Is Dry Shampoo Bad for Your Hair? Two Trichologists Tell the Truth
It's certainly saved us from a few oily hair disasters.
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Dry shampoo has likely saved you from an oily hair disaster at some point. After all, the product is pretty genius. Whether you want to extend the life of a fresh new blowout or revive your hair from a sweaty workout sesh, dry shampoo—in the form of sprays, powders, and mousses—is the hair product that’s there to sop up excess oil, add volume, and freshen up your ‘do before your next shower. For many, it’s become a total must-have in a good beauty arsenal. However, as its popularity has risen, some concerns have emerged about how safe it is for your hair. Can you use dry shampoo every day? Does it cause hair damage? What about hair loss? How does it even work?
We wanted to get to the bottom of dry shampoo and whether or not it had any not-so-great effects on hair, so we tapped two trichologists to learn more. Here’s what you need to know about these popular hair refreshers.
What is dry shampoo, and how does it work?
First things first: Although dry shampoo has the word “shampoo” in it, it’s not cleaning your hair. According to William Gaunitz, WTS, certified trichologist and founder of Advanced Trichology, “Its primary function is to dry up oil and provide stability and body to the hair, not necessarily clean it."
To do this, most dry shampoo brands contain ingredients such as alcohol or starch (typically from corn or rice) that nix oily roots by absorbing the moisture and oil on your scalp. Most dry shampoos also include some kind of fragrance, which makes your hair smell fresh between washes. However, as anyone who has used dry shampoo already knows, it's a leave-in product. This means that you're not rinsing or scrubbing any of the oil or product out of your scalp. Instead, dry shampoo just makes the greasiness less noticeable until your next shower.
What is the best way to use dry shampoo?
Yes, dry shampoo can be a total dirty hair savior, but since it's not actually doing any cleaning, our experts specify that it is not meant to replace your normal in-shower shampoo and conditioner. Instead, Gaunitz says, "Dry shampoo should be used, per the instructions on the bottle, by simply applying at the base of the hair shaft and pulling through the length of the hair to eliminate excess oil when needed."
Specifically, you'll need to hold the nozzle (if it is a spray or aerosol) at least six inches away from your head. Then, you can spray it directly on the roots before distributing it by combing it through with your fingers. If you hold it any closer, you're likely going to create too much product buildup, which not only can be tough to distribute evenly throughout your hair but also might not be the best for maintaining healthy hair follicles.
Is dry shampoo bad for your hair?
If you're worried that your use of dry shampoo could lead to hair loss or hair thinning, consider how often you are using the product. According to Gretchen Friese, a certified trichologist for Bosley MD, "Dry shampoo is not a bad thing. However, not washing the hair and cleansing the scalp enough can lead to product and debris build-up, which can lead to hair loss." Essentially, the ingredients that make dry shampoo so great at neutralizing oil are also what end up sitting on the scalp. Too much of that can clog your hair follicles or even leading to folliculitis, a type of bacterial infection that happens within the hair follicle. Because of this, Friese recommends using dry shampoo no more than two days in a row—especially if you're worried about hair thinning.
Gaunitz agrees. He says that if you are someone who is already experiencing hair loss or hair thinning, it might be best to stay away from dry shampoo, except for the occasional use. "In my opinion, dry shampoo will typically not cause hair loss, but it will aggravate an underlying hair loss condition," he says. "Due to ingredients in your typical dry shampoo, like butane and other starches that break down on the surface of the scalp, it can cause inflammation that leads to faster loss of hair and exacerbation of scalp conditions."
As of right now, there isn't much research to suggest that dry shampoo itself will lead to hair loss or excessive breakage (though beware, the alcohol in some dry shampoos can be very drying), but there are studies that prove the correlation between poor scalp health and hair loss. So the bottom line is this: Feel free to spritz or pat on a bit of dry shampoo when you really need it, but don't make it a part of your daily haircare routine. And, most importantly, give your scalp a healthy scrub during your next shower.