Sulfate-Free Clarifying Shampoos

Young woman with hairdresser washing hair with a clarifying shampoo

Frequent use of hair styling products, as well as your regular shampoo and conditioner, can create buildup on the hair over time, leaving your hair sticky, dull and unmanageable.

Clarifying shampoos are designed to deeply cleanse your hair and scalp to remove styling product build-up and residue from conditioning agents from the hair shaft, leaving your hair shiny and squeaky clean. Regular shampoos are not able to effectively remove those deposits due to the high content of conditioning agents that can build up over time.

Ordinary shampoos are a mixture of surfactants, conditioning agents and special care ingredients that should treat specific hair and scalp issues.

Surfactants (surface active agents) lower the surface tension between an oil and water, making greasy substances in the scalp and hair water-soluble. The oil and dirt can be pulled away from the hair, and then rinsed away with water.

Conditioning agents are included is a hair shampoo formula to reduce friction, impart manageability, provide UV protection and beautify the hair. Regular hair shampoos contain certain amounts of cleansing agents to keep the hair and scalp clean, but they don’t have the ability to completely remove mineral buildup, chlorine deposits and polymer film created by styling products. This is because the proportion of cleansing and conditioning ingredients must be carefully balanced to avoid complete stripping of natural oils from the scalp and to provide good slip and manageability after washing.

A clarifying shampoo contains a higher concentration of detergents than a standard shampoo to be able to completely remove hair buildup, without leaving any residues on its own. To refresh your scalp and keep your hair shiny and healthy-looking, you need to use a deep cleansing shampoo once a month or even once a week depending on your hair care regime, the frequency of swimming in chlorinated pools, and quality of water you use for washing your hair.

If you have hard water in your home or you regularly go swimming, you may need a chelating shampoo.

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Sulfate-Free Deep Cleansing Shampoos

The most commonly used primary cleaning agents in hair shampoos are anionic surfactants such as lauryl sulfates, laureth sulfates, and sulfosuccinates. They are excellent cleansers and produce abundant foam. However, if you overuse them, sulfates can irritate your scalp and strip your hair of its natural oils.

Sulfates in hair shampoos are one factor that might cause your hair color to fade. Sulfate-free clarifying shampoos do not foam as much as sulfate-containing shampoos, but this does not mean that they clean poorly. The foam does not have cleaning properties, but it does help in spreading the detergent over the scalp and hair. Knowing customer preferences, the manufacturers often add foam boosters to make the product more commercially successful.

Sulfate-free clarifying shampoos have a formula that balances the cleaning ability of hair and other factors that include scalp irritation and overall product toxicity. The “Sulfate-Free” label means that your shampoo is formulated without harsh sulfates such as sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate or ammonium laureth sulfate. To make sure that you buy a product that is safe for your hair and your body, also avoid other harsh and potentially harmful ingredients such as parabens, phthalate, and synthetic fragrance.

Cleansing Shampoo for Color Treated Hair

People with color-treated hair should clarify less often and they should only use a clarifying shampoo specified for colored hair. Color-safe clarifying shampoo should be able to remove product residue and water impurities without stripping color.  Good clarifying shampoo for color-treated hair is designed to cleanse hair without the drying effect. It removes product buildup and color dulling residue while preventing color oxidation.

Pureology Purify Shampoo for Color Treated Hair (Amazon) is a sulfate-free formula that uses a purifying blend of natural oils and organic botanicals to gently detoxify scalp and hair and thoroughly remove the build-up and other impurities. (Also check at icon

Grapefruit Detox sulfate-free shampoo works to reverse the damaging effects of environmental factors, coloring, and frequent exposure to heat.  The product contains no parabens, synthetic chemical dyes, or fragrances. It is advertised to be safe for color-treated hair.

If you dye your hair, use a clarifying shampoo, no more than twice a week. Even the most gently formulas shouldn’t be used daily on color-treated hair. Also, make sure to use a moisturizing conditioner after using a deep cleansing shampoo.

