Best Clarifying Shampoo To Remove Product Buildup

clarifying shampoo

Picking the proper chelating or clarifying shampoo will help you have healthier looking hair.

Clarifying shampoos, also sometimes called chelating or detoxifying, are shampoos that are made to remove product buildup on the hair. These toxins collect on the hair shaft to create dull, lifeless-looking hair with no shine or bounce. These terms are not always interchangeable, however. If you want the healthiest looking hair, it’s important to start with the best clarifying shampoo or chelating shampoo for your hair.

When to use chelating shampoo

Kenra Clarifying Shampoo

Kenra Clarifying Shampoo

Chelating shampoo is similar to clarifying shampoo as they are both designed to remove build up in the hair. A chelating shampoo is designed to remove minerals (usually caused by hard water), but clarifying shampoos are designed more toward removal of dirt and oil.

Chelating shampoo will remove iron and copper mineral deposits left in the hair by using hard water, often the case if you live in an older house with copper pipes. These minerals tend to build up in the hair over time, making it feel dry and heavy and difficult to style. You can check your water by using pH strips that you can purchase at any drugstore.

We use these shampoos in the salon before some chemical services to ensure even deposit of the chemical being used, especially if the client is a heavy product user. They need to be followed by a good conditioner or mask, because clarifying and chelating shampoos tend to strip natural oils off the hair along with the unwanted build up and toxins, leaving the hair feeling parched.

These shampoos are NOT meant for treating dandruff. Shampoos containing tea tree are better for this problem.

When to use clarifying shampoo

Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo

Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo

Many clarifying shampoos can be purchased for use at home. They are especially useful for heavy product users who like hairspray or waxes and dry finishing products such as volumizing powders on a daily basis. I would refrain from daily use and recommend switching off with your regular shampoo and conditioner regime. They are best when applied to wet hair, lathered as much as possible and left on for 5 minutes before being rinsed off very well. Remember that you are trying to remove residue so rinsing thoroughly will help.

Alternatively, if you have the time, wrapping the hair with a hot wet towel (you can do this right in the sink with hot tap water and wring out the excess water) while the clarifying treatment is in the hair for 5-10 minutes is a relaxing spa-like treat that your hair will love.

Some of the high-end salon brands may not be very wallet friendly, but don’t despair. There are many drugstore brands that will do the job beautifully. Here are some of my favorites.

Best Clarifying Shampoo

Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo, 91/100, $5 for 6 oz.

Paul Mitchell Clarifying Shampoo, Viewpoints Score TBD, $12 for 10.14 oz.

This one is great for swimmers, too!

Best Chelating Shampoo

Redken Hair Cleansing Cream, 93/100, $20 for 10.1 oz.

Formulated with fruit acids to add shine.

Kenra, Viewpoints Score TBD, $16.50 for 10.1 oz.

Gentle enough for everyday use.

Rachel Leipzig Rachel Leipzig (30 Posts)

Rachel Leipzig has been styling hair in Chicago for 15 years, after relocating from New York City and opening a salon on Oak Street on Chicago’s Gold Coast. She is currently working at Sho Studio in Chicago. A specialist in makeovers, her television appearances include Oprah, ABC, and FOX. Leipzig’s work has also been featured in Allure, Chicago Social and Today’s Chicago Woman magazines.


  • Lori Testy

    Instead of a clarifying shampoo, try using baking soda to wet hair. Rub into you wet hair and just rinse. It gets out hairspray build up wonderfully! A beautician told me that about 30 years ago and it really works. I had this problem with hair spray build up . I had all these little beads of hair spray that just regular shampoo would not remove. Much cheaper than any shampoo!

    • Rachel Leipzig

      Lori,
      I would not recommend using baking soda on hair as it is very alkaline and will strip it requiring deep conditioning after in order to detangle. There are many affordable clarifying shampoos readily available that arent as aggressive. Save the baking soda for your pots and pans!