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Sometimes us curlies need a bit more than our sulfate-free shampoo or co-wash to remove buildup. If your curls have stopped responding to your moisturizers, stylers, and curl products that usually work so well, this is your sign to use Clarifying shampoo.

Did you know even while following the Curly Girl Method, you should do a clarifying shampoo once a month?

In order for your favorite curly hair stylers, moisturizers, and all products to work, your curls need to be able to absorb them; if there is a layer of buildup (whether this is from the product or accidentally using silicones), then your curls won’t look their best.

Despite silicones being a no-no on the CGM, there are a few that are quite beneficial for hair. Such as water-soluble silicones that help aid with hydration and wash out with water. Amodimethicone is a non-soluble silicone, but it is lightweight and has some serious benefits on curls.

What?? A curly girl promoting silicones?? Who is she??

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, you should avoid most silicones. However, there are a few that can speed up drying time, create a better protective barrier against damage, and also aid hydration. Just don’t overload on silicones, as this can cause buildup.

I will go into detail shortly. Doing a gentle clarifying shampoo once a month can really benefit curly hair; it can remove all buildup, whether that is silicones, products, or just oils that need a bit more of a nudge so your products can do their best work.

I have lined up the best clarifying shampoos for curly hair on the market, so every day is a good curly hair day and so your products can work to the best of their ability. Your scalp will love you for this one!!

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the Best Clarifying Shampoos For Curly Hair


Redken Detox Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo

best clarifying shampoo overall for curly hair

My favorite professional clarifying shampoo for removing buildup from curly hair has to be Redken; it has been raved by many professionals like myself all over the globe for easily and instantly removing buildup and refreshing hair in one use.

Redken’s clarifying shampoos are pretty incredible.

It is a clarifying shampoo designed for all hair types and textures and even color-treated hair. It works to remove the dry shampoo, product buildup, dead skin cells as well as hard water minerals, excess oil, pollution residue, and more.

It will instantly remove product buildup, purify and refresh curls, leaving hair looking shiny and feeling cleaner than a whistle. Redken beats any other clarifying shampoo as it also works to strengthen the hair cuticle.

So your curls will not only feel refreshed but also restored and stronger.

This clarifying shampoo cream features AHA Fruit Acid Cleansing Complex, which works to deeply cleanse and strengthen the hair and improve hair health. Redken is the No.1 Professional Hair Brand in the US, so you can order with confidence.

It will even revive damaged hair and curls after chemical treatment or if you have color-treated hair which has killed your curls. It is the ideal choice for those with oily hair, too, especially tight coily girls, as natural oils tend to collect at the scalp because they cannot reach the ends of your natural hair.

Personally, it is one of my favorite clarifying shampoos on the market; many stylists use this as their go-to clarifying shampoo.

  • Removes product instantly
  • Refreshes hair in one use
  • Made with AHA Fruit Acid to deeply cleanse and strengthen
  • Used by professionals
  • None, this clarifying shampoo is amazing

Latest deal: Redken Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo


Shea Moisture Bamboo & Charcoal Deep Cleansing Shampoo

best natural clarifying shampoo for curls

Want a spa-like feel when cleansing your scalp free of all nasties that have built up on your hair over the last month? Well, you’ll love what Shea Moisture has to offer! Their gentle yet effective, deep-cleansing, sulfate-free African Black Soap Shampoo works wonders for removing natural oils and product buildup from your hair.

It is enriched with Bamboo and Charcoal to lift away pre-wash treatments and product buildup. It even works wonders when removing dirt, excess oil, and flakey buildup while calming and soothing the scalp, perfect for high porosity hair.

Charcoal is a brilliant natural ingredient to remove the buildup of dust, dirt, oil, sebum, skin cells that build up on your scalp. It can improve how well your products are absorbed into your curls and even aid growth. It leaves your scalp room to breathe.

Bamboo extract is best known for its scalp-soothing properties; it helps improve blood circulation in the scalp. It also has antioxidant and anti-irritant properties to create an environment so that more hair can grow; it is extremely beneficial for natural hair. It even strengthens the hair follicles!

So these natural ingredients used in Shea Moisture’s clarifying shampoo have some serious benefits!

