How Dry Shampoo Works

What Is in Dry Shampoo?

Dry shampoos typically are applied to the oily roots of the hair and brushed out.
Dry shampoos typically are applied to the oily roots of the hair and brushed out. It's important to avoid rubbing the shampoo into the scalp, as this can cause itching and dry skin. Cecile Lavabre, Getty Images

Dry shampoo cleans and refreshes your hair on days you can use traditional shampoo and water. Here's a look at whether or not dry shampoo actually works and what it does.

What Is Dry Shampoo?

Dry shampoo is a powder or a fast-evaporating liquid that your spray or work into your hair that removes excess sebum and other oils and may freshen the scent of your hair. Commercial products contain much the same type of ingredients as homemade dry shampoo, although dry shampoo from a store is more likely to have a uniform texture than a product you make yourself. Both dry and spray-on dry shampoos work the same way.

Why Use a Dry Shampoo?

Aside from the obvious situation where water isn't available, you may wish to use a dry shampoo for any of the following reasons:

  • reduces stripping of color by traditional shampoos
  • extends the life of an expensive blow-out
  • makes hair easier to style
  • takes less time than washing and drying hair
  • minimizes hair damage since natural protective oils aren't stripped
  • freshens hair if you're coming from a smoky, sweaty, or otherwise smelly situation

How Dry Shampoo Works

Dry shampoo and wet-dry shampoo works by absorbing oil onto a substance that can be brushed or blown out of your hair. Oil-absorbing ingredients you can use to make homemade dry shampoo include corn starch, baby powder, orris root, oatmeal, and clay. A popular commercial spray-on dry shampoo contains isobutane, propane, denatured alcohol, aluminum starch octenyl succinate, butane, fragrance, isopropyl myristate, silica, and Cyclopentasiloxane. Only hydrophobic soils, like natural oils and oil-based styling products, are absorbed by the dry shampoo. Dry shampoo will not remove actual dirt, skin flakes, and other chemicals that can make hair look and feel greasy, so most stylists recommend using dry shampoo between regular shampoos to reduce chemical damage to hair or for unexpected emergencies. Most people still need to use regular water-based shampoo to get fresh, clean hair.

Learn More