How Does Dry Shampoo Work? You Might Be Amazed!

We’ve all been in a massive pinch before–with sweaty or greasy hair that looked like a disaster and you needed a quick fix. And for folks like me, hair-washing is nearly a whole day affair.

So, what’s a person to do? The answer is easy: grab a bottle of dry shampoo and spritz it over your roots. Wait a few seconds, and then fluff up your roots. Voila! Your hair will be reasonably clean, and totally presentable.

Anyone who’s always on the run usually has a can of dry shampoo stashed away in their purse or car. But how does dry shampoo work to miraculously degrease your hair?

I got curious so I went all-in with my research. And I’m going to tell you everything I learned in the process. But why stop there? We’re going to talk all about the pros and cons of dry shampoo, as well as which dry shampoos in the market are best for your hair and scalp.

How Does Dry Shampoo Work?

To start, let’s get into the science behind dry shampoos. Let’s begin with our scalp. The scalp is just skin, and like the skin on our faces, it produces oil. More accurately, the hair follicles on our scalps produce sebum aka oil. Some people produce a lot of oil, while others have a dry scalp.

Besides looking messy, an oily scalp becomes smelly pretty quickly. More importantly, if not addressed, a very greasy scalp can weaken your hair roots, accelerating hair fall. Add sweat into the mix and the whole situation becomes nastier.

To put it simply, dry shampoos use either alcohol or starch-based sprays that absorb the excess oil and sweat on your scalp. This gives it a dry and clean appearance. Also, some dry shampoos contain perfume or fragrance that covers up any funky smells.

The Science of Dry Shampoos:

If you want to be a little more specific, you have to think of it in terms of chemistry. Sebum or oil won’t dissolve in water; it is hydrophobic. The compounds of your dry shampoo get rid of these hydrophobic through absorption (by soaking up the scalp oils).

Once they are absorbed by the shampoo, they combine with them. They can then be brushed or shaken out of your hair. As a result, your scalp will look dry and not dirty.

The best thing about dry shampoos is that they work very quickly. Moreover, a few sprays are all you need to get a clean-looking scalp.

Fun Fact: If you’re in desperate need of a dry shampoo but all your local stores have run out, mix some cornstarch with a little baby powder. Sprinkle a bit onto your scalp and shake your roots out.

Since most dry shampoos contain starch, the cornstarch will work similarly and soak up the excess oil from your scalp. If you have dark hair, you can actually mix a tiny amount of cocoa powder into the cornstarch so that it won’t show up on your roots.

Too Much Dry Shampoo is a Bad Thing:

A word of caution before we proceed. For many of us, dry shampoo is extremely convenient, especially when compared to the whole process of using a regular shampoo, conditioning, and then drying our hair.

You might even be tempted to use dry shampoo as a substitute for washing your hair. But doing so frequently can lead to product buildup. This in turn can make your hair limp and lifeless, as well as making your scalp flakey and itchy.

Worst case scenario? You end up with folliculitis, and your hair follicles get inflamed. And trust me when I say that is NOT a condition you want to have.

Use the dry shampoo sparingly, in case of an emergency or if you’re extremely busy. And if you happen to use dry shampoo, make sure to wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo once a month to avoid buildup.

Dry Shampoos: What are the Pros and Cons?

Thinking about the positives and negatives about your favorite dry shampoos? I’ve gone ahead and compiled them right here!

The Good:

  • It is super convenient and takes seconds to get the job done.
  • No need to style with heat afterward.
  • Makes your hair smell good.
  • Easy to store and carry.
  • A bottle lasts for ages.
  • Dry shampoos don’t dry out your hair.
  • They add volume to your hair.
  • Eliminates grease, making your scalp look clean and dry.

The Not-So-Good:

  • Dry shampoos aren’t a replacement for washing your hair.
  • Most dry shampoos aren’t suitable for dry scalps and can make them worse.
  • Lower end dry shampoos contain aluminum which is bad for hair.
  • Poor quality dry shampoos can leave visible, flakey residue in your hair.