But that’s not the only ingredients used in this amazing shampoo. It even includes Tea Tree Oil, Willow Bark Extract. Tea tree oil is especially beneficial in clarifying shampoos for curly hair as it has antimicrobial properties so it works wonders for cleaning and fighting many types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

These natural cleansing agents and natural hydrating agents combined together to create the ideal environment for curly hair.

  • Contains charcoal, bamboo and tea tree
  • Natural formula to cleanse
  • Sulfate-free and gentle on curly hair
  • Removes buildup and soothes scalp
  • None

Latest deal: Shea Moisture Deep Cleansing Shampoo


EDEN BodyWorks Papaya Castor Moisturizing Scalp Cleanser

best clarifying shampoo for 4c hair

Now I love a clarifying shampoo that not only reduces buildup on your scalp but also helps create the perfect environment for hair growth– after all, hair growth begins with a good foundation. The combination papaya and castor oil to nourish and cleanse.

So let’s talk about these key ingredients in more detail.

For starters, Papaya is packed with vitamins A, C, and E, which provide nutrients that help promote healthy hair and scalp. This clarifying shampoo for curly hair is free of harsh sulfates and is one of the gentlest cleansers on my list.

It works to exfoliate and remove dirt and buildup from hair and scalp without stripping your hair from its natural moisture. It works to balance hair and scalp pH for all hair types, and it is best suited for all scalp conditions.

The castor oil then works to offer deep moisturization properties as well as add shine and protect strands from drying out. It also helps with detangling and offering slip to the curls, which is amazing for curly hair as you need to detangle while wet.

After all every curly girl needs a good detangling brush and detangler for her curls. 

Jamaican Black Castor oil also has natural cleansing capabilities, making it yet another brilliant natural clarifying shampoo for curly hair. It is perfect for fine hair or thinning hair as it creates the perfect environment for hair growth.

Excellent choice for those looking for something a little more natural.

  • Contains papaya and castor oil
  • Natural formula
  • Curly Girl Method Approved
  • Moisturising and reduces breakage by up to 70%
  • None

Latest deal: EDEN BodyWorks Moisturizing Scalp Cleanser


Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo

best clarifying shampoo for wavy /curly hair

As a curly girls, we can all admit that we all use a lot of products in our hair to enhance our hair. Countless leave-in conditioners, creams, gels, mousses, heat protectants, oils, and more, buildup happens. Not to mention hard water, mineral deposits, chlorine, and environmental factors too.

This can build up over time, causing curls to become limp, lifeless, dull, and even greasy. This clarifying shampoo by Morccanoil is a deep cleansing formula that removes everyday buildup and restores your curls to their former glory with a healthy balance.

This formula is rich in antioxidant oils and juicy ingredients like argan oil, avocado oil, keratin, lavender, chamomile, and jojoba oil extracts. So this clarifying shampoo not only deeply cleanses but also nourishes.

Lavender especially is best known for its antimicrobial properties, helping to kill bacteria within the hair and even head lice. It also has a soothing effect making it perfect for the scalp, curls, and even relaxing you!

Pretty cool, right?

This shampoo is not only perfect for curly hair because it is sulfate-free, phosphate-free, and paraben-free, but it can also be used on color-treated hair. It can be used before a perm or color to remove any buildup for best results!

This blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and essential fatty acids gives the scalp a weightless, healthy balance and revives curls.

  • Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and fatty acids
  • Sulfate-free
  • Gently removes buildup
  • Contains argan oil and many other enriching ingredients.
  • Issues ordering through Amazon

Latest deal: Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo


Neutrogena Anti-Residue Clarifying Shampoo

When buildup occurs on our hair, our curls look very dull, lifeless, and greasy. This is when your curly hair is telling you to grab clarifying shampoos and give your hair the wash it deserves– after all, 90% of dulling is caused by buildup!

Whether that is shampoo, conditioner, or styling products.

So let’s talk about this clarifying shampoo by Neutrogena; it is rated one of the top clarifying shampoos. It cleanses your hair to instantly rinse away buildup residue. It is a great budget-friendly clarifying shampoo for Redken.

It removes up to 90% of heavy, dulling residue, which is built up by shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. It is the first product to contain sulfates on my list, but this isn’t a bad thing if you’re trying to remove non-soluble silicones.

