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Is Dry Shampoo Bad for Your Hair? We Did the Research & Have an Answer!

If you’re still on the verge with the wonderful world of dry shampoo, then you definitely have a few concerns.

The internet is brimming with rumors, warnings, and clickbait titles attacking the safety of dry ‘poos. As a result, girls who are new to the game are losing sleep wondering: is dry shampoo bad for your hair?


Have no fear because we’ve done all the painstaking research so you won’t have to!


Aside from finding out whether or not dry shampoo is bad for your luscious locks, we’ll also answer some related questions like:

  • How does dry shampoo work?
  • Is dry shampoo safe for color-treated hair?
  • On the other hand, is dry shampoo safe for keratin-treated hair?
  • How bad is dry shampoo for your hair? Is it, isn’t it?

Even more, we’ll show you how to make your hair look clean without dry shampoo, if you want an alternative.

So, is shampoo bad for your hair when in dry form? We’ll settle the matter once and for all below. 

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What is Dry Shampoo?

Before we begin tackling the “is dry shampoo bad for your hair?” dilemma, let’s first take a look at what it actually is.

Dry shampoo is a hair care product that aims to refresh and/or style hair without the use of water. The product comes in the form of a powder, spray or paste, with starch or alcohol as the active ingredient.

Historically, people have been implementing the concept in various ways for centuries. As far back as the late 1400s, inhabitants of Asia used powdered clay for water-free hair cleansing.

Later on, around the 1550s, the same method reached Europe. As the author of the Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History, Victoria Sherrow explains, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, people were not accustomed to regular bathing. Moreover, modern shampoo was not yet an accessible product (for quite obvious reasons).

Therefore, women in England would apply powder to their hair for hygienic and even decorative purposes. In the last years of the 18th century, men would also adopt the technique for deodorizing their elaborate wigs with starch.

In the early 1940s, the Stephanie Brooke Company created and sold the first commercial dry shampoo – Minipoo.

Today, dry shampoo has become a beauty care staple for busy individuals around the globe. So much so, that we even have a National Dry Shampoo Day.

On the second Sunday of March, when daylight savings time takes its toll, people are encouraged to learn more about dry shampoo application, its ingredients, and benefits.

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How Does Dry Shampoo Work?

The way dry shampoo works is pretty straightforward. In essence, the active ingredient in dry shampoo absorbs excess sebum from the hair.

Sebum is a natural oil that the sebaceous glands around hair follicles produce to protect and moisturize the skin and hair.

Due to physical activity or basic exposure to an outdoor environment, a mixture of sebum, sweat, dirt, and dust can accumulate on your scalp and hair.

It happens even if you’re performing normal tasks throughout the day. In addition to that, some people are prone to oilier hair and skin than others.

While sebum production is necessary for your locks to be healthy, a buildup will make your hair look and feel dirty.

After applying dry shampoo to soak up that extra oil, the hair will look fresh, voluminous, and significantly cleaner than before.

Not everyone can afford to jump in the shower and wash their hair every time it gets a little greasy. For that, dry shampoo comes as a solution for the time-poor problem imposed by our fast-paced world.

In between regular washes, people can apply dry shampoo to maintain a clean and aesthetically pleasing appearance.

The issue with dry shampoo is that it doesn’t clean the hair per se but rather covers it with an additional product.

We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of that a bit later on.

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High Alcohol vs. High Starch Formulas

Most of the time, dry shampoos have a greater concentration of a specific ingredient. Depending on the product, the formula is higher in either starch or alcohol.

Dry shampoos that use a larger amount of alcohol are typically:

  • Sprays that don’t use as much powder as their high-starch counterparts
  • Suitable for adding volume and definition
  • Used to maintain salon hairstyles (such as blow-outs)

On the other hand, dry shampoos that are high in starch are:

  • Powders or sprays that contain a large quantity of powder
  • Suitable for absorbing excess oil
  • Used to leave the hair looking cleaner

While high alcohol dry shampoos are ideal for styling your locks, they won’t have that much of an impact in terms of cleanliness.

