Whether you use it on the daily or only in don’t-have-time-to-shower situations, dry shampoo is a hair-care staple for many of us. Luckily, long gone are the days when dry shampoo came only as a powder aerosol spray. From straight powder formulations to oil-wicking foams, you have options. Although there’s nothing wrong with the tried-and-true classic, sometimes your hair needs something different.
Dry shampoos work for all hair types—you just have to find the best formula for your hair color or texture, or even the shape your hair is in (i.e. have you gone a few days without a wash or did you just do a sweaty workout?). Beyond your typical aerosol sprays, there are four other types of dry shampoo: powder, mist, mousse, and serum. And if you’ve ever wondered “how does dry shampoo work?” the answer is the same regardless of the type. They use ingredients like starches, silica, and witch hazel to absorb excess oil on the scalp, helping it to appear and feel cleaner. However, they aren’t a replacement for a lather-rinse-repeat. “Dry shampoo does not remove debris or build up on the hair or scalp, but rather serves an aesthetic cleanse to maintain volume and bounce,” says Bridgette Hill, a trichologist and colorist with Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa.
I’m not complaining about the robust number of dry shampoo products out there, but deciding on one that you love and that works for your hair can get overwhelming—fast. Never fear: Mark DeBolt and Ryan Trygstad, the duo behind the celeb-frequented Mark Ryan Salon in New York City, are here to shed some light on the best type of dry shampoo for your hair.
Ultimately, finding one you love requires some trial and error. You may even need multiple products to tackle specific types of hair days or based on the season. “We think it’s a process of finding what works best for your hair type and your goals in using a dry shampoo coupled with fragrance, and application method,” says DeBolt. Learn about the five different kinds below and get tips on how to apply dry shampoo depending on the type.
Different Types of Dry Shampoo
1. Powder dry shampoo
Best for fine hair, lighter hair colors
If you like the idea of an aerosol spray powder but want something easier on the environment, a powder shampoo is the one for you. Powder dry shampoo is also good for people with finer hair textures, according to Trygstad. “They offer more lift and are also great for lighter natural colors. You can often see the powder and it can make a brunette’s root look dull or dusty,” says Trygstad.
How to use: Sprinkle/spray the powder onto your roots and use your fingers to massage the powder into your scalp.
Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Biotin Dry Shampoo — $25.00
Free of sulfates, silicones, and parabens, this dry shampoo powder uses binchotan charcoal to draw out oils and impurities that clog the hair follicle or cause buildup on the scalp, biotin to support healthy hair growth, and witch hazel to normalize oil production to prevent an oily scalp in the first place.
2. Aerosol powder spray
Best for normal to oily hair but works on most hair types
This is the classic dry shampoo that’s probably already hanging around your bathroom. It’s the easiest one to use, according to the pros, since it’s a simple “spray, brush, and go” situation. There are many different types of aerosol powder dry shampoos out there that vary in the exact ingredients and formulas. Most do contain a powder, so if you’d rather avoid that or your hair is on the dry side, check for “conditioning” or “shine-enhancing” on the bottle.
How to use: “If you want a full cleanse without getting in the shower, make sure you’re holding the can a good eight to 10 inches away from your scalp so that the powders have a chance to dry before they hit the scalp,” says celebrity stylist Mark Townsend. Let it sit for 10 to 15 seconds, massage your scalp the way you would if you were shampooing your hair, and then brush it out.”
3. Dry shampoo mist
Best for oily hair
A mist formula is great for those who wear their hair in braids/weaves and those who have oily roots no matter the styling. These formulas infuse the hair and scalp with moisture while removing impurities, making them amazing for braid-wearers who often deal with a dry and itchy scalp between washes. For oily-looking roots (and if you are okay with breaking out the blow dryer), the stylists love Spiritualized by R+Co ($16 to $32). The powder mist works well for absorbing oil and making the hair look really fresh, according to DeBolt and Trygstad. “
How to use: “You must shake the bottle very well and mist at the root,” says DeBolt. “A great tip is to spray it at the root area, wait 10 seconds and blow dry the root. It absorbs the oil and makes your hair look as fresh as when it was first styled.”
4. Dry shampoo mousse
Best for curly hair, thick hair
If you’re staying away from powder but want to refresh curly or thicker hair, dry shampoo mousse is the solution for refreshing hair without drying it out. Although it may not always work for oily or sweaty hair, you can experiment with a mousse if you feel that powders or sprays are drying or leave too much buildup.
How to use: Shake the bottle really and apply one to two pumps to your fingertips. Massage them through the scalp to distribute the product evenly. Let it air dry or diffuse your hair to get extra volume.
Bouclème Foaming Dry Shampoo — $30.00
This dry shampoo goes on as a wet foam and dries to a powder to absorb excess oils while adding lift to your roots. The formula is free of sulfates and silicones, relying on tapioca and cornstarch to absorb excess oils and add texture. It also has spearmint and eucalyptus to invigorate the scalp and stimulate circulation and aloe vera to cleanse and condition.
5. Dry shampoo gel/serum
Best for dry hair, itchy scalp, and/or dandruff
Although gel isn’t a mainstream category of dry shampoo (yet) I can’t leave them out of this piece. Lovesong Beauty Invisible Dry Shampoo Gel ($30). It’s my go-to after a workout when my roots are extra sweaty but the rest of my hair needs moisture. This serum makes my scalp feel clean, not like I’m just adding more gunk or buildup. When I put it on, my scalp actually feels clean. Even better, the serum leaves my hair look smoother than before I worked out. If you hate the feeling of powder shampoo in your hair, a dry shampoo gel is your new BFF.
How to use: Apply it mainly to your scalp and swipe the remaining product over the top of your hair through the ends. Either let it air dry or blow-dry your hair after applying.
Is dry shampoo bad for your hair?
We wash our hair to remove build-up so our scalp and hair follicles can breathe and receive the nutrients we give it topically with our hair-care routine. Although dry shampoo makes your scalp appear cleaner, it causes its own type of build-up.
“Build-up of the dry shampoo can trap unwanted bacteria and create unhealthy yeast leading to developing abnormal scalp conditions, and the product build-up slows down cellular turnover and distribution of nutrients which weaken the hair follicles,” says Hill. And when your individual hairs become coated in dry shampoo, you can get a waxy buildup, which leads to dryness and breakage because moisture isn’t able to penetrate the hair fiber.
So it’s important to regularly get in with real shampoo (whether it’s a liquid or a shampoo bar) and water to fully remove buildup. “When dirt and excess oil stay too long on the scalp, it can trigger hair loss that can lead to permanent loss of hair follicles, which then leads to permanent hair loss,” says Sophia Emmanuel, trichologist, hairstylist, and owner of Crown Worthy Tricology Studio in New York City. That buildup is especially damaging if you’re already experiencing hair loss. In that case, skip dry shampoo altogether and rely on shampoo for thinning hair.
On its own, dry shampoo isn’t bad for your hair—you just have to make sure you’re still giving your hair and scalp a proper cleanse. “After a few days of using dry shampoo, be certain to thoroughly wash your hair,” says Trygstad. “We recommend doing two shampoos to remove any product buildup and make sure your scalp is clean and happy.” Incorporate a gentle clarifying shampoo and-or a moisturizing formula, like argan oil shampoo.
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