Dry shampoo isn’t the miracle product you think it is

We love them, we buy them, and we turn to them for assistance on days we don’t feel like washing our hair — but most dry shampoos aren’t actually cleaning your hair.

Who knows why the powers that be decided to call it dry “shampoo,” but the name stuck and now thousands of women are likely running around town believing they’ve magically cleansed their hair without water when they’ve actually just added more residue to their hair, and more importantly their scalp.

Allow the truth to set you free: Most dry shampoos aren’t absorbing the oil and residue from your hair in a way that we associate with “cleansing.” And, let me just say: That’s perfectly OK. What dry shampoos are doing, and the reason we’re infatuated with them, is adding texture and bulk to the roots — something most of us need when we’ve gone more than one or two days without a proper shampoo to help us look put together.

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“While dry shampoos may absorb excess oil from the hair initially, the combination of oil and product stay put on the follicle, creating buildup overtime that can clog the pore, leading to hair loss, slowed growth and cysts in severe cases,” says Nancy Twine, Founder and CEO of all natural hair care brand Briogeo. “In addition, dry shampoo is unable to address the dirt and pollution that strands accumulate on a daily basis and the buildup from dry shampooing can actually act as a trap, attracting more grime to your roots over time. It also causes noticeable dullness to the hair as most formulas are crafted with matte ingredients like corn or aluminum starches.”

If you’re trying to avoid shampoo, Twine recommends a “co-wash” instead (basically a conditioning cleanser), which removes impurities from the hair without stripping strands of natural oils (and Briogeo just so happens to make one heck of one: Be Gentle, Be Kind Avocado + Quinoa Co-Wash).

But let’s cut most dry shampoos some slack and love them for what they are — while recognizing that at least one dry shampoo stands apart from the herd and is revolutionizing the very concept of dry hair products. Living Proof Perfect Hair Day (PhD, get it?) Dry Shampoo is being praised by stylists and women everywhere because instead of just soaking up oil and leaving behind a powdery residue (I mean, what’s the point of that?), it uses a patented OFPMA molecule, developed by scientists from MIT, to soak up both oil and sweat. In other words: It’s cleaning your hair a little better than other dry shampoos as it adds volume and allows you to skip a shampoo or two, which is healthier for your hair anyway.

But the first time I used Living Proof’s dry shampoo I was less than impressed with the results. I have dark hair and couldn’t understand what to do with the white powdery residue left in my hair. But, after reading about how everyone was obsessed with this product, I did something unheard of for me and actually read the directions. Bingo. I was using it all wrong.

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You can’t just spray Living Proof’s dry shampoo and run out the door — there’s a crucial step in between. Shake the can and then, holding it six to 10 inches from your hair, apply it to your roots section by section. Now, this part is important: Wait 30 seconds for the powders to absorb and cleanse your hair. Don’t freak out about the white powder — after half a minute is up, either brush the powder out of your hair or use your hands to massage it out.

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You’ll be left with visibly cleaner hair because it will actually be cleaner and leave behind less residue — no smoke and mirrors here. If Living Proof manages to raise the bar for other companies that have or plan on putting out dry shampoos, it can only be a great thing for those of us who have been walking around with dirty hair for longer than we realized.


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