What Does Dry Shampoo Do? (And How to Use It the Right Way)

BY Rebecca Dancer · October 24, 2019

Woman touching hair - what is dry shampoo?

If you’ve ever wanted to extend your blowout for another day or two, or you’ve simply skipped a wash, then you have likely reached for dry shampoo. Not only can dry shampoo freshen up your roots in between washing, it can also help add volume and shine to your strands. These days, there is an ever-widening variety of different dry shampoo formulas to choose from, from mousse to powder to aerosols, and many utilize natural ingredients that both absorb oil and impurities while also promoting overall hair health. Not sure which type of dry shampoo to invest in? Consider this your guide to all things dry shampoo, including what it is, how it works and how to use it correctly.

How does dry shampoo work, exactly?

Dry shampoo works by literally absorbing excess oil from the roots of the hair and on the scalp, and it doesn’t need to be rinsed out—hence its name. “Dry shampoo is typically a powder that absorbs oils and slightly ‘cleanses’ the hair,” explains celebrity hair stylist Michael Dueñas. Most dry shampoo formulas contain ingredients such as rich starch or silica, which “attach themselves to excess oil, and are shaken out when the hair is moved or brushed,” Dueñas says.

What are the different types of dry shampoo?

You’ll find that dry shampoo is no longer just in spray form; today’s formulas come in mousse, powder and even spray-powder varieties. All of them, however, should be applied mainly to the roots of the hair, where they work to absorb excess oil, sweat and other impurities that would typically be rinsed away during a wash.

How do you use dry shampoo?

Since everyone has a different hair type and texture, when it comes to dry shampoo “it is hard to say how much is too much,” says hairstylist Beth Weber. In general, you can use dry shampoo as frequently as you need it—just don’t consider it a replacement for actual shampoo, Weber advises. “Under the hair we must remember you have a scalp, which is skin. If that skin is not properly cared for [then] your hair follicles are at risk.”

Still, that’s not to say that you need to shampoo your hair after every dry-shampoo usage. “Washing your hair less will leave more moisture in your hair, and not strip it of its natural oil that it needs,” Dueñas says. While everyone’s hair and scalp is different, and thus needs a different washing routine, the general rule of thumb is this: “Curly hair should absolutely be washed less, as curls need more moisture to see their shape, and be frizz free. [Otherwise] you should wash your hair once to twice a week,” Dueñas recommends.

In between those washes is when reaching for dry shampoo not only becomes handy to conceal oily roots, it also helps extend time in between washes, which helps to keep your lengths and ends hydrated. Many dry shampoo formulas (including all of the ones below) also contain ingredients that boost overall hair health and shine.

Best Dry Shampoos to Try

Now, if you’re not sure which type of dry shampoo to choose, or you’re interested in trying out a different formula type, we’re here to help. Below, find eight of our favorite dry shampoos, including powder, mousse and aerosol formulas.

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo

This aerosol dry shampoo is made with Living Proof’s patented Healthy Hair (OFPMA) molecule, which works together with the formula’s oil- and sweat-absorbing powders to actually clean your hair. The fresh citrus scent it leaves behind is an added bonus. To use, give the can a good shake and spray onto dry roots while holding it 6–10 inches away from your head. Wait 30 seconds for the formula to work its magic, then remove the excess powder by massaging your roots or running a brush through your hair.

Why Dermstore shoppers love it: “After a sweaty gym session when I don’t want to wash my hair, this is my savior to go about my day,” says a reviewer.

VIRTUE® Refresh Dry Shampoo

With a formula infused with first-of-its-kind healing Alpha Keratin 60ku®, this aerosol dry shampoo not only refreshes hair but also helps repair each strand in the process. Its oil-absorbing properties are thanks to tapioca starch, a natural starch that brushes cleanly out of the hair, and Kaolin, a type of refined clay that absorbs impurities.

Sachajuan Dry Shampoo Mousse

This foaming mousse dries quickly on the hair, while also boosting volume and shine (without leaving any residue behind). To use this dry shampoo, which is ideal for oily hair types, simply spread the mousse evenly throughout dry hair, or focus it solely on areas that need touching up.

Why Dermstore shoppers love it: “Works great for styling short hair without weighing it down,” one shopper writes.

Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Biotin Dry Shampoo

Charcoal’s ability to absorb impurities also extends to those on the scalp. In addition to charcoal, this powder formula also contains clarifying witch hazel extract and fortifying biotin, so it’s basically pulling double-duty to control oil and promote the health of your strands. To use, squeeze the bottle and spray powder onto your roots, working in sections and holding the bottle about five inches away from your head. After letting the dry shampoo sit for approximately two minutes, you’re ready to brush out the excess powder and be on your way.

Why Dermstore shoppers love it: “It does a good job keeping the oil at bay without making my hair feel dry or sticky. It has a very light, pleasant scent,” one reviewer writes. “I love the way it smells and my scalp feels so clean!” says another.

Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk

This cult-favorite dry shampoo features soothing oat milk, and it’s available in both aerosol and non-aerosol iterations. Both versions work to gently absorb oil and grease while still leaving your roots feeling soft and nourished.

Why Dermstore shoppers love it: “Overall this is a great dry shampoo. I have tried numerous dry shampoos and this is one of the top ones,” says one shopper. “I like this dry shampoo because it’s very good at soaking up oil without leaving a lot of visible residue. It’s one of my favorite dry shampoos,” writes another.

Oribe Gold Lust Dry Shampoo

This translucent, aerosol dry shampoo is chock-full of good-for-your-hair ingredients, including celery seed extract (to reduce oil), bamboo and rice silk extracts (to smooth) and lavender and chamomile (to moisturize and soothe). It’s also formulated with fragrance-retention technology, meaning that it will keep your mane smelling, and feeling, fresh throughout your entire day.

Why Dermstore shoppers love it: “This gives the hair a beautiful texture, has a great spray range and makes the hair look and smell AMAZING,” says one customer. “Worth every penny and it lasts. By far the best dry shampoo I’ve used,” writes another.

R+Co Death Valley Dry Shampoo

If banishing excess oil while also boosting volume is what you’re after, reach for this aerosol dry shampoo. It’s formulated with vitamin E and pro-vitamin B5 to thicken and build volume while strengthening and nourishing the hair shaft.

Why Dermstore shoppers love it: “Adds so much volume and texture to hair!” notes one reviewer. “It adds body, absorbs oil, and doesn’t leave white streaks in my dark hair as so many other dry shampoos do. And it smells pretty nice, too,” says another.

Playa Soft Volume Powder

The ingredient list in this powder dry shampoo is simple—and perhaps that’s why it works so well. Earth clay absorbs oil, sweat and debris from the scalp and roots, while rice powder helps to protect the hair and scalp while cleansing. It also contains oat bran extract and beta glucan, both natural ingredients, which help to moisturize the scalp and soften strands. To use, sprinkle it onto your roots working in small sections (about two inches), then use fingers to tousle away any excess.

Rebecca Dancer

Rebecca is a freelance writer in NYC who has worked in print and digital media for more than five years. After graduating from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, she moved across the country t... Read More >

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