You are here: Home > Knowledge Base > Hair Care Information > Hair Products Ingredients > What Makes the Best Clarifying Shampoo

What Makes The Best Clarifying Shampoo?

If you hair has lost its shine, feels heavy or looks oily, you may need to use a clarifying shampoo on it. Styling products, chlorine and minerals from hard water can build up on your hair, making it less manageable and giving it an unhealthy appearance. If a lot of styling product is used in your hair, especially leave in conditioners or other products that are waxy, you might need to use a clarifying shampoo about once or even twice a week. If you use a minimal amount of styling products, you should use a clarifying shampoo once or twice a month.

How Do They Work?

Clarifying shampoos are specially formulated to deep clean hair. This removes the buildup caused by styling products. It also removes chemicals from your hair caused by chlorine and minerals deposited by hard water. Although regular shampoos will remove dirt and excess oil from hair, many regular shampoos include moisturizers and other ingredients that coat hair shafts to help prevent damage.
We recommend Follicleanse as the best clarifying shampoo because it uses Zinc PCA that naturally removes oils and dirt. It also contains botanical and natural ingredients such as Fenugreek that is gentle on the scalp yet is effective for removing build-up of gels, mousse, hairspray and residue from conditioners. Clarifying shampoos are designed to strip hair rather than coat it. Because clarifying shampoos strip hair of buildup as well as the natural oils produced by the scalp, you shouldn’t use clarifying shampoos too frequently or you will end up with overly dry, damaged hair.

Acetic Acid

One ingredient found in most clarifying shampoos is acetic acid. Acetic acid is the main ingredient of vinegar. If you have ever used vinegar as a cleanser, you know that it is a powerful cleaner that can remove buildup in coffee pots, remove grease and baked on food from your oven, etc. This powerful ingredient cleanses your hair equally well, removing all of the buildup from various chemicals and products. For the best clarifying shampoos, look for acetic acid as an ingredient as well.


Many clarifying shampoos also contain surfactants as a primary ingredient. Surfactants, such as sodium laureth sulfate, are often used in detergents for deep cleansing and stain removal. They work by attracting water molecules while also attaching to dirt and oil molecules. This allows the surfactant to suspend dirt and oil molecules within the water so that they can be washed away. Without a surfactant, dirt and oil will not mix with the water, and the water will run off the hair leaving dirt and oil rather than removing it. While you should avoid surfactants in your shampoos for daily cleansing, they are good to have in clarifying shampoos because they work to strip away all of the dirt, oil, chemicals, and product buildup in your hair. Better yet, for sensitive scalps or color-treated hair use a sulfate free clarifying shampoo to avoid color loss.

Citric Acid

Citric acid is another good ingredient for clarifying shampoos. Citric acid is a mild acid that breaks down the buildup of chemicals and styling product residue in your hair. Citric acid is found naturally in many vegetables and fruits, particularly citrus fruits such as lemons and limes. It is most often manufactured in a laboratory, however, using mold and a sugar source. Just as a cut lemon can be used to clean mineral deposits and hard water stains from your bathroom, in addition to many other cleaning used, citric acid can remove buildup from your hair