Is Dry Shampoo Bad for Your Scalp and Hair? We Investigate

Updated 09/30/19
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Up until a few months ago, I never loved my hair more than on the second or third day of using dry shampoo. It had this amazing volume and gritty texture that I could never achieve on the days that I actually washed and styled it. Suffice it to say I was a bit of dry-shampoo addict—a hoarder, even. But my love affair with dry shampoo was tarnished after attending an event with Rita Hazan (hair colorist to Beyoncé, among many other stars), who told Byrdie in the firmest of tones that she hates dry shampoo. Her reasoning? It's terrible for your hair. It was jarring to hear someone so prominent in the industry condemn a product that I thought was a styling godsend. Then came other claims in the media that dry shampoo can cause you to lose your hair, among many other harrowing accusations. Was there any truth to this? As a dry-shampoo devotee, I had to find out.

As it turns out, dry shampoo is safe for daily use so long as you are properly cleansing your hair on a regular basis. Because the misuse of an otherwise great product can lead to some less than great results, we consulted a trichologist and dermatologist to find out exactly how to use dry shampoo and other important things we should know about the product. Keep scrolling to find out what they had to say.

How Dry Shampoo Works

The ingredients in dry shampoo differ from brand to brand, but in general, these formulas contain absorbent ingredients, such as starches, to soak up excess oil from the scalp and roots of your hair. Most are in the form of an aerosol spray, but dry shampoos are also available in a powder, foam, or paste form as well. Because these products leave a powdery film on the hair and scalp, many have begun to question just how healthy these products really are.

Is Dry Shampoo Safe for Your Hair?

According to Anabel Kingsley, head trichologist of Philip Kingsley, dry shampoo in and of itself will not damage your hair or scalp. However, what can create problems is the fact that dry shampoo may encourage you to stop properly cleansing your scalp often enough.

Meet The Expert

Anabel Kingsley is the president and head trichologist of Philip Kingsley, a holistic haircare brand. Philip Kingsley has clinics in both London and New York.

"Dry shampoos should not be used as a regular replacement for real shampoo, as they simply do not clean the scalp; they do not remove oils, dead skin cells, pollution, sweat or other products," Kingsley says. "Remember, your scalp is skin and needs similar TLC to be healthy—and hair grows its best from a healthy scalp." She continues to explain that not properly cleansing your scalp often enough can create scalp problems, such as flaking and itching—and a flaky scalp can, in fact, cause hair loss.

Dermatologist Neil Sadick, MD, adds that the excessive use of dry shampoo can cause buildup on the scalp, which means a loss of strands may be on the horizon: "Keeping the hair follicles clean prevents occlusion and inflammation that leads to thinning hair later in life," he explains.

Meet The Expert

Neil Sadick is the founder and president of Sadick Dermatology and director of the Sadick Research Group. He's board-certified in internal medicine, dermatology, cosmetic surgery, hair restoration surgery, and phlebology.

As far as whether or not dry shampoo can dry out your actual hair strands, Kingsley argues that much is unlikely so long as you're properly and regularly shampooing and conditioning.

How Often Should You Use Dry Shampoo?

Kingsley says it's fine to use dry shampoo for a day or two between shampoos but adds that it's even okay to use as a daily styling aid, like adding body to limp strands. The question here is not so much how often you can use dry shampoo, but rather how you should be washing your hair when you use dry shampoo. "If you only wash your hair once or twice a week, you should double cleanse (i.e. shampoo twice) and then condition as usual," Kingsley says. "For infrequent hair washers, I also recommend using a daily anti-microbial scalp toner and a weekly exfoliating scalp mask to help give your scalp a little helping hand." (Try Philip Kingsley's Scalp Toning Tonic, $25 and Exfoliating Scalp Mask, $19.)

Some of Our Favorite Dry Shampoos:

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Rahua Voluminous Dry Shampoo $32
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This formula is made with natural cassava starch, star anise vanilla, and cosmetic clay to keep the hair clean, provide body, and prevent harm to the hair, the scalp, and the environment. I've personally tried it and can attest to the amazing volume and grease-absorbing power that it packs.

klorane-dry-shampoo
Philip Kingsley One More Day Refreshing Dry Shampoo $30
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"When choosing a dry shampoo, opt for one with ingredients that benefit your scalp," Kingsley says. Her top-pick? This one, which was designed to give you one more day of not shampooing and contains soothing and anti-inflammatory zinc, bisabolol and allantoin.

living-proof-perfect-hair-day-dry-shampoo
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo $22
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Most dry shampoos add something to the hair to absorb oil, but they don't remove anything. This one uses technology to help remove the powders. The best part? It's said to be oleophobic, which means it even repels dirt and oil.

The Final Takeaway

Overall, dry shampoo is perfectly safe and fine to use as long as you do so correctly. Not intended to be a substitute for real shampoo, dry shampoo should only be used as a styling aid and should be properly washed out on a regular basis.

This post was originally published on May 16, 2016.

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