How to Pick the Right Dry Shampoo

If you want to keep dry shampoo in your inventory, make sure you get a good one with safe ingredients that suit your hair type.

If you’re unsure of what to get, this little guide will help you out.

Kinky, Curly or Coily Hair:

Having curly hair is a blessing and a curse. While these hair types look stunning, they are a pain to maintain as most products do them more harm than good. If you have curly hair, stay away from silicones, sulfates, and drying alcohols.

Brands that specifically cater to curly hair have made dry shampoos that get rid of excess oil without wrecking your lovely hair. Refresh your curls or coils with this Cantu Apple Cider Dry Co-wash. You can also use this Briogeo Dry Shampoo that is amazing because it is silicone and sulfate-free and is very travel friendly.

Fine Hair:

Fine hair needs products that won’t weigh them down. The Living Proof dry shampoo might be a little pricey but there’s a reason why it is a hit among customers everywhere. It contains compounds that remove oil, dirt, and sweat, but also has a special molecule that also removes those compounds.

As a result, your hair won’t be bogged down by a lot of products. On top of that, this dry shampoo has odor neutralizers and a lovely fragrance that will make your smell delicious. It even adds a ton of volume to your hair; what’s not to love?

Dry Hair:

People with dry hair need to be a little more careful because most dry shampoos will dry out their scalps even more. This can create flakes and itchiness that is rather difficult to treat.

Instead, try the Oribe Gold Lust shampoo. This dry shampoo absorbs the excess oil and sweat from your scalp without drying it out. It also nourishes your hair instead and contains lavender and chamomile which soothes the dry scalp. This makes it great for dry, damaged, and color-treated hair.

Oily Hair:

Most dry shampoos suit oily hair just fine. Most people with oily hair want a simple dry shampoo: one that gets rid of the grease without leaving any residue behind. If you’re one of those people, you’re going to love this Chi Dry Shampoo.

The shampoo blends into your hair flawlessly and absorbs all the oil and dirt without leaving a trace. It is also great if you want to add a bit of texture to your hair before styling your hair into braids or elaborate updos.

Best Budget Dry Shampoo:

If you’re broke and you want a nice, simple dry shampoo that gets the job done, stick to the classic Batiste Original Dry Shampoo. It gives your hair an instant refresh and revitalizes greasy hair, making it look clean and lively.

The cherry on top? This shampoo usually comes in combo packs and is very affordable so it will have you set for a very long time. If you have normal hair without any scalp issues, this dry shampoo will be best for you!

DIY Organic Dry Shampoo

Maybe you don’t like the idea of all these chemicals sitting on top of your scalp. And you want something better than plain cornstarch for your hair. This is an easy, do-it-yourself recipe to make an organic dry shampoo that is good for your hair.

Here’s what you’ll need.

  • 2 tablespoons of rice flour, arrowroot powder, or cornstarch
  • 6 drops of essential oil (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of chamomile powder
  • Charcoal or cocoa powder (for dark hair)

Combine all the ingredients and store in an air-tight bottle or jars. The rice powder will fortify your hair and the chamomile powder will soothe an itchy or irritated scalp. Use a large powder or blending brush to blend the powder into your roots.

Then, give your scalp a light massage and shake out your roots. Your scalp should feel dry and pleasantly clean, and the essential oils will make your hair smell great! This is a great alternative if you want to avoid using chemical-laden dry shampoos.


If you’ve ever had to squeeze in a quick gym session and then had to go run errands while sweaty, you know the horror of an oily, sweaty scalp. And in such situations, dry shampoos are nothing short of a blessing.

‘How does dry shampoo work?’ you may have once asked. Well, now you know. And this knowledge can help you pick the right kind of dry shampoo and use it correctly. This will benefit the health of your hair in the long run, while remaining a convenient grooming option when you’re in a rush.

Next time buy a dry shampoo that suits your hair and use it guilt-free, but sparingly. And enjoy your clean, oil-free hair!

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