dry shampoo

February 19, 2021
By Audrey Stanton
In Eco-Wellness, Clean Label

Styled Coif: Deception
of Dry Shampoo


Dry shampoo has captured the hearts and hairs (pun intended) of beauty editors and customers alike. Though far from a modern concept, the quick-and-easy styling product hit a new stride within the last decade. Dry shampoo found a captive mainstream audience within our fast-paced world, luring customers in with promises of saved time and added volume. The water-free hair tool has the ability to be a huge asset to busy women worldwide, but only when used with caution and care.

A Brief History of Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo is believed to have origins as far back as the 15th century, when clay powder was used to clean hair in China. It popped up again in the 17th and 18th centuries, when individuals would use fuller’s earth and cat litter to deodorize their wigs. However, the 20th century saw the concept bottled and branded for the first time. This new form of dry shampoo was called “Minipoo.” Launched in the 1940’s, Minipoo went mainstream in the 1960’s thanks to a catchy slogan “When you can’t shampoo, Minipoo.” Similar to dry shampoo, Minipoo was marketed for women, yet the product we know today is less for keeping a housewife’s hair presentable and more for those who want to skip a shower, conserve water, or attempt to preserve hair color.

How Does it Work?

“Dry shampoo uses alcohols or starch-based active ingredients to soak up the oils and sweat from your hair,” Healthline succinctly puts it. Our heads are covered in approximately 100,000 hair follicles, which grow hair and produce a natural oil called sebum. The health and wellness site explains that sebum serves an important purpose by softening the hair and protecting the scalp. Some oil is necessary, though we all know that greasy hair isn’t exactly a fashionable look (except when expertly styled on celebrities.)

That’s where dry shampoo comes in, removing oil buildup and temporarily making it appear clean. For this reason, many women use the product to refresh their hair in-between washes. Dry shampoo can save time when showering isn’t an option, is convenient for travel, helps breathe new life into post-workout hair, and adds a bit of volume to unwashed, or even washed, locks. In addition, the product is deployed to avoid damaging hair that is consistently heat styled and by individuals hoping to extend the life of their dyed hair color. All of these examples are extremely enticing to women living and working within our fast-paced world, but do the benefits outweigh the costs of dry shampoo?

Too Good to Be True?

The largest misconception about dry shampoo is that it cleans hair (spoiler alert, it doesn’t.) Dry shampoo brands may want to convince you that wet shampoo is a thing of the past but take it from the experts, you still need to wash your hair; “Most shampoos today developed by major cosmetic houses are very safe, whether they’re wet or dry. They’re compounded so you can use them without problems,” Dr. Bergfeld told Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials blog. “The question is whether it’s important to clean the scalp, and that answer is yes.” Since dry shampoo doesn’t actually clean, it must be used in moderation. Dr. Bergfeld recommends using it sparingly and most certainly not every day.

Too much dry shampoo will interrupt the natural production of sebum on your scalp. With actual shampoo breaks, residue will continue to accumulate on the scalp, clogging your pores, preventing normal scalp cell turnover, and possibly leaving a rash. “You’re just adding another layer of debris on top of your already dirty hair,” beauty entrepreneur and hair expert Gail Federici confirmed on the beauty brand Color Wow Hair’s blog. Especially in the case of alcohol-based dry shampoos, continued use can result in dry, brittle, and fragile hair as well. In some cases, prolonged uses can even reduce hair growth. Not to mention, the majority of dry shampoo products come in the form of aerosol sprays which have been linked to air pollution (and possibly rivaling car emissions in Los Angeles, according to ScienceMag in 2018.)

Hair Care Done Right

So is there a way to safely use dry shampoo? Yes. By finding the right product for your hair, avoiding harmful ingredients, and learning how to correctly use it, dry shampoo can be a great addition to your beauty cabinet. Everyone’s hair and skin is different, so taking the time to research products is imperative. Dry shampoo isn’t one-size-fits-all and what works for your favorite beauty influencer may not work well for you.

Lastly, properly applying the hair product makes all the difference. Health Essentials recommends only applying dry shampoo to oily areas and, if using spray, keep the canister at least 6 inches from your scalp. For a step by step guide, look no further than this piece from Allure or a visual guide from Marie Claire which features a series of gifs. How dry shampoo is used is just as important as what brand you use. And, when all else fails, just wash your hair!

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