Therefore, they’re better for touching up a hairstyle you love rather than freshening really greasy hair.

Conversely, high powder dry shampoos are effective for dealing with oil buildup. They’ll do an excellent job of making the hair look freshly washed.

On the flip side, they can make your hair look like a powdered wig. To remove the excess powder, you have to brush your hair multiple times until all of the residue disappears.

But how do you know if a dry shampoo you’re interested in has more alcohol than starch, or vice-versa?

There is a useful rule of thumb when deciphering the lists of ingredients on beauty products. The higher up a specific ingredient is on the list, the higher its concentration is in the formula.

Consequently, check to see which of the two ingredients appears first in the list and make your buying decision from there.

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So, Is Dry Shampoo Bad for Your Hair?

Now that we have the foundation covered, let’s address the matter on everyone’s minds – is dry shampoo bad for your hair or not?

Unfortunately, the question should actually be “how bad is dry shampoo for your hair?”

Yep. We hate to break it to you, but it’s not all sunshine and daisies with dry shampoo.

However, before you chuck your dry shampoo into the trash and vow to never hop on beauty trends again, hear us out.

It’s not so much labeling dry shampoo good or bad for hair. The product itself is safe, otherwise, it wouldn’t have been approved for commercial use.

Instead, the negative effects of dry shampoo are largely determined by how you use the product:

  • Leaving dry shampoo in your hair for an extended amount of time can clog your follicular pores. As a result, you can experience irritation or even develop a skin condition.
  • Using dry shampoo as the sole product for washing your hair can result in the same issues.
  • Reducing so much moisture from your locks can leave them extremely dry.
  • Not using a moisturizer at the same time can lead to hair breakage.

According to numerous dermatologists, dry shampoo should never be used as a permanent replacement for wet shampoo.

Hair needs to be washed and rinsed in order to remove all of the dirt particles, instead of just masking them.

Furthermore, if you struggle with dry scalp or any other related problem, you shouldn’t use dry shampoo, to begin with.

On the other hand, if you don’t have access to bathing for one reason or another, dry shampoo can truly help with short-term maintenance.

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But is Dry Shampoo Safe for Color-Treated Hair?

If you’ve ever dyed your hair, you know how frustrating it can be to have the color wash away at one point. You want to maintain the new tone as much as possible. And excessive washing won’t help in the process.

For that, you can safely use certain dry shampoos for color preservation. We recommend using products with a high alcohol formula so the powdery residue won’t affect the tones.

Nevertheless, the same rules apply – don’t overdo it.

Is Dry Shampoo Safe for Keratin-Treated Hair?

The same goes for hair that has been treated with keratin. However, the difference is that powder-based dry shampoos are better for post-keratin treatment.

If you’re in the 72-hour timeframe after getting one, search for a colorless dry shampoo. Alternatively, try to find one that aligns with your current hair color.

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Can Dry Shampoo Cause Hair Loss?

Just like answering, “is dry shampoo bad for your hair?” in general, the alleged hair loss issue depends on a series of factors.

If you go overboard with dry shampoo, you could experience hair loss. It’s a possibility that results from a person’s own behavior – how long and often they use the product.

As we previously explained, dry shampoo masks dirty hair instead of washing it. In other words, it won’t fully come out until you actually rinse your hair.

To better understand how it works, dermatologists compare the process to makeup – touching it up vs. removing it.

By not washing your hair, the dry shampoo will continue to add layers to the dirt that is already deposited on your scalp.

In turn, the consistent buildup could lead to irritated skin, clogged hair follicles, and potential hair breakage.

If you don’t suffer from a specific skin condition, you should be fine using dry shampoo in moderation. For this reason, it’s best to consult your dermatologist prior to using dry shampoo if you have any concerns.

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How Often Should You Use Dry Shampoo?

The optimum frequency and quantity of dry shampoo strongly depends on the person using it. Someone with drier hair will be advised differently than one whose locks get oily a few hours after washing them.

All the same, dermatologists and stylists agree that dry shampoo should not be used more than two consecutive days. For an even safer approach, you should narrow it down to no more than twice per week.

