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Is Dry Shampoo Bad for Your Hair & Scalp?

Written by Alexa Adler
Is Dry Shampoo Bad for Your Hair & Scalp?

With many hair products, we tend to be so obsessed with the results that we forget to ask if they’re actually healthy for our hair and scalp. Dry shampoo absolutely falls in that category as it can be a savior when you’re in a pinch. But is dry shampoo good (or even just okay) for our hair? Read on to find out.

What Is Dry Shampoo and What Does It Do?

Dry shampoo can be a real timesaver when you simply don’t have time to wash your hair. Whether fresh off a workout, busy with errands, or just trying to survive in the summer heat, dry shampoo can be a lifesaver. 

For many of us, dry shampoo feels like magic. After years of complaining about grease between hair washes, a product that can help revive our locks and remove oil in a snap appeared on the market.

So how does it work? Most dry shampoos are made with an alcohol or starch base, which absorbs the oils in your hair and helps to give it more volume. Your hair will look fresher and cleaner, similar to how it feels after a wash day. But does that mean it’s actually cleaning your hair? After all, it is called “shampoo.” 

Well, we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but no — dry shampoo does not clean your hair. Think about it from a practical standpoint. The purpose of washing your hair is to clear away build-up: the oils, products, dirt, and sweat that have accumulated on your hair and scalp. Dry shampoo is a product that sits on your scalp, coats your hair strands, and isn’t rinsed away like a traditional shampoo.

Dry shampoo doesn’t just disappear after it absorbs the oils. It ultimately becomes a part of the current build-up on your scalp. You’re not cleaning your hair as much as you’re visually buying time between your last wash and your next wash. 

Is Dry Shampoo Bad for Your Hair and Scalp?

We know dry shampoo is effective but is it actually safe for your hair and scalp? We’re happy to report that the answer is mostly yes, with a few caveats. 

Dry shampoo itself is perfectly safe for use, so long as you don’t overdo it or have any existing conditions that could aggravate irritation. And of course, if you’re using the right dry shampoo with the best ingredients that won’t harm your scalp.

Here’s what to keep in mind. 

Moderation and Reliance

Dermatologists and trichologists agree that, ideally, you shouldn’t be using dry shampoo more than once or twice a week. It’s really to revive your hair between washes, not to refresh your hair on a daily basis (and definitely not for cleansing). If you’ve ever leaned on dry shampoo a little too often, you’ll know that it can soon leave your hair feeling brittle, powdery, and stiff. Too much dry shampoo will just contribute to build-up over time. Eventually, that residue has to get washed away or your hair and scalp will feel and look less healthy. You can’t do that without a proper wash and rinse. 

At a maximum, use the dry shampoo once or twice a week. Try not to use it more than once on the same day. Trust us, your hair and scalp will thank you.

Allergies and Sensitivities

Another dry shampoo consideration is whether you have any natural sensitivities to the ingredients found in dry shampoo. Everyone’s scalp is different and can react to products in different ways. If your skin is prone to allergic reactions, you may experience redness, inflammation, and irritation from something like dry shampoo, especially if the ingredients are full of chemicals and if there is an alcohol base.

It’s always a good idea to do a test strip of any new product you’re trying before you apply it to your scalp, which is already a sensitive area. Spray some dry shampoo on your arm, wait twenty minutes, and see how your skin reacts before spraying your head. If you’re already dealing with dandruff, you may want to go easy on the dry shampoo because while it will absorb some of the excess sebum, it will also sit on the surface of your scalp and could potentially cause further irritation, clog your pores, and disrupt your hair follicles. Too much dry shampoo use has the potential to lead to conditions like folliculitis, in which your hair follicles can become inflamed. Folliculitis is generally itchy, uncomfortable, and even painful. People dealing with folliculitis often experience whitehead pimple-like bumps on their skin around the affected areas. In short, it’s something you want to avoid. Again, as with many hair care products, moderation is the key. 