This clarifying shampoo will be sure to get your hair as clean as possible by deeply removing stubborn buildups. It is recommended that you use a clarifying shampoo before starting the Curly Girl Method to remove buildup and once every month or two after.

This mild formula offers gentle cleansing, it is non-irritating, and it will be sure to remove all the dirt and grime building up on your scalp. It can also help restore volume and leave hair feeling thoroughly cleaned; no more bad curly hair days!

It is a great option for those on a budget!

  • Great budget option
  • Removes up to 90% of grime
  • Mild and non-irritating
  • Ideal for removing silicones
  • Sulfates can be too harsh on fragile curls

Latest deal: Neutrogena Anti-Residue Clarifying Shampoo


OUAI Detox Clarifying Shampoo

Sometimes our hair needs a good detox; the buildup of countless styling products and conditioners can become too much for our curls. Luckily this clarifying shampoo by OUAI deeply cleanses away dirt, oil, and product buildup.

Their detoxifying apple cider vinegar and keratin blend in the ingredients work wonders for removing product buildup. This is yet another one of my go-to’s as it was a lifesaver for removing stubborn product buildup in my hair and scalp.

It cleanses the hair without stripping the natural oils from the scalp, removing all product buildup and adding softness and shine to your curls. It is suitable for all hair types, from loose waves to tight coils for removing product buildup.

You can use this detox shampoo once a month or whenever your hair needs a deeper cleanse than your normal shampoo.

Apple cider vinegar is brilliant at exfoliating and removing dry flakes, residue, and buildup, so every day is a good hair day. It helps to unclog hair follicles to remove buildup and balance your hair’s pH, leaving hair feeling fresh, soft, and shiny.

Apple cider vinegar also helps to strengthen strands, and when paired with keratin, your curls will not only feel as fresh as a daisy but much stronger too. This shampoo by OUAI deeply nourishes, strengthens, conditions, and cleanses.

You will be winning with this shampoo.

  • Contains apple cider vinegar for deep cleansing
  • Removes flakes, residue, and buildup
  • Sulfate-free
  • Cleanses, conditions, strengthens, and nourishes
  • None

Latest deal: OUAI Detox Clarifying Shampoo

Best Clarifying Shampoo For Curly Hair-- A Buyer's Guide

Clarifying shampoo should be a must for everyone, even if you have curly hair or not. Doing a clarifying shampoo once a month will clear your hair from all the gunk and product buildup so your hair stylers, creams, and gels can penetrate deeply.

If there is a layer of buildup on your curls, your products struggle to penetrate through this layer and will sit on top too. You may notice this when your hair products aren’t working as well as they used to, and when this happens then, this is your sign that your hair needs clarifying.

But clarifying is more than just your regular shampoo; it penetrates deeper to cut out dust, buildup from hair styling products, oils, silicones, and whatever else is building up on your hair cuticles. It will leave you with bouncy curls as nothing will be weighing down your hair anymore.

Now, you should never use clarifying shampoo on curly hair more than maybe once a month (twice if you’ve used silicones). This is because clarifying shampoo is far too harsh on curls to use regularly; it often contains sulfates and harsh chemicals to remove buildup.

So while it works wonders to remove buildup when needed every month or two, it is not recommended for weekly use as it will dry the curls out and lead to damaged hair– the last thing we want!

But I’m here to run through everything you need to know about clarifying shampoo and why you should clarify your hair!

clarifying shampoo

What Is Clarifying Shampoo?

So what is clarifying shampoo, and what does clarifying shampoo do? A clarifying does far more than any regular shampoo; it cuts through product buildup and oils, leaving hair looking and feeling super clean. If you’ve ever had a salon relaxer or keratin treatment, it may have been used.

This is because these treatments work wonders on extremely clean hair, so by doing a clarifying shampoo beforehand, you can reap the most benefits of these treatments as they can penetrate deeper into the hair cuticle and work most effectively.

But clarifying shampoos can be used by anyone. If you feel your hair is not cooperating or feels lifeless, then this is a sign of product buildup. Clarifying shampoo leaves a blank canvas for your products to work to their best ability.

