Having access to dry shampoo can feel like a saving grace when your hair is greasy and limp. Aerosol-based foams and sprays seem to bring your hair back to life when you’re on the go after a workout or want to let your blow out live to see another day. Yet, while marketing campaigns make dry shampoo feel like a cosmetics must-have, using dry shampoo as an alternative to washing your hair can cause more damage to your hair follicles than you may think.
Here’s How Dry Shampoo Works
Your scalp is covered with thousands of hair follicles that produce sebum, a natural oil that softens your scalp while giving your hair a unique-to-you texture. However, while sebum is your body’s natural scalp protection, it does not prevent oil and sweat from collecting in your hair, which causes that way-too-natural, greasy appearance us humans work so hard to prevent.
According to Healthline, most dry shampoos use alcohol or starch-based active ingredients to soak up excess oils and sweat from your hair to make it appear cleaner without having to get your hair wet. In addition, dry shampoo products from drug and/or grocery stores add fragrance to their recipes, making your hair smell fresh in-between washes. Sounds pretty dreamy, right?
If only it were that simple.
What’s Really in your Dry Shampoo
Aerosol-based dry shampoos contain a multitude of toxic ingredients. To gain a better understanding of the potential harm caused by these additives, let’s take a look at a few common toxins found in most dry shampoos:
Alcohol Denatured or Ethanol: The main concern with this ingredient is that it acts as a penetration enhancer for many chemicals. Ethanol is an extremely toxic chemical found in fuel and household cleaning products. You wouldn’t drink gasoline or Windex, right? Drinking it, in this case, isn’t much different than putting it directly on your skin, where it is easily absorbed into your bloodstream.
Talc: Commonly used to absorb moisture, this toxin is not one to mess around with. According to the American Cancer Society, some talc contains asbestos which is known to cause cancer in or around the lungs when inhaled. No thanks.
Parabens + Fragrance: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) states that there is strong evidence to show that parabens, or artificial preservatives, act as estrogen when absorbed into the body. Parabens are natural hormone disruptors and affect how normal hormone systems function in the body. Fragrance, widely used in dry shampoo, doesn’t help the cause. Fragrance puts people at high risk for allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress, and aids parabens in harmful effects on the reproductive system.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG): The name should speak for itself. LPG is a combination of butane and propane—you know, the stuff you use to light your grill with. These highly flammable, odorless gasses are classified as carcinogens and mutagens and pose major health risks over time. Aside from the fact that LPG can cause explosions, this toxin replaces oxygen in the lungs, causing headaches, nausea, or even worse, making breathing difficult.
More Common Side-Effects of Using Dry Shampoo Often
Though dry shampoos don’t actually cleanse your hair, using alcohol and/or starch-based dry shampoos for a prolonged period of time to mask your hair’s oily appearance can be tempting. However, Shab Reslan, an expert hair scientist, warns, "you can do long-term damage to your scalp by washing infrequently and using dry shampoo often. Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp, and dry shampoo is not your friend in that quest."
Dry shampoos may absorb excess oils from the hair and scalp but they can also cause a build-up of residue if not properly cleansed and removed from the scalp. This build-up takes as little as two-consecutive dry shampoo uses to begin drying out the skin on the top of your head. If the residue isn’t properly washed off the scalp, it can cause clogged pores which may lead to painful pimples and/or a rash.
If physical pain caused by dry shampoo doesn’t seem bad enough, Reslan tells MindBodyGreen (MBG) that exposing hair follicles to the harsh chemicals found in many dry shampoos can affect your hair growth and possibly damage your actual follicle, leading to hair thinning over time.
The Safer Bets
We’re all bound to run into situations where having access to dry shampoo is a must. When used in moderation, dry shampoo containing toxins like alcohol and fragrance won’t make your hair fall out or cause clogged pores immediately. However, there are safer alternatives to aerosol-based dry shampoos that are better for your long-term hair health.
Let’s chat healthier dry shampoo options:
1. Switch to a Natural Dry Shampoo: Products like La Bloom Beauty’s Hair Refresher skip out on toxins that dry out your hair by using natural ingredients instead. This light-weight powder formula includes key ingredients like Aloe Vera and Rhassoul Clay to moisturize and condition the scalp while Provitamin B5 locks in moisture to leave your hair bouncy and shiny. To top it all off, Eucalyptus essential oil is added to deodorize and refresh hair follicles achieving that freshly shampooed scent without the use of any harsh chemicals—it’s pretty much a win, win.
2. Remember the Two-Day Rule: Without properly washing your scalp, alcohol and starch-based dry shampoos cause a film residue to build up on your skin, resulting in those not-so-fun clogged pores we talked about above. Vickie Vidov, a hairstylist in New York City, recommends leaving dry shampoo on your strands for a maximum of two days before shampooing. “Treating your scalp is [just] as important as treating the skin on your face,” Vidov told MBG. "It is very important to make sure your scalp is properly washed, especially if you use dry shampoo on a regular basis,” she continued.
If your scalp is in need of an extra deep clean but can’t get to the store—no problem! Try making an all-natural scalp scrub at home.
3. Test Out a Brush Liner: For centuries, Japanese geishas have used an antioxidant packed fruit, called persimmon, for a variety of beauty rituals. Now, thanks to Mariai Clinical’s Deodorizing Hair Brush Liners, you can reap the ancient benefits of persimmon just by brushing your hair. The beauty experts at Marie Claire claim that the addition of natural persimmon leaves hair as fresh and clean as a few mists of dry shampoo. Pretty cool, huh?
While dry shampoo won’t damage your hair immediately, continuous usage of alcohol and starch-based sprays and foams has potential to cause major scalp and health problems over time.
Think of your scalp as a continuation of your complexion. Applying harsh chemicals to your face causes embarrassing breakouts, redness, flaking of the skin—and your scalp is no different. If most dry shampoos are used for more than two consecutive days, you risk damaging your scalp with thick residue build-up that can cause painful clogged pores and pimples, leading to hair thinning over time. You also risk detrimental side effects such as cancer and hormone disruption.
To optimize your scalp’s health, trade your drug-store dry shampoo for an all-natural option like La Bloom Beauty’s Hair Refresher—a powder formula made with your health in mind. Using ingredients from the earth, La Bloom’s Hair Refresher will give you the bouncy, shiny feeling, (and fresh smell!) you crave without exposure to harsh chemicals.
"I'm loving the Hair Refresher, the eucalyptus smell, texture, and it helps my hair go an extra day or two without washing, and that's so helpful being a new mum!"
Aubree, Los Angeles
"I've been so into dry shampoos that come in a powder form and this one is no exception! I love the pump on it and the powder is distributed so finely. It's great for on the go because of it's petite size."
Lauren, San Francisco
"I have a hard time finding products that work well for my hair because my hair is extremely thick and curly. I was immediately impressed by this product because it smells so nice and is so lightweight! I keep it in my purse and it has been perfect for when I need a quick hair touch up in the middle of the day!"
P.S. The taupe hue blends perfectly with blonde and brunette hair which means no more awkward white residue! Try it out and see for yourself.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. La Bloom Beauty’s products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.