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What’s the Verdict on Dry Shampoo?

woman using dry shampoo on her hair
Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko/Shutterstock

Dry shampoo used to be a niche product but now you can find it everywhere from salons to grocery stores. The allure is hard to resist: clean and fresh looking hair without showering. But what’s the deal with dry shampoo and, more importantly, can it harm your hair?

Throughout most of human history, washing your hair happened rarely at best. But in 1903, the first commercially-made shampoo hit stores, bringing an unprecedented level of convenience to the way we bathe.

It didn’t take too long for the first commercial dry shampoo to follow. In 1940, Minipoo promised to get you that just-shampooed feeling with no water at all. For centuries, people had used various DIY remedies to clean their hair without water. However, the availability of store-bought dry shampoo made that shortcut even shorter.

If you haven’t made up your mind about dry shampoo yet, we can help. Read on to learn what you need to know.

Why Everyone Loves Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo reached its latest popularity peak thanks to a nexus of cultural shifts, clever marketing, and widespread wisdom.

In recent years, many hair experts started advocating for a “less is more” approach to hair care. Daily showers and regular shampooing could cause damage, they said. And they were right: washing too often can dry out the hair and scalp.

People took this advice to heart and started skipping washes more frequently. At the same time, shampoo alternatives started to crop up as brands noticed people shifting away from traditional shampoo. Some offered cleansing conditioners as a milder alternative. Others opted for dry shampoo.

Although it wasn’t exactly new, dry shampoo was heralded as a revolutionary way to protect your hair by skipping washes. Of course, people also loved that it helped them save time. Instead of battling greasy hair on no-wash days, you could sprinkle or spray a bit of dry shampoo on and go about your day.

What is Dry Shampoo?

Woman combing hair on blurred background, closeup
Aquarius Studio/Shutterstock

In the haze of excitement over dry shampoo, few people stopped to ask “What’s in this product?”

Dry shampoo requires at least two things: an oil absorber and a freshener to remove odors. The absorber might be silica, talc, clay, aluminum starch, or another absorbent powder. The fresheners and fragrances can include an even wider variety of ingredients.

As dry shampoo’s popularity spiked, a few stories started to crop up about people losing their hair after using it. Some users began scanning the ingredients for scary-sounding chemicals and opting for all-natural or DIY dry shampoos instead. But were their fears validated?

The Truth about Dry Shampoo

Today, many experts agree that yes, dry shampoo can cause hair to fall out. However, the solution might not be as simple as just using an all-natural version.

The problem lies in how dry shampoo works.

Because you’re not really cleaning or rinsing your hair when you use dry shampoo, the ingredients build up around your hair follicles, especially if you use it multiple days in a row. Those clogged follicles become inflamed, so they can’t keep hairs in place as effectively. Over time, this can lead to your hair falling out. It can also cause other nasty scalp problems like dandruff, sores, and seborrheic dermatitis.

The buildup of dry shampoo makes your hair clump up at the follicles, so the weak hairs often pull the healthy hairs next to them out at the same time. Compound this over weeks or months, and you get the serious hair loss that some dry shampoo users have noticed.

Unfortunately, you can’t fix this problem just by using a natural version of the product. The hair-loss effect happens because of the way dry shampoo inherently works. There’s no “safe” option—they can all lead to hair loss.

That said, as with most beauty products, there are still some ingredients you might want to avoid for health reasons. Talc, for example, has been linked to cancer in recent years. Natural dry shampoos can avoid these ingredients, but they won’t keep your hair from falling out.

Is Dry Shampoo Right for You?

Homemade dry shampoo in a jar made of powder corn starch, baking soda and essential oil

So, what’s the verdict on dry shampoo?

In spite of the evidence against it, you don’t necessarily have to ditch dry shampoo completely. They are super convenient and we like them well enough that we reviewed the best dry shampoos for different hair types over on our sister site, ReviewGeek.

That said, we recommend being careful. If you use it occasionally, you’re not likely to see any noticeable hair loss. Just make sure to pick (or make) a version that avoids potentially dangerous ingredients like talc.

If you want to make your own dry shampoo, use an absorbent ingredient as the base, like rice starch, corn starch, baking soda, or arrowroot powder. Add a few drops of essential oil to scent it if you want. You can experiment with ingredients to find what works best for your hair.

However, don’t forget that even an all-natural, handmade dry shampoo can result in the same hair loss as commercial versions. To play it safer, hide your dirty hair on non-shampoo days with a chic updo or trendy hat. Use dry shampoo only on occasions when you absolutely need it. The quest for convenient cleanliness isn’t worth losing hair over.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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