Experts Explain If Dry Shampoo Is Actually Bad for Your Hair
Fact: Dry shampoo can be an absolute lifesaver on those days when you don't want to wash your hair or need a quick refresh following an intense workout. After all, the beauty staple boasts an uncanny ability to soak up seemingly any sign of sweat or oil from your strands — all while boosting volume. Plus, it's available in plenty of options, from powders and sprays to foams and gels. So you're sure to find at least one formulation that's a fit for you.
But you might've heard some whispers around the beauty block that dry shampoo is actually bad for your scalp health, and now you want to know the truth. Ahead, experts share their thoughts on the popular product and its potential effects on your scalp and strands so you can finally know if dry shampoo is bad for you.
Is Dry Shampoo Bad for Your Hair and Scalp?
The answer: It depends on how often you use it.
In general, dry shampoos contain absorbent ingredients, such as alcohols and starches, to soak up sweat, grease, and oil from your hair, according to the Cleveland Clinic. And while it might give your strands a cleaner, fresher appearance upon application, dry shampoo is a bit of a misnomer, since it doesn't actually clean your hair or scalp (unlike actual shampoo), says William Gaunitz, a certified trichologist and founder of Advanced Trichology.
In other words, dry shampoo absorbs sweat and oil without actually removing it from your scalp. Over time, continued use of dry shampoo can cause the lingering gunk (dirt, oil, etc.) and product to build up, which can "clog the hair follicles," explains Penny James, a certified trichologist and founder of Penny James Salon. This can lead to inflammation and "create irritation that can lead to unhealthy scalp conditions," explains Gaunitz. More specifically, if those clogged hair follicles become inflammed, you might develop folliculitis, a condition that looks similar to acne and is characterized by itchy, tender skin, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Excess use of dry shampoo can also result in inflammatory scalp concerns, such as seborrheic dermatitis, because the product can trap in fungus, says Gaunitz. ICYDK, seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition that mainly affects the scalp and causes scaly patches, red skin, and stubborn dandruff, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The aforementioned product buildup may also hinder your hair growth. When you allow styling product to sit on your scalp for days without washing your hair, the "product buildup becomes so dense, it blocks the opening of hair follicles, limiting the number of strands that can get out," David Adams, an Aveda colorist and the owner of Fourteenjay Salon in New York, previously told Shape. "This means a follicle that was once growing three or four strands may now sprout only one or two." (Related: The Most Common Causes of Hair Loss, Explained)
In addition to potentially inhibiting hair growth, overusing dry shampoo can also impact the look and feel of your strands, says James. More specifically, alcohol — which, as mentioned earlier, is a common ingredient in dry shampoo — can dry out your tresses, making them more susceptible to breakage and look dull, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
So, How Often Should You Use Dry Shampoo?
Don't toss your can of dry shampoo just yet. When used in moderation, dry shampoo is safe for all hair types, according to James. It's okay to use dry shampoo once to twice a week, but anything more than that is when you may begin to encounter scalp and hair concerns, she says.
Meanwhile, you might also want to take steps to counteract buildup, such as exfoliating your scalp regularly. Aim to use a scalp scrub once or twice a month or once a week if your scalp is itchy to remove any lingering gunk. You can take it a step further by consciously massaging the scrub into your scalp to relieve tension, which, in turn, "further supports follicle health," Kerry Yates, trichologist and founder of Colour Collective, previously told Shape. (Related: The 10 Best Scalp Massagers That Promote Healthy Hair Growth)
Bottom line: While dry shampoo is helpful and safe to use, it shouldn't become part of your daily hair-care routine or replace your actual shampoo. "You must wash your hair with water and a hydrating shampoo and conditioner at least once to twice weekly to maintain normal scalp health," says Gaunitz. While it's totally fine to revive your hair with dry shampoo between washes, just make sure you're using it sparingly.