So is clarifying shampoo good for curly hair?

Yes and no. No clarifying shampoo is good for any hair type, but it is necessary for curly hair from time to time. Clarifying shampoos tend to contain sulfates which help to remove grease, oil, silicones, and hair products from your strands but will dry your hair out.

Clarifying shampoo is often used as the reset shampoo before completing the curly girl method. This is because sulfate-free shampoos won’t remove product buildups like silicones, waxes, and oils, so it is used as the first step and then once every month or two after.

But since curly hair is already fragile and prone to dryness, it is not recommended to do it regularly; it is very necessary at times but not to be used on a weekly basis. It will stip your curls from natural moisture, but it will leave your hair feeling fresher than ever.

The best clarifying shampoos for curly hair have to be gentle formulas, gentle but effective as you want it to remove all the buildup from your hair, but you don’t want to strip too much of the natural moisture or oils as this will make your curls more prone to damage.

How Often To Use Clarifying Shampoo For Curly Hair:

There’s no right or wrong as to how often you should clarify your hair, it depends on how your hair feels and which products you are using, but it is recommended that you use clarifying shampoos once a month on curly or natural hair.

However, if you accidentally use silicones, waxes, or mineral oils on your hair, then you might want to use a clarifying shampoo when you notice this buildup. For example, if you’re using any of the Olaplex range from No. 4 – 8 as they contain water-soluble silicones.

There are crazy benefits of using Olaplex products on your curls; they help promote the healthiest curls possible as they repair the hair follicle on a molecular level on the inside out. However, they do contain a lightweight silicone amodimethicone which has benefits for curls, but it is non-soluble, and non-Curly Girl Method approved.

That being said, it does not build up on hair like regular silicones, so if you’re doing a monthly clarifying wash, then you can reap the benefits of olaplex with zero product buildup. You can still use Olaplex No. 0 – 3 on the CGM as they are silicone-free!

Check out my favorite Olaplex products for curly hair for more details!

That being said, if you’re doing the Curly Girl Method strictly and cutting out silicones, waxes, and mineral oils (all the ingredients that buildup), then you might not need to do a clarifying shampoo once a month. You can stretch it until you judge that your hair needs it.

Ultra-fine hair might need it monthly even while doing the CGM strictly as fine hair is more prone to oil than thick hair. For thick, dry hair, you should try to stretch the gap between clarifying shampoos as much as you can, as this can really dry out your ends.

For example, my coilies with thick, coarse hair should avoid clarifying shampoo and use it only when necessary when there is buildup, and your products are not performing as well as they used to. This is because thick, coarse curls struggle with moisture retention as it is so stripping more natural moisture will make this curl type most prone to damage.

So yes and no, it is good for deep cleaning and removing buildup so your curly hair products can work to the best of their ability, but it is not recommended to be used regularly. So once every month or two is recommended for curly hair.

How To Tell If Your Curls Need Clarifying:

There tends to be a few signs that your curly hair needs a clarifying wash, so either you can clarify once a month or wait until these signs start appearing to clarify– I tend to wait as I have thick, coarse, dry curls, and I want to wait as long as possible.

But here are some of the signs that you need to clarify your hair:

  • – Hair starts to look dull
  • – Curls are weighed down and limp
  • – Your products aren’t working as well as they used to
  • – Your hair feels greasy / “producty” even after washing
  • – Hair looks dirty even when clean
  • – Oily roots appear far sooner than before
  • – Hair feels itchy and flaky
  • – Curls look frizzier
  • – Curls are looking flat and no longer hold their shape
  • – Your curls just look and feel different, and you can no longer achieve voluminous hair

The key sign is that your curls are suddenly not cooperating as well as they used to; they feel heavier and overall almost greasy, despite just washing it recently. This may be your sign to do a clarifying wash on your curls.

How To Use Clarifying Shampoo On Curls

Clarifying curly hair is super easy to do; you just need to use clarifying shampoo instead of your regular shampoo. Your hair will feel a little dry afterward, but to combat this, I set a day once every month or two to use a deep conditioner and restore moisture to my hair.

