Articles, Loc Care & Styles

Analyzing Popular Clarifying Shampoos

text on right reads Analyzing Popular Clarifying Shampoos in large white text. above that reads locs life and below that reads on the leaf is a photo of a white bottle above a few fake leaves, and above that, a piece of wood

Deciding what clarifying shampoo to use for your locs is an important decision. Locs are more prone to buildup than loose hair, so having a shampoo that is clarifying yet not overly drying is a critical balance to strike. Below, I’m going to go over some popular clarifying shampoos you may come across when selecting shampoos. Then I’ll go over clarifying power, price, and final recommendations for the best clarifying shampoo options for your locs. 

Neutrogena Anti-Residue Clarifying Shampoo (DISCONTINUED) 

bottle of neutrogena shampoo anti residue formula with plain white background. clear shampoo is visible through the bottle with grey cap

This clarifying shampoo is going to be one of your top results if you search “anti residue shampoo.” Is it just good marketing or is it a good shampoo? In this case, the shampoo is actually good. It is a clear shampoo that is gentle but still cleans nicely. 

It claims a 90% residue removal. While I won’t say that, it definitely has helped with removing residue from my locs. I previously was having an issue with some sticky sections of locs. However, after a few rinses with this – it was gone. Overall, this is a great primary wash for your locs.

Unfortunately as of 2022, it has been continued. You can still pick up some bottles on Amazon, but we’ll need to find a good alternative for this one. 

Clarifying Power: 3.5/5
Price: $1.41 / Fl Oz
Find it: Here

Paul Mitchell Shampoo 3

bottle of paul mitchell shampoo 3 with a white background. bottle is white with a blue cap.

Paul Mitchell is a brand popular for salon use, but you can still purchase their products yourself. Shampoo 3 is a clarifying shampoo that removes buildup and additional minerals associated with swimming. However, even if you’re not a swimmer, you can still use this shampoo. 

It is very strong – it is formulated with SLS and other cleansing agents. One Amazon review noted it’s like using Dawn soap. While it can be harsh, it really helps get the job for removing buildup. This is not your everyday shampoo for keeping residue free, but it is one to keep in your arsenal for when you really need a clarifying wash. It has a high pH level, so you may want to follow up with a low pH rinse. They have a sister conditioner to this shampoo.  However, if you want to avoid any conditioner buildup, you can try a diluted ACV rinse to re-balance the pH of your locs and scalp. 

Clarifying Power: 5/5
Price: $1.28 / Fl Oz
Find it: Here

Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

bottle of dr bronners castile liquid soap with a white background. bottle contains yellow liquid shampoo and has a blue wrap around sheet with text about the shampoo.

Dr Bronner’s is a convenient soap! It can be used as a body cleaner, shampoo, hand soap, and just a general all-purpose cleaner. Moreover, it has a well balanced light peppermint scent. But is it good for keeping your locs residue free? I wouldn’t say so. 

Dr. Bronner can feel quite drying given the high pH level and yet also doesn’t give a good cleaning feeling either. Some reviews mention they felt their hair was dry and waxy after using this as a shampoo. 

The waxy and greasy feeling that castile soap can sometimes create is due to the chemistry of the soap. Castile soap is more likely to react with hard water which causes soap scum. As noted before, Dr. Bronner has a high pH. You may be tempted to mix or rinse your locs with a lower pH solution. However, when castile soap mixes with acids it breaks down to its oil components, which can lead to an oily and waxy feeling in your locs.  

Given that in mind, I wouldn’t use this shampoo for keeping your locs residue free and instead would use it for other types of cleaning. 

Clarifying Power: 2/5
Price: $0.53 / Fl Oz (note, even cheaper when you take into the dilution recommendation)
Find it: Here

Tea Tree Triple Treat Invigorating Shampoo

bottle of giovanni tea tree triple wiht a white background. shampoo has a white pump cap

This shampoo lives up to its invigorating description choice. Your scalp will feel amazingly tingly and fresh after a rinse with this shampoo. Giovanni claims it “Strengthens hair with a three-organic-oil blend to stimulate, condition and clarify.”

While this shampoo is very gentle, it unfortunately doesn’t live up to it’s clarifying claims. If your hair gets very dry you could use this wash and then a stronger shampoo intermittently. 

Clarifying Power: 2/5
Price: $0.62 / Fl Oz
Find it: Here

These clarifying shampoos all have their pros and cons. However, there are two true standouts. The anti residue shampoo from Neutrogena is a great everyday shampoo that is gentle yet clarifying. The second standout is Paul Mitchell’s Shampoo #3, which is one of the strongest clarifying shampoos around. Using those shampoos will keep your locs lightweight, fresh and clean. 

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