After using dry shampoo as a quick fix, make sure you succeed in washing your hair normally as soon as you can to avoid buildup.

Still, you might find yourself in situations in which you won’t be able to shower.

In this case, we recommend applying dry shampoo to the hair fibers and not on the scalp.

After you’ve left in the shampoo long enough to absorb the oils, remove as much of the residue as possible through brushing.

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Using Dry Shampoo on Clean Hair

When used in moderation, dry shampoo can also be applied on clean hair, for a number of reasons.

With a clean canvas, you can use dry shampoo to:

  • Secure a style. If you want to style your hair in braids or an updo like a messy bun, dry shampoo helps the locks stay in place. Prior to styling, use a small amount of dry shampoo to get more texture.
  • Lift fine hair. If you struggle to obtain volume, spray some dry shampoo towards the roots. After that, gently backcomb your locks to increase volume.
  • Prevent frizz. If your locks tend to go haywire in the face of humidity, use dry shampoo to protect them. Owing to the absorption of moisture, your hair won’t become frizzy. For the same reason, dry shampoo helps prevent oil buildup throughout the night after you’ve washed your hair or when exercising.
  • Prepare accessories. If you want to use pins in your hairstyle, you can coat them with some dry shampoo before using them. They won’t slip as much as they usually would.
  • Reduce heat. If you tend to use curlers or other damaging heat-based tools, swap them for some dry shampoo every now and then. With more grip and texture, your hair will be easier to style without resorting to heat.

Overall, using dry shampoo on clean hair comes with a multitude of styling benefits.

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Does Dry Shampoo Add Volume to Hair?

Thankfully, yes.

For a dose of fast volume, you can use dry shampoo as an alternative to hairspray. An additional benefit is that your hair won’t get sticky, as it would when using most styling products.

If you want to apply dry shampoo with the purpose of increasing volume, follow the steps below:

  1. Wash and dry your hair as you normally would.
  2. Tilt your head forward so your hair flips in front of you.
  3. Take a piece of hair that is about 2-3 inches wide and section it off from the rest.
  4. Spray dry shampoo on the roots, preferably without spraying the scalp in the process.
  5. Gently backcomb the section and flip it back.
  6. Repeat the steps for other sections of your hair, particularly those around the crown of your head.

To get even more fullness and definition, you can lightly spray the product throughout your hair.

Furthermore, dry shampoo can also help you get relaxed curls:

  • When you’re done curling your hair, spritz the tips with dry shampoo.
  • After that, scrunch the locks and shake them out for natural-looking curls that come with plenty of volume.

In saying that, treat dry shampoo as you would hairspray. Wash it out as soon as you get the chance!

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How to Make Your Hair Look Clean Without Dry Shampoo

Whether you’ve exaggerated with dry shampoo lately or you don’t have any at hand, you can use other methods to conceal dirty locks.

One of the easiest ways is to style your hair so the greasiness won’t be immediately visible.

To do so, try one of the options we described below:

  • Use a blow dryer to freshen up your hair. Even if your locks are already dry, a blow dryer will help reduce the amount of excess oils in it. Use a low heat setting and focus on the crown of your head and hairline.
  • Wear a hair accessory to hide the areas with the most oil. A headband, headscarf, or bandana can help mask the front and sides of your head. Similarly, a hat can also help, even adding a chic touch to your outfit. Considering those are the regions where oil tends to build up the most, you’ll easily be able to cover them up.
  • Style your hair into an elaborate braid or updo. The more intricate the braid is, the more it will draw attention away from the texture of your hair. If you want some inspiration to get you started, check out our guide for the most popular braid styles. The crown braid is particularly helpful for concealing oily areas. You can even try a braided mohawk if you’re up for a creative challenge.
  • Soak up the grease with baby powder. If you have a light hair color, apply baby powder to your roots with a big, clean makeup brush. 

Creating a DIY Dry Shampoo

If you’re afraid of potentially harmful ingredients in a dry shampoo, you can go the natural way and make your own! 