I am a personal fan of Olaplex No. 3 for protecting and repairing my curls (it is even CGM approved!) I wet down my hair and apply Olaplex No. 3 to my damp hair and leave it for an hour or so; it is effective up until the hair is dry. I created a full guide on how to use Olaplex 3, be sure to check it out!

I then hop in the shower and rinse the treatment out of my hair and then do two clarifying shampoos with a 5-minute scalp massage for each using my hands and my shampoo brush to really stimulate the scalp and remove all the product buildup from the month.

Top tip of how to clarify hair: Make sure to avoid the ends of your hair and never scrub the shampoo into the ends, it will just dry them out and cause them to become very brittle. Don’t worry it will naturally reach the ends when washing it out.

I then load up my ends with my favorite deep conditioning hair mask and leave it on for a further hour or so– see why I said I set a day once a month to clarify my hair? Then I will rinse that out and apply my hydrating hair products directly to my wet hair.

When looking for clarifying shampoos, the key ingredient that will be sure to get your hair all the way clean is either olefin sulfonate or sulfate. It is not CGM approved, but many Curly Girls use it to remove buildup every month or two.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do you make clarifying shampoo for curly hair?

You can make your own clarifying shampoo, but it may not be as effective as buying one online from a professional brand. But you can make your own DIY clarifying shampoo with a mixture of baking soda and apple cider vinegar.

This is recommended for naturally curly hair as you know exactly what ingredients you are using within your shampoo so no sneaky ingredients ate used, which can secretly damage your hair. Mixing a tablespoon of baking soda with warm water and apple cider vinegar is one of my favorite homemade clarifying shampoo recipes.

Aloe vera is also brilliant at removing natural oils and soothing the scalp, making it a great ingredient in clarifying shampoos.

Spread evenly across your scalp and leave it on for a few minutes and then give your scalp a massage with the treatment on to help break down the buildup and then remove by rinsing. Follow this with a deep conditioning treatment to restore moisture.

Why use a clarifying shampoo on curly hair?

A clarifying shampoo is designed to remove buildup from your hair, such as waxes and moisturizers, and silicones used on the day-to-day. Curly hair is likely to have buildup as we curly girls use a lot of products to define our curls.

After a while, our hair becomes limp, and our styling products don’t work as well as they used to; curls don’t look as bouncy as they once were. All these signs are reasons to use clarifying shampoos to help remove buildup so curls can be restored.

Using clarifying shampoos once every month or two is recommended.

What makes a shampoo clarifying?

Clarifying shampoos often differ from your regular shampoo as it is far stronger; it is designed to deep clean your hair and specifically formulated to remove stubborn residue on your hair that your weekly shampoo or co-wash would often miss.

It is often formulated with sulfates which can be quite stripping to curly hair but is necessary on a monthly or two monthly basis to remove buildup, so your styling and conditioning products can penetrate more deeply and so you can reap the benefits.

What is the best clarifying shampoo for curly hair?

I personally love Redken’s clarifying shampoo range for curly hair as it is gentle enough to be used on curls while being strong enough to remove all stubborn buildups and refreshing hair. It is a professional brand loved by stylists all over the globe.

However, as a cheaper alternative, Shea Moisture is another brilliant brand; it uses natural formulas to remove buildup, it may not be as effective as some of the other brands as it doesn’t contain sulfates, but it is much more gentle on curls and affordable.

claifying shampoo for curly


 There you have it, everything you need to know, and the best product recommendations of the best clarifying shampoos for curly hair. It is highly recommended to do a monthly deep cleanse with a clarifying shampoo to remove buildup.

So set a day every month or two, preferably a Sunday, to deeply cleanse and nourish your curls. Use a pre-treatment before clarifying and a deep conditioning treatment afterward. This will help restore moisture and protect those precious curls.

Choose from any of the clarifying shampoos I have selected for you today; they are gentle enough to use on curls while being effective at removing buildup. You will notice the difference in your curls after doing this shampoo monthly.

Every day should be a good curl day, after all!

jess rowley

Jess Rowley

Cheif Editor & Nail Technician Expert


Jess Rowley, a veteran nail tech, has been studying beauty over the last 11 years and has completed the nail technology program in California. Watching the latest trends in beauty, Jess searches for the highest quality products that make your nails feel loved.