If you buy something through a link on this page, we may earn a small commission. How this works.
Dry shampoo is a type of hair product that claims to reduce oil, grease, and dirt in your hair. Unlike wet shampoos and conditioners, dry shampoo can be applied to your hair while it’s dry — hence the name.
Dry shampoo doesn’t need to be washed out of your hair, and it’s typically applied to the crown of your head and other areas where oil and shine may visibly collect.
Some people swear by dry shampoo for touching up hair after a sweaty workout or extending the life of a salon blowout.
This article will cover the science of dry shampoo, list some popular products, and take a look at how dry shampoo compares to lathering up your locks in the shower.
Your scalp is covered with hair follicles. These follicles don’t just sprout hairs. They also produce sebum, the natural oil that softens your scalp and gives hair its texture.
Sebum serves an important purpose. It softens your hair and helps protect the skin underneath it. But when you’re working up a sweat, spending time outside, or even going about your day-to-day, oil and sweat from your scalp collect in your hair.
While a certain amount of oils on your head is normal, oil buildup gives your hair a greasy appearance.
Washing, blow-drying, and styling your hair on a daily basis can be time-consuming. Plus, it might not even be good for the health of your hair. That’s where dry shampoo comes in.
Dry shampoo uses alcohols or starch-based active ingredients to soak up the oils and sweat from your hair. Removing the oils from your hair makes it appear cleaner. Most dry shampoos also include a fragrance, which makes your hair smell fresh between washes.
Depending on your hair texture, dry shampoo will likely make your hair look less oily. But don’t be fooled by the word “shampoo” in this product’s name. Dry shampoo isn’t meant for cleansing your hair.
Dry shampoos disguise dirt and grease on your scalp. They don’t work as a replacement for washing your hair. In fact, overusing dry shampoo can result in an itchy, dry scalp.
Dry shampoo is most effective for hair that naturally holds a lot of oil. If you find that even a quick workout session or a humid commute leaves your hair looking oily, dry shampoo might come in handy for a quick fix.
Hair that gets greasy quickly still needs to be washed often to cleanse your scalp and prevent blocked pores.
If your hair is naturally on the drier, more textured side, you might need to buy a dry shampoo that’s made specifically for your hair type.
Keep in mind that if your hair is dark brown or black, dry shampoo might appear flaky when you spray it on your scalp. Purchasing a dry shampoo specifically made for darker, natural hair might solve this.
Dry shampoo can also work to freshen curly hair, but you might need to switch up the application process.
Curly hair shouldn’t be brushed or combed out once it’s dry and you’ve applied dry shampoo. Otherwise, your curls might look dry and frizzy instead of fresh and bouncy.
How you use dry shampoo may vary based on your:
- hair type
- hair’s oiliness
Start with hair that’s dry and remove any pins, hair ties, or barrettes. Here’s the basic process, which you can modify if needed:
- Hold the can of dry shampoo about 6 inches away from the crown of your head.
- Spray a small amount directly into your roots. Don’t neglect the hair growth at the nape of your neck, right above your ears, and in the back of your head.
- Massage the dry shampoo into your hair using your fingers.
- If you’d like, use a blast of cool air from a blow dryer to give your hair some added volume and natural bounce as the shampoo dries on your scalp.
There aren’t many drawbacks to using dry shampoo, as long as you use it in moderation. If you’re using dry shampoo once or twice a week to touch up your hair after a workout or keep your blowout looking fresh, you probably won’t experience any negative effects from use.
There are limits to what dry shampoo can do, though. Using dry shampoo for more than two days in a row can start to irritate and dry out your scalp. It can also clog the pores on your head, resulting in painful pimples or a rash.
Opinions are mixed on if you should use hot styling tools on hair that has dry shampoo on it.
Some people swear by applying a little dry shampoo to make hair easier to manage before using a curling iron or hair straightener. But dry shampoo can actually dry your hair out, making it vulnerable to heat damage.
You can spot a good dry shampoo by checking out its ingredient list. Dry shampoos that are powder-based and not alcohol-based might be better for your hair in the long term.
You can also look for dry shampoos that come in paste form rather than a spray if you’re concerned about environmental pollution. Here are some popular products to get you started:
- Batiste Hint of Color Dry Shampoo (for dark hair, try Batiste Dry Shampoo Divine Dark)
- Klorane Dry Shampoo Powder with Oat Milk
- Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo
- R+Co Death Valley Dry Shampoo
The jury is still out on how often you should wash your hair with wet shampoo and water. Your lifestyle and hair type will probably play a part in how often you need to wash your hair.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people prone to oily hair wash it as often as once per day. If you have a drier hair texture, you can probably get away with washing it three times per week.
When you do wash your hair with regular shampoo, concentrate the product on the roots of your hair instead of lathering up the whole length of your head. This will keep your hair from drying out.
Dry shampoo works for most people by absorbing oils and hiding dirt or grease between washes. But contrary to its name, it’s not a replacement for washing your hair.
Continue to wash your hair as often as you need to, and don’t use dry shampoo on your scalp for more than two consecutive days.