Ah, dry shampoo. Poll any group of women on the beauty products they can’t live without, and chances are, at least one of them will say dry shampoo. People talk about the stuff like it’s the second coming, but—until recently—I hated it. Truly, truly, madly, deeply hated it. The idea of using powder to cleanse your hair seemed a bit 18th century to me, and—beyond that—I couldn’t figure out how to use it. The directions seemed foolproof enough (just spray it on, right?), but dry shampoo never made my hair look freshly washed. Instead, it looked dull, frizzy, and somehow dirtier than before. Why were these grease-cutting sprays giving everyone else on the planet refreshed-looking locks, while all I was getting was a white, powdery mess?
In a desperate attempt to figure out what all the fuss was about, I made it my life’s mission to understand dry shampoo. After a lot of experimentation, a very deep dive into Google, and several interrogations of my stylist, I can proudly say—I get it. I’m finally a dry shampoo convert. All I needed was a little know-how, which I’ll impart on you below. Read on discover the do’s and don’t of dry shampoo:
Don’t: Spray too close to your head.
For aerosols, six to eight inches from the head is a good rule of thumb. Hold it any closer, and you’re going to create too much build-up, meaning you won’t be able to evenly distribute the product through your hair.
Do: Know where to apply it.
A common dry shampoo mistake is spraying just the visible part of your roots—so, only the top layer of hair. To get the most out of your dry shampoo, section off your locks and lightly spray from roots to mid-lengths. This adds volume and better mimics that “freshly-washed” look.
If you want to absorb oil only at your roots, focus your application on the scalp area. Then, use your fingertips to massage the product into your strands.
Don’t: Spray the ends.
Chances are, the ends of your hair aren’t greasy. Applying an oil absorber to the tips can leave them full of static and feeling dry.
Do: Choose the right color for your hair.
Real talk: if you have dark hair and use a light-tinted dry shampoo, you will look like you have chalk in your hair. Not cute. For those with brunette or black hair, choose an invisible formula, or one specially formulated for dark hair to avoid powdery residue. I love R+Co’s Spiritualized for dark-haired babes: it’s a game-changing, totally transparent mist that uses micellar technology to remove dirt, oil, and residue.
Don’t: Use on wet or damp hair.
Seriously. It won’t look good. It just won’t. It’s called dry shampoo for a reason, ladies.
Do: Consider your hair type.
For fine, thin hair types, aerosol dry shampoos are a great way to plump up your ‘do. To give instant lift to flatlined locks, spray a small amount from the roots to the mid-lengths to create extra grip, volume and texture. Oribe’s Gold Lust Dry Shampoo is great for this, or—if you want even more grit—try their Dry Texturizing Spray.
If you have coarse, curly, or super-thick hair, try a loose powder formula like Scalp Revival™ Charcoal + Biotin Dry Shampoo. A super-fine powder will readily disperse through your hair thanks to its texture. Try sprinkling a small amount into your palms, then rub it into the hair at your roots until it’s completely dissolved.
My pick for ALL hair types? Klorane’s cult classic Dry Shampoo with Oatmilk, which is one of the best all-purpose formulas out there.
Do: Let it chill
After applying dry shampoo, let it sit for a couple of minutes before you start to blend it out. This allows the dry shampoo to do its job, i.e. absorb excess oils.
Don’t: Get spray happy.
When your hair is greasy, a spritz of dry shampoo can bring it back to life. But you know what they say about too much of a good thing: if you get spray happy, your hair will wind up looking dull and discolored. It’s way easier to add more than remove excess, so start with a little, wait a few minutes, and add more if necessary.
Do: Brush, blend, or blow-out.
After you’ve let the dry shampoo sit for a few minutes and massaged it into your roots, go one step further and brush your hair out really well. This distributes the dry shampoo even more, and helps remove excess product to give hair a fresh, clean feel. If you’ve applied too much, don’t panic. Grab your blow dryer, turn it on a low heat setting, then use your to further work the formula into your mane.
Don’t: Skip actual shampooing
Despite the name, dry shampoo cannot—repeat, cannot—take the place of actual shampoo. Sure, it’s effective at absorbing excess oil and refreshing your ‘do, but your hair still needs a regular (read: liquid) shampoo to thoroughly cleanse your hair. Going overboard on dry shampoo can be detrimental to your hair health because the built-up residue can eventually clog your follicles and cause hair loss.