yet gentle cleanse for healthier hair.

CURLSMITH - Wash & Scrub Detox Shampoo

Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Shampoo

Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Shampoo is designed to enhance shine and remove excess product buildup from all hair types.

Infused with apple cider vinegar and natural ingredients, this shampoo deeply cleanses while maintaining the hair’s natural moisture.

It’s sulfate-free, making it gentle and effective for a fresh, clean start.

Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Shampoo, Shine Enhancing

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