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A clean scalp is the key to healthy hair, which is why it’s great to use a clarifying shampoo every so often. When you have curly hair, though, you have to be more cautious about the type of clarifying shampoo you use. According to Maya Smith, founder and CEO of The Doux, and master stylist Rashuna Durham, who both spoke to Elite Daily for this article, the best clarifying shampoos for curly hair are gentle and sulfate-free. “There are many ingredients that can be found in nature that will help cleanse those curls without stripping the hair of all its natural oils — still giving it that squeaky clean feeling, allowing curls to bounce their way into greatness,” Durham says of alternatives to sulfates, which are traditionally used in shampoos to produce a rich lather.
How often you use your clarifying shampoo depends on your styling regimen, Smith explains. “Heavy or oily products build up on the hair faster, so if you style with them frequently, a weekly [clarifying] shampoo may be necessary.” Otherwise, once a month is fine. On other wash days, use a sulfate-free moisturizing shampoo to keep your curls in tip-top shape.
To shop the best sulfate-free clarifying shampoos for curly hair, read on.
1. Expert’s Pick
Durham, who is an amika Lead Pro Educator, loves the brand’s Clarifying Gel Shampoo, which is suitable for all hair types, including curly hair. She says, “[It’s a] lightweight, gel-to-foam shampoo that removes buildup, helps maintain moisture and volume, and supports balance without stripping.” It uses pink clay to deep clean both the hair and scalp and charcoal powder to offer further purifying benefits, and like all amika products, it’s loaded with nutrient-rich botanical extracts (including the brand’s signature, sea buckthorn berry). This gel shampoo — which lathers up into a foam without using sulfates — is also a joy to use, with its translucent pink color and fruity-fresh scent.
2. Editor’s Pick
Another great (and more affordable) clarifying shampoo is Mielle Organics Mongongo Oil Exfoliating Shampoo, which works to simultaneously deep clean and moisturize your hair. A lot of exfoliating and clarifying shampoos can be drying, but not this one — it’s rich in nourishing ingredients like sweet almond, argan, and grape seed oils, in addition to the headlining mongongo oil, so it’s great for anyone who needs a thorough shampoo that won’t strip away moisture. And because the formula isn’t harsh, you can use it more frequently than most other clarifying shampoos.
3. The Best Clarifying Shampoo With Apple Cider Vinegar
The OUAI Detox Shampoo is made with apple cider vinegar, an ingredient known for its natural clarifying and shine-boosting abilities. The formula combines the benefits of an apple cider vinegar rinse with the deep clean of a clarifying shampoo to leave your hair refreshed and full of luster. Thanks to the addition of keratin, your hair should look smoother and feel softer, as well. This thoughtful combination of ingredients makes this shampoo suitable for all hair types, from curly, oily, and fine to chemically treated and dry. When you finish this bottle, pick up the refill bag to keep under your bathroom counter so you’re never without this shampoo.
4. The Best Clarifying Shampoo For Wigs & Weaves
Shea Moisture’s Residue Remover Shampoo is part of the brand’s Wig & Weave collection, and it’s safe for use on both synthetic and natural curly hair styles. It’s made with shea butter, tea tree, aloe vera, and borage seed oil to remove product buildup, oil, and even glue from a wig or weave without drying out the hair. The line includes a bond release spray, a leave-in conditioner, and a scalp-soothing treatment, as well.
5. The Best Exfoliating Scalp Scrub
If you’re experiencing an itchy or flaky scalp, Briogeo Scalp Revival is a scrub and shampoo in one that helps soothe irritated skin while deep cleaning your hair. Micro-exfoliants gently remove dead skin, charcoal works to unclog congested pores and remove dirt and oil from your scalp, coconut oil moisturizes, and a blend of peppermint, spearmint, and tea tree oils calm, clarify, and refresh. Naturally, this is a great choice for curly hair types that are prone to dandruff or accumulate a lot of product buildup, but even if you don’t fall into that category, it’s a nice, occasional treat for any hair type.
Rashuna Durham, owner and master hairstylist, Shuna’s Hair Studio, & amika Lead Pro Educator
Maya Smith, founder and CEO of The Doux