If you’re someone who has been on a five-day-or-more dry shampoo binge, here’s a message from the people around you:
Wash your hair. Please.
You’re not only leaving a trail of funk in your wake, you’re also in danger of damaging your hair and scalp.
Ah, but the attraction is strong: It saves you time in the morning; you can extend the life of that blowout you paid big bucks for. Heck, you can even get an extra 15–30 minutes of sleep: all you have to do is flip your hair over front, spray the heck out of it and flip it back over. The result? A fairly fluffy-looking coif and time for coffee.
The big secret about dry shampoo is … you’re not really cleaning your hair; you’re adding stuff to it. It’s designed to be used for 1-2 days at the most. Not for a week, and not for days on end.
A Little History
Dry shampoo has been used for centuries. In 15th century Asia, people used powdered clay in their hair; in the 1700s, ground starches were used to color and deodorize wigs. Minipoo, made by the Stephanie Brooke Company in New Jersey, was the first commercial dry shampoo in the United States, sold from the 1940s to the 1960s. After that, interest for dry shampoo faded, then resurged when 21st century technology made it available in spray form.
How it Works
According to the Toni & Guy Hairdressing Academy, any hair product used topically to absorb oils and that doesn’t require water is a dry shampoo. Many early commercial dry shampoos contained a type of clay known as fuller’s earth (the main ingredient used in kitty litter); today’s dry shampoo offerings contain starches, talc, or flour (some DIY-ers swear by cornstarch). These products gather and soak up sebum, the waxy oil produced by the sebaceous glands on your scalp. So it’s an absorbent, not a cleaner. And your hair will look good for a day or so. But if you keep using it for days, the “beachy look” gives way to puffy and uncontrolled as more and more of the stuff sticks to your scalp and hair strands.
Too Much of a Good Thing …
Overusing anything can lead to an eventual backfire. This is true in the case of dry shampoo. Because even though you brush it out, some of the particles stay stuck in there. “[Dry shampoo] deposits substances to coat the follicle that can build up,” Los Angeles-based dermatologist R. Sonia Batra explained in an interview with The Atlantic, “the resulting inflammation can weaken the follicles and increase shedding. These products can also cause hair follicles to stick together, so that a hair that would normally shed during brushing may take two or three strands along with it.”
Dry shampoo buildup also traps bacteria, which can lead to scalp problems such as:
- Cysts and scabs due to inflamed follicles
- Fungal overgrowth and seborrheic dermatitis
- Bald patches
- Weakened follicles
- Interrupted hair growth patterns
- Hair loss
But it’s not all that bad; you don’t need to go home, gather up your dry shampoos and throw them in the trash. Both dermatologists and hairdressers agree that dry shampoo, when used properly, is not harmful. The key is education. According to AVEDA Master Stylist Stacy Stanton, dry shampoo should only be applied to dry hair—no dampness, no sweat. She also suggests people not use it more than two days in a row, and that people with eczema or psoriasis talk to their doctor before using it.
And there you have it: Dry shampoo’s dirty little secret. Whether you use a commercial product or go the cornstarch route, just remember: your hair still needs to be washed—with traditional shampoo and water. Regularly. Otherwise, all that time you spent trying to keep your fabulous crown of hair looking good can lead you into some nasty territory.
And, if you start washing your hair, your loved ones will thank you.
Beauty is pain.