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Is dry shampoo bad for your hair and scalp? Here’s what the experts say

When your hair needs a quick refresh, but you don’t have time for a shower, dry shampoo is an easy solution—with just a few sprays, your greasy strands look clean again. While the hair product certainly works, concerns about the product’s safety, and whether or not it contributes to hair loss and damage, have recently surfaced. Although dry shampoo does make your strands look better temporarily, it can also block the hair follicles and negatively affect your scalp over time.

How dry shampoo works

Dry shampoo absorbs the dirt and sebum on the scalp that builds up between washes. Sebum is produced by the hair follicles and softens the scalp, says Paul Rus, an Irresistible Me hair stylist partner. While it’s essential for a healthy hair environment, the oily substance also makes your hair look greasy, which is where it comes in. “The active ingredients used in the product soak up the sweat from our hair, making it look clean and fresh,” he says.

Dry shampoo is most commonly made up of chalky powders and alcohols, which soak up moisture in the hair. According to Helen Reavey, board-certified trichologist and founder of Act+Acre, the product also contains aerosols that allow for an easy spray application and artificial fragrances to mask the odour.

How dry shampoo affects your hair and scalp

dry shampoo
A woman using dry shampoo on her hair; Image Credit: Getty Images

Despite the immediate benefits of dry shampoo, it can cause unwanted damage to your hair as it accumulates on the scalp. Reavey says that the harsh ingredients in certain dry shampoos can also strip away the healthy oils the scalp needs to thrive.

Hair loss

As dry shampoo builds up on the scalp it can prevent nutrients from being able to reach the hair follicle. Reavey says overusing the product can result in inflammation of the scalp and blockage of the follicles. “Over time, this can weaken the follicle, causing increased shedding and hair thinning,” she says.


The most common issue people run into when using dry shampoo is dandruff. “Dandruff is typically caused by an oil imbalance that causes skin cells to build up, then shed liberally,” Reavey says. “To help prevent dandruff, it’s incredibly important to keep your scalp clean and balanced, which is hard to do if you continually rely on dry shampoo to extend the life of your hair.”

How often to use it

To avoid overusing dry shampoo, Reavey recommends against using the product more than two times in between washes. “Ideally, you should never use dry shampoo to replace washing your hair, only as a means to freshen up your look as needed,” she says.

But if you need a quick fix for greasy hair, Rus recommends choosing a product that has a safe formula. He says to avoid six specific ingredients: sulfates, parabens, polyethylene glycols, synthetic fragrances, talc, and alcohol.

Alternatives to dry shampoo

The best alternative to dry shampoo isn’t a true swap—you should wash your hair more frequently. “Your scalp and its follicles are the bedrock of healthy hair growth and a clean scalp provides an optimal environment for hair to flourish,” says Anabel Kingsley, the owner and consultant trichologist at Philip Kingsley. She adds that the product won’t remove the oil and grime in your hair. It will only mask it and keep your scalp dirty.

If you’re concerned that washing your hair daily can damage it, Reavey says not to worry. “It really is a myth that you shouldn’t wash your hair too often,” she says. “Dead skin, pollution, and sweat can all contribute to the hair shaft weakening and causing unhealthy hair growth.”

This story first appeared on www.marthastewart.com

(Credit for the hero and featured image: Curology/Unsplash)

© 2021 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Licensed from MarthaStewart.com and published with permission of Meredith Corporation. Reproduction in any manner in any language in whole or in part without prior written permission is prohibited.

Is dry shampoo bad for your hair and scalp? Here’s what the experts say

Madeline Buiano

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