Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in a day to devote to washing your hair. We get it. We've all been there. For this reason, dry shampoo is a hair care essential that comes through just when your oily roots make your hair stringy or body-free.
We also know that there are many beauty hacks floating around on TikTok and Instagram. One of the most popular is using baby powder as a dry shampoo. Since it is likely a cheaper alternative and one you can reach for if you've run out of your go-to dry shampoo, we wanted to do a deep dive to see how experts viewed applying baby powder to the scalp. So we spoke with board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD, and trichologist Kari Williams, Ph.D. Keep reading to find out what they had to say.
Meet the Expert
- Hadley King, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology. She is also a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
- Kari Williams, Ph.D., is a board-certified trichologist, licensed cosmetologist, and member of DevaCurl's Expert Curl Council.
Baby Powder vs. Dry Shampoo
You may be wondering what the differences are between baby powder and dry shampoos. Well, there are quite a few. And there are differences in dry shampoo formulas as well. "There are different types of dry shampoo," says King. "Some use a starch to absorb oil, while others are alcohol-based."
King notes dry shampoos formulated with starch are more comparable to baby powder. But starch-based dry shampoos and powders don't cleanse the scalp. "If used too frequently or in great volumes, they may trap bacteria and yeast and can contribute to acne or seborrheic dermatitis. Also, keep in mind that some dry shampoos and baby powders may contain the mineral talc. In its natural state, talc can contain asbestos, which can be associated with some cancers."
Benefits of Using Baby Powder as a Dry Shampoo
Our two experts had varying opinions on this, but we think they're both worth sharing. For starters, King recommends avoiding ingredients like butane, propane, isobutane, siloxane, silicones, octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, phenoxyethanol cetrimonium chloride, parabens, and sulfates, which she shares are less likely to be found in baby powders. However, these ingredients can be found in some dry shampoos. Even with baby powders formulated sans King's list of no-no ingredients, she does not recommend using baby powder regularly. Instead, she advises using it in small amounts no more than twice per week.
Williams suggests leaving baby powder out of your hair care routine entirely. "I would not promote the use of baby powder as an option for a dry shampoo," she tells us. "There are potential risks that could compromise the health of the scalp when introducing products not formulated for use on the scalp." She emphasizes that this is especially important for anyone with undiagnosed scalp conditions that can become irritated or inflamed.
Hair and Scalp Considerations
If you're looking to remove odor and oil from the hair until your next wash day and have no scalp conditions, Williams says "technically" baby powder could be used. However, she still emphasizes, "I recommend a product formulated for this need."
For anyone with existing scalp conditions or scalp discomfort in the form of excessive buildup, flaking, or itching, Williams says using baby powder is a no-no.
How to Use Baby Powder as a Dry Shampoo
Using baby powder on your scalp requires a less is more attitude, since it isn't formulated for hair or scalp use. First, section the hair, then shake a small amount of baby powder on the fingertips and massage it into the scalp. Wait a few minutes for the powder to absorb the oil, then brush your hair to remove any white residue.
The Final Takeaway
Based on our experts' insights, we'd say using baby powder on your scalp shouldn't be a regular part of your hair care routine. However, if you're in a pinch, using the baby powder in your medicine cabinet can take care of your oily hair woes. In the meantime, check out our picks for the best dry shampoos formulated for the scalp and hair.
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Tran TH, Steffen JE, Clancy KM, Bird T, Egilman DS. Talc, asbestos, and epidemiology: corporate influence and scientific incognizance. Epidemiology. 2019;30(6):783-788.