Dry shampoo sounds like a contradiction of terms. How is it going to work without, you know, water?
But after a few women in my life mentioned they use it, I wondered what the hype was about.
It’s supposed to be fast. It’s supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to have hair-reviving powers beyond its humble name.
So I put it to the test to find out. I couldn’t find a single dry shampoo made for men, so I went with one from Dove, the Detox and Purify Dry Shampoo.
How You Use It: Spray On, Then Brush
First things first, most dry shampoo is an aerosol. (See, if you thought it was a powder, this is already easier.)
The helpful cartoon on the Dove can shows women how to lift up their hair to spray it toward the scalp, then massage it toward the roots, then brush it through.
But because I have short hair, all I had to do was spray it on my head, then brush.
In fact, the whole “wash”—if you can even call it that—took about 30 seconds.
The spray smelled clean, but not floral. And no powder or residue came out when I brushed.
What It Does: Speedy Scalp De-Oiling
In layman’s terms, dry shampoo uses starch particles to soak up oil in your hair.
"The starch is what you spray onto the scalp," says Dove Celebrity Stylist Mark Townsend. "And it will actually absorb the oil and sebum, as well as leftover product and sweat."
I put this to the test by using it after a run. Suddenly my hair wasn’t sweaty. My face may have been, but my hair wasn’t.
"The simplest use for dry shampoo is to refresh your hair and your scalp when you don't have time to shower," says Townsend.
I thought about lunchtime workouts where I need to get back to the office quickly.
Or summer days when just walking a few blocks in New York City can mean you show up looking like you’ve just hiked in the rainforest. Potential fix to have in a drawer? Maybe.
Pros: Efficient Style Smackdown
But what about the other benefits? I’d heard people say that dry shampoo is more of a styling tool than a cleansing tool. Turns out they’re right.
It’s volumizing, and it has just a little bit of hold. When I put it on, I usually skipped any further product.
Plus, some brands make dry shampoo pastes (Badlands Dry Shampoo Paste, $28, R+Co.), which can be used almost like a pomade. The only difference is they soak up oil and look matte.
The pro of the spray is that I didn’t feel like I needed to wash my hands after styling my hair. It left my palms feeling dry rather than sticky.
Cons: Still Shampoo
Easy, un-smelly, effective… I had trouble finding a con. But after using dry shampoo a lot for this story, I did feel over-shampooed.
Yes, it’s gentler than some wet shampoos in terms of stripping the natural oils from your hair, but using it also meant I’d stopped conditioning. My hair got puffy. I scaled back.
Lesson: It’s a refresher. It can perk up hair when you’ve been flattened by humidity, or replace shampoo on a day you don’t shower.
Would I use it everyday? Not while I still have thick hair. Of course, there may be a day when I want the extra volume. Stick around, dry shampoo, we’ll talk.