Before we give you step-by-step DIY dry shampoo instructions, here is a list of household ingredients and items that you can use as a standalone replacement:

  • Baking soda
  • Cornstarch
  • Flour
  • Dryer sheet
  • Setting powder
  • Talc
  • Paper towels
  • Dry clay
  • Apple cider vinegar

For a more sophisticated blend, you can create your own homemade dry shampoo with the following ingredients:

  • ¼ cup of cornstarch 
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder (optional, if you have dark hair)

You’ll also need a jar or container to store the mixture and a makeup brush to apply it along your roots.

All you have to do to create the dry shampoo formula is to add all of the ingredients in the container and shake well. Make sure you seal it after every use and store at room temperature.

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How to Use Dry Shampoo: Tips & Tricks

As long as you follow the instructions on the bottle of your dry shampoo, you shouldn’t have any issues. 

Be that as it may, we will walk you through the process for both spray and powder products to ensure you’re on the right track.

Spray Instructions

If your dry shampoo is a high-alcohol spray, follow the steps below:

  1. Shake the bottle well to mix the ingredients.
  2. Divide your hair into equal sections (a few inches per piece).
  3. Hold the bottle up and away from your head prior to spraying. The distance can be anywhere from six to twelve inches. If you want to focus on certain areas, go closer. For overall coverage, spray from a greater distance.
  4. Use short spritzes to apply the product to your roots. While you shouldn’t coat your scalp, the base of your hair strands will likely need the most coverage. For a boost of volume, spray some of the product on the body of your hair too.
  5. Give yourself a brief scalp massage to work the dry shampoo into your roots and activate the oil-absorbing ingredients. If your product contains color ingredients, you should consider using gloves or a brush to distribute the shampoo throughout your locks.
  6. Allow the product to work for the amount of time recommended on the bottle.
  7. Brush the dry shampoo out of your hair and remove any excess residue. 

Powder Instructions

Alternatively, if you’ve chosen a loose powder shampoo that comes in a container, the instructions will be slightly different. 

All in all, a powder-based product works on the same principle. You only have to adjust your application method.

Go through the steps outlined below to use high-powder dry shampoo properly:

  1. Sprinkle about a half dollar size of product onto the palm of your hand. 
  2. Dip a large makeup brush into the dry shampoo to coat the tips.
  3. Part your locks into equal sections.
  4. Dab the product on the roots of each piece of hair. Focus on the areas with the largest buildup of oil.
  5. Massage the powder into your roots to absorb the oils.
  6. Let it set for as long as the instructions say.
  7. Shake the product off, either with your hands or with a brush.

Before we let you go, we’ll give you some pro tips that will enhance your dry shampoo experience:

  • Apply the product at night, after you wash your hair and before going to bed. The longer the dry shampoo can work into your hair, the better it will absorb oils. The following morning, massage your scalp and brush your hair.
  • Start small and work your way up. Don’t overwhelm your hair with a ton of product from the get-go. Instead, begin with a few spritzes and build upon them if necessary.
  • Avoid spraying the product any closer than six inches from your hair. You’ll have a harder time getting rid of the residue. Additionally, more product will build up on your strands, increasing the risk of blocking your pores.
  • Use the dry shampoo throughout the length of your hair if you’re planning on creating a hairstyle. You’ll enjoy all the extra grip you need for your work to not fall apart midday. 
  • Choose a dry shampoo with UV protection if it’s summertime. This helps prevent sun damage for both natural and colored hair.

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Final Verdict: Is Dry Shampoo Bad for Your Hair or Not?

Now, for the moment we’ve all been waiting for. All things considered, is dry shampoo bad for your hair in the long run?

Yes and no. It’s all up to you!

If you don’t exaggerate with how often, how much, and how long you apply dry shampoo, you should be good.

However, if you don’t wash your hair the normal way in between, the product will only keep building up.

Therefore, in order for dry shampoo to not be harmful for your hair, you need to use it in moderation.

Are you using or tried dry shampoo before? What has your experience been like? If you’ve already experimented with the product, tell us your story in the comments.

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