For many people, dry shampoo is a savior of sorts: When you don’t have time to wash your hair, it can give your hair that squeaky clean look in just a few sprays. But what is dry shampoo, exactly, and how are you supposed to use it? Is dry shampoo bad for your hair? We talked with experts—Here’s everything you need to know about what dry shampoo does, how to apply dry shampoo, and so much more.
First things first: What is dry shampoo, anyway? According to Brian Moore, a board-certified dermatologist and Dermatology Advisor at Illuminate Labs, dry shampoos are basically alcohol- or starch-based products that cut the grease and oils in the hair without washing it.
“Some dry shampoo products deliver their agents through a spray, while others provide tinted powder to match hair color,” he explains.
Dry shampoo works by soaking up the excess oil and grease in hair. “This gives the hair a fresher smell and cleaner look,” Dr. Moore says. “Dry shampoo can add volume by coating the hair fibers with starch or color products, almost like makeup.”
Board-certified dermatologist Erum N. Ilyas, CEO & Founder of AmberNoon, explains that Shampoo traditionally works via surfactants that attach to oils in your scalp with a hydrophobic end, and they are washed away by water.
“Dry shampoo is technically not ‘cleaning’ your hair in this traditional sense,” she adds. “Since water is not used with dry shampoo, these products focus on using alcohol or corn starch to soak up extra oils in our hair to give it a temporarily ‘fresh’ look”.
No, the occasional use of dry shampoo is not bad for your hair, according to Dr. Ilyas. “For some people, these products can help manage hair types, hairstyles, and busy schedules, buying a little time between hair washes,” she says. “But dry shampoos cannot take the place of regular shampoos simply because they are not playing the same role in a hair care routine. Dry shampoo can reduce the appearance of excess oil on the scalp, but the oil is still present and adhering to alcohol and starches. These will need to be washed out with routine shampoo to avoid product residue buildup.”
Dry shampoo is incredibly convenient.
“Some people find that excess hair-washing contributes to hair tangling and hair breakage and try to reduce the frequency of hair-washing,” Dr. Ilyas explains. “Hairstyles that are intended to last days or weeks at a time may benefit from the use of dry shampoo as well.”
Dr. Ilyas also adds that time, money, and effort can go into creating certain hairstyles or even blowouts, and washing with these styles will devitalize the look too quickly. “Dry shampoo use can give some wiggle room to avoid excess hair washing,” Dr. Ilyas notes. “And people who exercise regularly and sweat routinely can benefit from dry shampoos to avoid excess hair washing that can overdry the hair.”
To use dry shampoo on your hair, Dr. Moore recommends holding the bottle about six inches from your scalp and only spraying as much as needed. “Then, massage the scalp or run the fingers through your hair to make sure the dry shampoo gets spread evenly and can’t be seen,” he says. “In general, it should only be sprayed on oily areas. To avoid extra dryness or static, avoid spraying the ends of the hair.”
You should use dry shampoo if:
- You want to preserve a blowout or other hairstyle
- You exercise a lot
- You don’t have time to wash your hair
- You need an easy, convenient pick-me-up for your hair
Dry Shampoo: Before and After
What Is the Final Purpose of Dry Shampoo?
The final purpose of dry shampoo is to give hair a clean, fresh look and feel without going through the often time-consuming process of washing it.
For a high-quality dry shampoo, try the Refresh+ Dry Shampoo, a lightweight dry shampoo that balances the scalp and absorbs excess sweat, oil, and odor so you can keep your hair refreshed between washes. This dry shampoo is suitable for all hair types and includes chamomile extract, rice starch, and ozone-friendly repellant.
Although it may not be obvious, the substance that comes out of a dry shampoo bottle is a powder that’s often based on corn or rice starch.
As the name implies, dry shampoo should be used on dry hair. If you use it on hair that’s even slightly damp, it can clump at the scalp—probably the opposite of the effect you’re hoping for.
After applying dry shampoo, you’ll want to wait for one to two minutes before you brush it out so it can absorb the grease.
You don’t want to use dry shampoo directly before or directly after showering—it’s supposed to be used between washes.
While you can use dry shampoo at any time of day, it may be helpful to use it at night because your hair will have time to absorb it and look fresh in the morning.
*All referenced results are based on an 8-week U.S. clinical and consumer study.
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