What Does Clarifying Shampoo Do To Colored Hair? Get The Lowdown.


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So, you’ve taken the colorful plunge and now your locks are rocking a vibrant hue. The next step? Keeping that color fresh while getting rid of unwanted residue. This is where clarifying shampoos come into play.

As hair dye lovers we often wonder if this power-packed cleanser is safe for our color-treated hair.

Well, it really boils down to which product you pick and how often you use it. Some of these shampoos can pack a punch with harsh chemicals that your color might not be too fond of.

On the flip side, there are formulas out there with gentle cleansers like coconut oil, argan oil, and aloe vera that won’t be too harsh on your color while still getting rid of the residue left behind by styling products.

We’re here to dish out the deets on clarifying shampoos—from what they are, why you might need them, and how to use them without throwing your color under the bus. Plus, we’ve got more top tips to keep your color looking fresh!

What Does Clarifying Shampoo Do To Colored Hair?

Clarifying shampoos are great for a thorough cleanse, but when it comes to colored hair, they need a soft touch. Here’s a quick run-down:

  • Color-Safe is Key: Not all clarifying shampoos are made equal. Ensure yours is color-safe to prevent an unscheduled color fade.
  • Timing Matters: Hold off on the clarifying shampoo for at least a week post-coloring to avoid flushing out unsettled dye pigments.
  • Stripping Alert: Clarifying shampoos work by opening up hair cuticles to deep clean, which can also lead to color stripping. Stick with a color-safe version to keep the color intact while bidding adieu to residue.

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Clarifying Shampoo: The Deep Cleanse.

Clarifying shampoo is a strong, ph-balanced shampoo that gives your hair a deep cleanse and removes residue like sweat and product buildup from your strands.

Most contain active ingredients that deep clean hair by removing excess oil and dirt build-up from the scalp, hair follicles and hair shaft.

They also act as a deep cleanser, which is exactly what you need to remove sweat residues after working out at the gym or walking around in hot weather.

Other types of common hair residue include:

  • Mineral deposits from hard water
  • Environmental pollutants like dirt and debris brought in from outdoors or picked up at the gym through physical activity or perspiration.
  • Hair care product residue including silicone, which coats the hair shaft to make it look shiny and smooth.
  • Buildup from conditioner that has been left on for too long or layered with other products, like hairspray.

When it comes to giving your colored hair the clean sweep, not all clarifying shampoos make the cut.

Your locks won’t stay vibrant for long if you’re using a clarifying shampoo that’s too harsh.

The key? It’s all about going for color-safe clarifying shampoos that are made with your hair hue in mind.

These gentle yet effective cleansers are crafted to kick out the gunk without saying goodbye to your gorgeous color.

It also means that clarifying shampoos should only be used occasionally—otherwise, you could end up stripping the color right out of your hair!

If you do not have buildup in your hair that requires removal, you may want to use a moisturizing shampoo or shampoo bar instead.

“If it’s strong enough to remove the build up it will in turn slightly remove a small amount of artificial color (except for blonde/lightened hair shouldn’t really be effected). Blonde toner color can be effected along with most deposited hair colors. The colors that are lowest risk of fading from a clarifying shampoo are blacks & darker browns.”

Gregory Scepi, Works at Paul Mitchell

what does clarifying shampoo do to colored hair - lady using clarifying shampoo

Top Picks: Color-Safe Clarifying Shampoos.

Sulfates are the enemy of colored hair. These are the little nasties that will fade and strip your color.

Fortunately, there plenty of high-end and supermarket products that can cleanse your hair without ruining your color. You can also find ones free of phosphates and parabens.

Here are a few of our top recommends that are color-safe, cruelty-free and gentle.

Best clarifying shampoo for colored hair at a glance.

ShampooLooks likeBuy it now
Redken Detox Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo | For All Hair Types Redken Detox Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo | For All Hair Types | Removes Buildup & Strengthens Cuticle | 8.5 Fl Oz
Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo, 8.5 oz
Rooted Rituals Clarifying Shampoo with Ginger Root and Charcoal Rooted Rituals - Ginger Root and Mint - Pre-Shampoo Root Rinse, 5.7 fl oz
Love Beauty And Planet Delightful Detox Daily Clarifying Sulfate-Free Shampoo Love Beauty And Planet Clarifying Shampoo Delightful Detox Charcoal & Bergamot Vegan, Paraben & Sulfate & Silicone & Cruelty Free, Coconut, 13.5 Fl Oz
Nexxus Clean and Pure Clarifying Shampoo Nexxus Clean and Pure Clarifying Shampoo, With ProteinFusion, Nourished Hair Care Silicone, Dye And Paraben Free 33.8 oz
Neutrogena Anti-Residue Clarifying Shampoo Neutrogena Anti-Residue Clarifying Shampoo, Gentle Non-Irritating Clarifying Shampoo to Remove Hair Build-Up & Residue, 6 Fl Ounce

Clarifying shampoo top tips!

Try not to use clarifying shampoo every day since this is too drying for the scalp and hair, so stick with using it once a week at most.

We recommend using a deep conditioner after these types of shampoos because it will help replace nutrients you’ve lost due to stripping away all of the build up of natural oils on your strands.

We also recommend using a leave-in conditioner or hair oil to seal in the moisture you’ve applied because it will help smooth over any rough cuticles after removing the build up.

Try not to use heat styling tools on your freshly washed tresses as this can cause further damage and dryness if your hair is already lacking moisture.

Be aware that clarifying shampoos may cause irritation, stinging and itchiness so be sure to follow all directions and recommended usage carefully!

Why do I need clarifying shampoo?