Lastly, as is the case with any hair care product, you want to take a close look at the ingredients in your dry shampoo to make sure you’re doing the least amount of damage possible. Some of the ingredients may surprise you. As dry shampoo has grown more popular over the years, you have more and more options for which one you choose to use. Some of the biggest brands out there include harmful chemicals, alcohols, and harsh preservatives. Remember that your scalp is sensitive and can easily be thrown out of balance (hello flaking, itching, and discomfort). Look for dry shampoos that contain natural ingredients and absorb oiliness without hurting your scalp and harming your hair strands. 

Look for dry shampoos that contain natural ingredients and absorb oiliness without hurting your scalp and harming your hair strands.

How Else Can You Address Oiliness?

If you’ve got a serious dry shampoo dependency — no judgment, we’re with you — you might be wondering how else you can address hair grease without reaching for the dry shampoo as often. On that front, we have a few suggestions.

Try an Antifungal Shampoo

Everyone’s hair and scalp are different. Some people have a more naturally dry scalp, while others tend to get more oily. 

This can also have a lot to do with your curl pattern. Curly hair tends to be drier, while straighter hair shows grease more quickly. But if you’ve been dealing with greasy hair a lot, take a look at your scalp health. It’s possible that your grease isn’t due to genetics, but actually due to an imbalance on your scalp from seborrheic dermatitis. This is especially relevant if your greasiness is also associated with itching, redness, irritation, and flaking.

Colloquially, seborrheic dermatitis is called dandruff and it’s linked to a fungal imbalance within the scalp’s microbiome. This is nothing to be embarrassed about. Fungus is perfectly normal and is meant to be on your scalp. 

Sometimes, for one reason or another, a yeast (which is a type of fungus) from the genus Malassezia will overgrow. As a result of this overgrowth, your scalp will produce more oils. This oil leads to build-up, which leads to flaking and greasiness.

To keep flakes and oiliness at bay, try a dandruff shampoo that includes Zinc Pyrithione. This can curb the overproduction of fungi and restore balance to your scalp. 

Even if you’re not experiencing flaking, try a dandruff shampoo and see what it can do to help control oil production on your scalp. Overall healthy hair begins with a healthy scalp, balanced, and cleansed scalp. Our Balancing Shampoo, for example, contains Zinc Pyrithione along with many scalp-healthy natural ingredients  that can help leave your hair and scalp feeling refreshed, clean, and full of life.

Prioritize Exfoliation

Another great addition to your hair care routine is to add an exfoliation step. Your average shampoo can only clean so much, and ,ost people don’t fully scrub their scalp when they’re doing their regular wash. 

To help your shampoo work harder, try using a Scalp Brush before you wash your hair. Gently exfoliate by brushing dry hair close to your scalp to help lift build-up from the surface, making it easier for your shampoo to clear that build-up away. Once you start using a Scalp Brush, you’ll never go back to washing your hair without one. You may find that your hair feels softer and cleaner after every wash, plus the massage helps increase circulation to the scalp, encouraging new healthy hair growth (and feels pretty good too!). In addition to a physical exfoliant, a weekly chemical exfoliant is another important way to clear away dead skin cells and buildup from styling products and flaking. Our Purifying Mask harnesses the power of mineral-rich volcanic ash to gently and effectively exfoliate, clarify, and calm the scalp.

Last Thoughts on Dry Shampoo

We know just how frustrating dealing with an oily scalp can be.This handy little product can bring some life back to your hair and absorb the grease and oil that’s giving your hair the wrong kind of shine. And while dry shampoo can be incredibly helpful, our best recommendation is to treat the problem from all angles. Use an antifungal shampoo to bring balance back to your scalp. Try a scalp brush and exfoliating scalp mask to help your wash days go even farther. If we’re regularly cleansing and caring for our scalp, and using dry shampoo when a quick touch up is needed on the go, we can ensure our scalp remains balanced and cleansed while maintaining oil-free hair.

Advanced Oil Control Trio
Advanced Oil Control Trio

The award-winning medicated Shampoo and Serum target your flaking, and the Conditioner keeps your locks bouncy and beautiful. Safe for everyday use. Consider the Oil Control + Exfoliation Set if you're looking for maximum control and comfort.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have about the information contained herein, as well as the risks or benefits of any treatment.