Imagine this scenario: You wake up late on the busiest day of your year, but, yikes! Your hair is icky, oily and stringy. Just spritz a few strategic “Pssssssts!” of dry shampoo, fluff your locks and you’re ready to conquer the world — right?
It might not be that simple.
While the lazy-girl hair product has recently exploded in popularity, some reports are raising questions over whether dry shampoo can damage hair, or worse, cause it to fall out — especially if you’re a chronic user.
So, what's the scoop? Here's what the experts say you should know about the product.
1. It’s not really a shampoo.
In other words, don’t use dry shampoo on wet hair or expect the same results as with regular shampoo. A typical wet shampoo removes dirt and debris, like skin particles, scalp oil and environmental pollutants, says hair and transplant surgeon Dr. Nicole Rogers of Metairie, Louisiana.
The term “dry shampoo” is confusing because it has nothing to do with cleaning hair in the same way as traditional shampoo. “You’re adding a formulation of dry powder that absorbs oil,” Rogers says.
Plus, even if your hair feels — and looks — cleaner after a dry shampoo spritz, it isn't, and you still need to wash it. "Using [dry shampoo] may cause people not to wash their scalp and remove oil and build-up," says Dr. Carolyn Goh, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Maybe not every day, but you want to do some type of regular washing of scalp and hair.”
2. Ask if it’s right for you.
People with certain scalp conditions such as psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis may not be great candidates for dry shampoo. Their dermatologists may have advised using products such as a keratolytic shampoo that dissolves scales on the scalp, or maybe a steroid shampoo to reduce inflammation. Applying another layer of anything else on the scalp runs counter to that professional advice, the experts who spoke to TODAY agree.
3. Understand what causes hair loss.
If you're using dry shampoo and you also have thin hair, the two may not be connected — your thinning hair could have another cause, says Rogers, like telogen effluvium. This temporary condition is usually caused by a “shock” to your system: a major physiological stress such as childbirth, anesthesia or a radical crash diet that resulted in quick weight loss.
Or, you could have developed contact dermatitis, a skin allergy that results from exposure to certain fragrances or preservatives used in hair products. For example, if you use the liquid version of minoxidil solution for hair regrowth — otherwise known as Rogaine — you’ll notice something called propylene glycol in the mix. It can cause scalp irritation or itching, which if severe, might result in hair loss, Rogers says.
Depending on the person, a wide variety of ingredients in many hair products could trigger the same reaction. “Sometimes having too much build-up on the scalp could make hair fall out, especially if there’s inflammation,” says Goh. “Using dry shampoo instead of washing the scalp could contribute to the problem.”
If you're experiencing hair loss, a safe bet is to consult a dermatologist about what may be causing it.
4. Dry shampoo can save your style — by a day or two
If you’re obsessed with hair feeling clean, dry shampoo will allow you to avoid washing, blow drying and straightening your hair as often, Rogers says. That’s just easier on your tresses since it minimizes day-in and day-out damage.
5. Enjoy its perks.
“All my clients love dry shampoo,” says celebrity hairstylist Davy Newkirk, whose clients include Jessica Alba, Kourtney Kardashian and Lea Michele. “It’s become a regular product they use after seeing their stylists use it for years on photo shoots.
“It adds great body and texture and is a wonderful styling tool,” Rogers adds, noting its particularly useful for those who struggle with volume. "I recommend it if clients have generally fine hair or have localized female pattern hair thinning — sometimes over the frontal part of the scalp.”
6. But use it sparingly.
The old adage about "too much of a good thing" applies to dry shampoo. According to Goh, “After you've used it three times, it’s probably time to really wash your hair."
This article was originally published on Jul. 12, 2016 on TODAY.com.