You need these shampoos because they remove leftover product build-up and impurities from your strands after you’ve washed them, which can cause dullness if not removed.

If your hair feels particularly sticky after you wash it, if there seems to be a lot of product in your hair after you’ve washed it or if you need to remove excess oil from your locks, then clarifying shampoo may come in handy.

“One of the best DYI things to use to remover hair color is anti-dandruff shampoo/clarifying shampoo with vitamin c powder mixed together, let it sit on your hair for 15–30 minutes and rinse off followed by a deep conditioning hair mask as its super drying to your hair.”

Aurora Scott, The Art Of Hair

The Impact on Color: Clarifying Shampoo’s Role.

While clarifying shampoos are meant for oily hair and scalp, they can be used on color-treated hair types to keep the color fresh and vibrant.

The trick is to use sulfate-free clarifying shampoos that will be kinder to your color and won’t strip your dye-job.

And don’t use it too soon after you’ve dyed your hair or it can flush out unsettled dye pigments.

It’s best to wait around one-two weeks before introducing it into your hair care routine.

We recommend using clarifying shampoo on colored hair no more than once every two weeks for the best results.

It’s also great for giving hair a good clean before any dyeing treatments – it will remove any barriers coating your hair shafts so that the hair dye or treatment can really sink in.

“Clarifying shampoos have a pH in the ranges of 7.0 to 9.0 depending on the brand. The higher pH opens the cuticle and this alone can remove not only buildup but color deposits. Do not expect a big change but a slight lifting can occur.”

Jo Welch, Cosmetic Scientist

How to use clarifying shampoo.

The first step in using clarifying shampoo is to make sure that you have the right product for your hair type.

Those with colored, dry or damaged locks should look for something milder that still removes buildup without stripping away too much moisture.

Once you have found the perfect product, use it as you would any other shampoo.

Start by wetting your hair with warm water before massaging in a generous amount of clarifying shampoo to your wet hair, all over your scalp and down the length of your strands.

Rinse it off with cool water (this will help seal in moisture). Finish up with an ultra-hydrating conditioner for best results!

Watch and learn: Clarifying shampoo with a pro hairdresser.

Heres a great video tutorial from expert hairdresser Bekah & Co who guides you through what clarifying shampoo is, how to use it, how often and simple, cheap ways to make your own clarifying solutions at home!

YouTube video

Clarifying shampoo FAQs

Does clarifying shampoo lighten colored hair?

No! Don’t worry, it doesn’t contain any chemicals that will lighten your hair.

It’s really just a very strong type of cleanser that removes residue, grease, product buildup and grime.

If you use clarifying shampoo regularly, your hair will have less buildup which means it will become healthier over time with improved color vibrancy and shine.

This can make your hair appear brighter which will have the same effect.

Does clarifying shampoo remove hair dye?

No, you can’t use this to strip hair color!

It’s not formulated for this purpose so you will need a specific treatment designed to remove dyed pigments like bleaching or even hair colour remover.

Does clarifying shampoo darken highlights?

Not really – it’s not formulated to darken your hair. In fact it will do the opposite!

Used clarifying shampoo regularly and your hair may end up with less buildup which means that the color of your highlights will be more visible and brighter over time.

Will clarifying shampoo make my hair brassy?

Clarifying shampoos can make your hair appear brassy because it strips all of the color and leaves nothing but light shades, which often look yellowish.

If you want to get rid of any brassy tones in your colored locks then we recommend using a purple shampoo once a week (not daily) and leave it on for three minutes before rinsing off completely.

Brassy blonde’s should use brightening purple whereas brassier browns should try ash toned silver/purple formulas.

The violet pigment in the formula is what neutralizes the yellow undertones so be careful with how long you leave these shampoos on as they may turn your hair lavender if left too long!

Will it make my hair frizzy?

Some people find their hair does become dry and frizzy after using clarifying shampoos.

This is because it strips the natural oils moisture from your locks.

You can counter this by using a hydrating deep conditioner afterwards to re-moisturize your hair and replenish its health.

Another trick is to use a leave-in conditioner or hair masks like Moroccan oil which coats the hair shaft with emollients and seals in moisture.  

Should I use a clarifying shampoo before coloring?

Yes! We recommend using a clarifying shampoo at least 24 hours before any type of coloring treatment.

This will give your scalp and hair a deep clean so that there is no excess dirt, grease or product leftover in your locks ready for the dye to absorb.

It also makes the color more pure, bright and rich because there isn’t anything else coating your strands.

One thing to avoid is over-washing before coloring as this can lead to dehydration which affects how well the dye absorbs into your cuticles.

If you have oily roots then it’s not a problem but if you have dry hair then try avoiding washing every day until after you’ve colored as overdoing it will strip away moisture from the shafts and make them appear dull and lackluster.

Will clarifying shampoo remove green tint?

Clarifying shampoos are also great for removing mineral deposits like chlorine from swimming pools (and even sea water) which can turn blonde hair green!

This is because all of the minerals in these types of water get trapped on porous blonde cuticles, so they need to be removed or stripped off with a good clarifying shampoo.

If the green is stubborn, you can try other ways to remove green from your hair, including dyeing it over again with the right colour to correct it.

Which Shampoo Should I Use?

Parting words

So, to summarize, clarifying shampoo helps remove product build-up and chlorine from dyed hair to leave it clean, but may dry out the scalp and strands.

It’s important for color treated hair, especially before coloring treatments, to use a mild cleansing shampoo and deep conditioner weekly. These will help keep color bright and vibrant.

We hope this clarifying shampoo guide has been helpful!

Thanks for reading!


  • Nicola Freeman, Creative Director & Content Lead

    With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during lockdown for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!