How Does Dry Shampoo Work

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.

This Is How Dry Shampoo Works

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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.

Greasy hair

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.

Natural hair

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.

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Curly hair

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
  • texture
  • length
  • 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:

  1. Hold the can of dry shampoo about 6 inches away from the crown of your head.
  2. 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.
  3. Massage the dry shampoo into your hair using your fingers.
  4. 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.

Last medically reviewed on June 12, 2019

How we reviewed this article:

Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • D’Souza P, et al. (2015). Shampoo and conditioners: What a dermatologist should know? DOI:
    10.4103/0019-5154.156355
  • Does dry shampoo actually keep your hair clean? (2015).
    health.clevelandclinic.org/does-dry-shampoo-actually-keep-your-hair-clean/
  • Draelos ZD. (2010). Essentials of hair care often neglected: Hair cleansing. DOI:
    10.4103/0974-7753.66909
  • Tips for healthy hair. (n.d.).
    aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/hair-care/tips-for-healthy-hair
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What Is Dry Shampoo?

Dry shampoo is a product to absorb the dirt, oil and grease of your scalp without washing it. Many people use it to freshen their hair after working out, a humid commute, extend the life of a blowout, etc. It can also be useful for people with disabilities who have a hard time taking showers without assistance.

How Does Dry Shampoo Work?

Commercial dry shampoos usually come in a spray bottle. They are made with a base of alcohol or starch. When you spray the product into your hair, the alcohol or starch soaks up oil and grease, making it look cleaner.

Dry Shampoo vs. Washing Hair

Experts say dry shampoo is great once in a while, but it shouldn’t be a full-time substitute for washing your hair with water. You can consider dry shampoo to be more of a hair freshener than a hair cleaner. It does nothing to clean your scalp, which collects dirt.

Many shampoos help moisturize your hair. If you use only dry shampoo, it can actually dry out the strands so they’re more likely to break.

Dry shampoo may also leave residue on your scalp. Without regular shampooing with water, that residue will build up. If you don’t clean your scalp and use only dry shampoo, you can get rashes and inflammation there. You can also get dandruff if you use dry shampoo too often without properly washing your scalp.

Additionally, shampooing in the shower clears away bacteria and yeast. It can help you avoid clogged pores in the scalp and washes away styling products.

Experts recommend that you still wash your hair with shampoo and water a few times a week as part of your routine. People with hair that is not dry or oily can usually wash it two or three times a week. Those with curly or textured hair usually follow other hair care routines and may wash it less often.

For example, those who use the Curly Girl Method wash their hair with traditional shampoo infrequently but use conditioner to keep their hair clean. Depending on their hair texture, Black people may wash their hair with shampoo once every 1 or 2 weeks.

How to Use Dry Shampoo

Use dry shampoo correctly to prevent damage to hair and scalp build-up. Hold the bottle about 6 inches from your head and spray only as much as needed. Once you’re done spraying, massage your scalp or run your fingers through your hair to make sure the dry shampoo gets spread evenly and can’t be seen.

Experts recommend using it no more than 2 days in a row. They also recommend using it for no more than 3 months at a time, to avoid scalp and hair damage.

There are many types of dry shampoo. Some add volume to your hair. Others are for extra oily hair, and still more claim to cover undyed roots. You may have to try a few products to find the one that works the best for you. If you end up picking the wrong color, the dry shampoo can discolor your hair temporarily. For example, if you have blonde hair but pick a dry shampoo for brunettes, you may have dark spots in your hair.

Show Sources

American Academy of Dermatology Association: “African American Hair: Tips for Everyday Care.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Does Dry Shampoo Actually Keep Your Hair Clean?”

Cosmopolitan: “How to Do the Curly Girl Method for Beginners.”

Good Housekeeping: “How to Use Dry Shampoo, According to Hair Pros.”

National Caregivers Library: “Personal Care: Grooming and Dressing.”

Ogle School: “How Often Should You Really Shampoo?”

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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