Does Black Hair Need a Clarifying Shampoo?

You've probably heard of clarifying shampoos, but maybe you thought those kind of cleansers were only for certain hair types—primarily those that suffer from oily buildup. Black hair is usually dry by nature, so perhaps you might have steered clear of a clarifying cleanser, because, who wants to cleanse just to end up with drier hair? It's a rational thought process, but if you use hair products, clarifying shampoo is a good idea. It'll help a great deal in freshening up your tresses, and do well in readying them for styling.

Clarifying shampoos remove product buildup, presenting you with a "clean slate." If your hair is limp and lifeless, looks dull, or doesn't want to hold a style, then it may be weighed down with old product residue, and clarifying should help. To get the details on why adding a clarifying shampoo to your routine could be valuable, we chatted with celebrity hairstylist and salon owner, Annagjid "Kee" Taylor and Ebony Bomani, master cosmetologist and product educator for The Mane Choice.

Meet the Expert

What Does Clarifying Shampoo Do For The Hair?

"I like to think of a clarifying shampoo as boss-level shampoo," says Taylor. "It's designed to strip your hair of product build-up, oils, and grease that won't necessarily come out with your regular, everyday shampoo." You're more likely to need one if you use a lot of product each day, or if you use heavy products. Oil-based products, particularly those containing an ingredient like petroleum (which you shouldn't use in your hair ever, but we forgive you) will quickly adhere themselves to the hair.

Because of this, they can be difficult to get rid of completely, even with the most diligent shampooing. Clarifiers are designed to remove the buildup that regular cleansers don't, but because clarifying shampoos are so good at removing buildup, they also tend to be extremely drying.

"Most clarifying shampoos will have fewer conditioning agents to cleanse as thoroughly as possible," Bomani says. However, she adds that botanicals like aloe vera, Ginkgo Biloba leaf extract, and rosemary leaf are ideal for thoroughly cleansing natural hair without stripping it. Taylor gives us one more pro-tip. "It's helpful to make sure that the shampoo indicates that it's safe for chemically-treated or colored hair. Even if that doesn't apply to you, it indicates that the formula is gentler and won't be too harsh on the hair." Noted.

How Often Should You Clarify?

"If you use a ton of products in your hair care regimen, it is highly beneficial to use a clarifying shampoo," says Bomani. "Since butters, oils, waxes, and other ingredients tend to build up over time; they can keep moisture and essential nutrients from absorbing into the hair, leading to dull looking hair that's more prone to breakage." None of us want that. Bomani recommends implementing a clarifying shampoo into your routine no more than once per week or every two to four weeks depending on your product usage.

Use them as we've recommended, and your hair shouldn't ever feel weighed down by build-up from old products. Here are 19 of our top clarifying shampoo picks worth trying:

Best for Curly Hair: Hydratherma Naturals Moisture Boosting Shampoo

No matter your hair texture, this clarifying, yet moisturizing shampoo promises to coat tresses in a blend of Omega 3s and 6s and regulate oil production.

Best Bar Cleanser for Natural Hair: Bask & Bloom Essentials Rhassoul & Bentonite Clay Shampoo Bar

If you're curious about a shampoo bar, this clay-based formula promises to reduce your carbon footprint while you bust that buildup.

Best for Oily Hair: amika Reset Scalp Clarifying Gel Shampoo

Love dry shampoo, or have an oily scalp? This aerosol gel-to-foam shampoo is ideal for post-workout days.

Best Overall: Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo

Made with argan and avocado oils and keratin, this clarifying shampoo will reveal clean, healthy hair, while keeping it soft and smooth.

Best for Calming the Scalp: Canviiy ScalpBliss Soothing Scalp Purifying Foam Treatment

We all deal with scalp issues from time to time. If you find your scalp is sensitive or flaking, give this 5-7 minute foam treatment a try. Made with scalp-loving ingredients like aloe vera, witch hazel, tea tree, sandalwood and coconut extracts, your scalp will be back to its best self in no time.

Best for Scalp Exfoliation: TPH by Taraji Never Salty Sugar Hair & Scalp Scrub

Pollution can affect our skin and hair, and this sugar scrub promises to detox the scalp, break down buildup, and rinse the week down the drain.

Best for Protective Style Cleansing: Alodia Nourish & Heal Organic Black Soap Wash

Formulated with organic, raw black soap, and unique ingredients like vitamin- C rich plantains, you can guarantee a balancing wash that can help with dermatitis, alopecia, and other scalp disorders.

Best Post-Swim Shampoo: Ouidad Water Works Clarifying Shampoo

Swimming is excellent exercise, but it can take a toll on your hair, especially if you're spending a lot of time in a chlorine-filled pool. Made with a blend of lemon, grapefruit and orange flower extracts, this shampoo helps rinse away the chlorine and saltwater and is a color-safe option.

Best for Chronically Dry Hair: Aunt Jackie's Oh So Clean Moisturizing and Softening Shampoo

Chronically dry hair can't risk being stripped by an overzealous cleanser. Infused with coconut oil, shea butter and extra virgin olive oil, this will help keep even the most dehydrated hair hydrated.

Best for Colored Hair: Christophe Robin Clarifying Shampoo with Chamomile & Cornflower

Treating color-treated hair with care is essential, and this shampoo chamomile and cornflower-based cleanser is gentle enough to be used more than once per week.

Best Budget: Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo

Drugstore products that work are the best. The sulfate-free formula breaks down buildup and won't strip the hair of its natural oils.

Best Strength-Building Shampoo: OUAI Detox Shampoo

With a nearly five-star review, the apple cider vinegar-based shampoo works on a range of hair types. With ingredients like hydrolyzed keratin meant to keep frizz at bay and ACV to remove buildup and balance, this cleanser is a winner.

Most Versatile Shampoo: DPHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse

Here we have another color-friendly ACV rinse, that will keep your hair and scalp looking and feeling its best.

Best Fragrance-Free Shampoo: CurlMix Pure Aloe Vera Shampoo Fragrance-Free

Sensitivity to fragrance is relatively common. Thankfully, CurlMix made a fragrance-free hydrating, clarifying cleanser with aloe to help cleanse and balance curly hair types.

Best Sustainable Shampoo: adwoa beauty Baomint Moisturizing Shampoo

A clarifying shampoo that stimulates the scalp is the perfect recipe for healthy, clean hair. This clean shampoo is formulated with peppermint, spearmint, and wintergreen that is meant to stimulate hair growth and help treat scalp conditions like dandruff and itchiness.

Best Clarifying Co-Wash: Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Avocado + Quinoa Co-Wash

Co-washing doesn't necessarily mean you can't get a buildup-free result. Not only does this formula breakdown buildup, but you can detangle as you cleanse as well.

Best Protective Style Shampoo: GIRL + HAIR CLEAR+ Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Hair Rinse

Washing your hair even when it's in a protective style is essential to maintain healthy hair and retaining length. The nozzle on the ACV-based rinse makes it easy to cleanse even those tough to reach spots.

Best Foam Clarifying Shampoo: Oribe The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo

Volcanic ash, sea kelp extract, green tea extract, and eucalyptus give this shampoo the elevated experience you'd expect from Oribe, while the ingredients work to cleanse all hair types.

Best Clarifying Shampoo for Breakage Prone Hair: The Mane Choice Ancient Egyptian Anti-Breakage & Repair Antidote Shampoo

Adding a clarifying cleanser to your routine doesn't mean the formula can't be packed with hydrating oils. Made with kalahari oil, oleaster oil, mongongo oil, and baobab oil, nourished, clean hair is just a wash away.

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