Review of Cleansing Shampoos

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What to Look For

There are two different types of commercial cleansing (clarifying) shampoos - professional and over the counter. The most common ingredients to look for are surfactants, or surface active substances, such as the lauryl sulfate types. Other surfactants are non-sulfate anionic cleansers, which include sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, sodium cocoyl isethionate and sodium lauryl. The second group may be less stripping, but that also makes them less effective clarifiers.

Common Pitfalls

Do not buy any clarifying shampoo as your one-and-only shampoo, or use it as a replacement for regular shampoo. It can stress the hair dramatically if overused. Not all brands are labeled as clarifying, so you may have to look at the ingredients to know for sure. If acetic acid is listed, it definitely is a clarifying product; however, not all clarifying shampoos have acetic acid in them. Other ingredients, including ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, ammonium xylene sulfonate sulfur and selenium sulfides can be hard on the hair, and you may want to avoid them.

Where to Buy

Since your hairstylist knows your hair best, he can best recommend which products will fit your needs. You may be able to purchase them directly from him, but they may be more costly. Prices at a drugstore or department stores will be lower than a salon, and your selection will be wider. This can be time consuming, but more cost-effective. Online sources, such as, lists ingredients, price, reviews and where to buy.


Prices for cleansing shampoos range from about $1.19 up to $200. The lowest prices will be found on price-comparison websites. You can also buy clarifying shampoos at drugstores or department stores that carry hair products, or at your salon. The price of a do-it-yourself clarifier of vinegar or baking soda, costs pennies.

Comparison Shopping

There have been some concerns about sodium lauryl sulfate, also known as SLS, used in some shampoos as a possible carcinogen. According to the American Cancer Society, that is simply not true. However, if you're still skeptical, check that it's not an ingredient before you buy. In each category, professional or over-the-counter clarifying shampoos, there are hundreds of products to choose from for your individual hair needs.

Insider Tips

If you use a lot of styling products or frequently swim in chlorinated water, you should deep cleanse with a clarifying shampoo twice a month. If your hair is oily, use a cleansing shampoo each time you wash your hair. For everyone else, use it if your hair becomes dull or has become resistant to other regular products. Make a homemade clarifier by adding two parts shampoo to one part vinegar. Another version is to mix 1/4 cup vinegar with one cup of water, leave on hair for about one to two minutes after shampooing and conditioning, then rinse. If you want to make your own version of clarifier using vinegar, just make sure you don't overuse it, as with any of the commercial products.