Clarifying Shampoo for Natural Hair

If you are trying to find an alternative to chemical-laden clarifying shampoos, you will be impressed with Shea Moisture Sacha Inchi Oil Omega-3-6-9 Rescue & Repair Clarifying Shampoo. This shampoo uses natural ingredients to remove the buildup of styling products in your hair, leaving your locks clean, soft, and supple. It gently cleanses hair without stealing its natural moisture or being aggressive on your scalp. Unlike most sulfate-free shampoos this shampoo creates a rich lather, so you don’t need much of the product to spread it all over your hair. It also refreshes your scalp and helps with the dandruff issue.

It works great on dry curly hair and is suitable for daily use.

Scalp Cleansing Shampoo

Styling products you apply to the hair, as well as excess sebum and pollution, can build up on your scalp and clog hair follicles causing inflammation and irritation to this sensitive skin area.

The Scalp Cleansing Shampoo is designed to thoroughly cleanse and invigorate the scalp keeping this area healthy. A clean scalp allows for conditioners and other nourishing products to penetrate easier into the hair to achieve the desired effect.

When clarify use your fingers to massage the scalp or use a shampoo brush to work the shampoo into your scalp, effectively remove all the dirt and build-up, and help boost blood circulation.

Clarifying Shampoo for Oily Hair and Scalp

Degrease Shampoo for Oily Hair and Scalp helps alleviate grease and hair buildup, and restores the pH balance of the scalp.

This natural shampoo clarifying formula contains Jojoba oil which is known for its ability to control the production of sebum and keep the pores clean.

Cypress essential oil is known for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties. This essential oil has the ability to fight infections, which helps keep the scalp healthy and each-free. It also supports blood circulation to the follicles, stimulating cellular metabolism for optimal hair growth.

Lemon oil has antibacterial and antifungal properties and is often used to eliminate dandruff.

Rosemary oil improves circulation to the scalp to stimulate hair growth.

What is Chelating Shampoo?

While a clarifying shampoo removes hair care product residue that leaves a film on the surface of the hair over time, a chelating shampoo is preferably used to remove minerals like calcium and magnesium, metals and swimming pool chemicals from the hair. Chelating shampoos are more intense and remove hard water and chlorine deposits as well as a styling product buildup.

A chelating shampoo is ideal as a post-swimming shampoo to prevent the build-up of chlorine and other pool chemicals, which can cause damage, dryness, and discoloration. They are also a must for people who struggle with hard water in their areas which contains high concentrations of dissolved minerals which can build up in the hair, causing damage to your hair and scalp. If the water in your area is very hard and you don’t have a whole house water filtration system, you should use a chelating shampoo as a part of your hair care routine.

Sulfate-Free Chelating Shampoos

If you live in an area with hard water, Ion Hard Water Shampoo will help you to remove hard water chemicals that negatively impact the appearance of your hair. This shampoo prevents hard water minerals and iron from coating your hair, reverses existing damage and discoloration, and increases hair manageability and shine. It also helps to reduce hair loss caused by extremely hard water.

Malibu C Swimmers Wellness Shampoo is made to prevent the chemical build-up of pool and spa chemicals on the swimmer’s hair. This gentle, sulfate-free shampoo is formulated with botanicals, antioxidants, and vitamins to get rid of the chlorine and keep hair from becoming heavy, tangled or discolored. It also helps get rid of chlorine smell that can linger in the hair after swimming. It is safe for all hair types including color-treated and permed hair.

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2 thoughts on “Sulfate-Free Clarifying Shampoos”

  1. Your “good clarifying shampoo for color-treated hair” is a kink that takes us to a shampoo listing on amazon. As you look through the pictures the last one is a close up of the ingredients.
    And guess what? Security and ingredient is a sulfate.
    So your only option for colored hair isn’t really sulfate-free

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