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Your Dermatologist Knows


It’s easy to see why people love dry shampoo. Apply a small amount to dry hair and you have a convenient way to soak up the oil, making your hair look clean. This can be helpful after a workout, when camping, or any time you’re running late in the morning. Dry shampoo can also make your hair look fuller.

However, the most frequent reason people use dry shampoo is to make hair dye, highlights, and salon styles like blowouts and up-dos last longer, says board-certified dermatologist Zoe Draelos, MD, FAAD.

Another plus is that “some dry shampoos contain pigment that helps cover gray,” says board-certified dermatologist Paradi Mirmirani, MD, FAAD. She adds, “If you have fine, long hair that gets frizzy after washing, you may want to use dry shampoo to reduce how often you wash your hair.”

The key to reaping the benefits of dry shampoo is to use it the right way. To get expert advice on how to use dry shampoo and avoid some common mistakes, we asked Drs. Draelos and Mirmirani for tips. Here’s what they recommend:

How to use dry shampoo

Dry shampoo gives you an excellent way to keep your hair looking fresh in between shampooing with water. When you use dry shampoo the right way, you can avoid problems like an itchy scalp or dull hair. Here’s what dermatologists recommend:

  • Use store-bought dry shampoo rather than a homemade version. You may have seen people on social media showing you how they make their own dry shampoo. Cornstarch, cocoa powder, and baking soda are common ingredients in these homemade products.

    To keep your scalp healthy, Drs. Draelos and Mirmirani agree that it’s best to buy dry shampoo at a store, selecting a product with a well-known brand name. “Homemade products can clump, which can make the dry shampoo visible and clog pores in your scalp,” says Dr. Mirmirani. Clogged pores can irritate your scalp, causing it to itch, burn, or feel tender.

    There’s another very good reason to use store-bought dry shampoo. Dr. Draelos says, “If you use cornstarch in your dry shampoo, bacteria can easily digest it. When that happens, your scalp can develop an unpleasant odor.”


  • Choose dry shampoo formulated for your hair color and type (like oily, dry, or curly). You’ll find dry shampoos formulated for different hair types and colors.

    When using a new dry shampoo, you also want to notice how your hair and scalp feel after using it. If your hair or scalp feels parched instead of fresh, Dr. Mirmirani recommends finding a dry shampoo that’s fragrance free. Be sure it’s also formulated for your hair type and color.


  • Apply a small amount only where you need it. Dry shampoo soaks up excess oil, so you only need to apply it where your hair feels greasy. “Start on your scalp, applying the product a little at a time will help you get the look you want,” Dr. Draelos says.

    You can always add more if your hair still feels greasy. If you use too much, your hair can become dry, stiff, and gritty. You may also see particles of dry shampoo in your hair or develop an irritated scalp.


  • Spread the product evenly over your scalp, let it sit on your scalp for the amount of time it says in the directions, and brush (or comb) it out. When you brush or comb out dry shampoo, it removes the oil.

    Dr. Draelos adds, “Nothing bad will happen if you leave dry shampoo on for longer than directed. You just won’t get the best results.”


  • Continue to wash your hair with regular shampoo and water. Dry shampoo offers a quick way to get rid of oiliness between regular shampoos. It’s not meant to replace washing with regular shampoo and water, which is the only way to clean your hair.

    For good hygiene, it's essential to wash your hair with shampoo and water. You need these to help prevent infection, control odor, and make your hair look its best.

    Dr. Mirmirani says, “Washing your hair (and scalp) with regular shampoo and water removes dead skin cells, oil, and microorganisms that build up and can cause dandruff. Shampooing with water also removes the dry shampoo that can accumulate on your scalp and hair.”

    If dry shampoo stays on your hair or scalp, it can cause problems like hair breakage and hair shedding.

    And if you use only dry shampoo and skip shampooing with water, you could develop a condition called seborrheic dermatitis, says Dr. Draelos. This can cause an itchy, scaly rash on your scalp.

    While there’s no set number for how many times you can use dry shampoo before you wash with regular shampoo and water, Drs. Draelos and Mirmirani agree that it’s best to wash your hair after one or two dry shampoos. That way, you’ll get the benefits of both dry shampoo and regularly washing your hair.

When to see a dermatologist

Most people use dry shampoo without problem.

If you develop itching, burning, or another sign of irritation on your scalp, stop using dry shampoo. After a few weeks, the irritation should clear up. If the irritation remains the same or worsens after a few weeks, a board-certified dermatologist can help.


Written by:
Paula Ludmann, MS

Reviewed by:
Zoe Draelos, MD, FAAD
Elisa Gallo, MD, FAAD
Laurel Geraghty, MD, FAAD
Shari Lipner, MD, PhD, FAAD
Paradi Mirmirani, MD, FAAD
Sanna Ronkainen, MD, FAAD

Last updated: 3/26/24