Dry Shampoo On Wet Hair: Everything You Need To Know About The New TikTok Trend

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In November 2022, news broke of several types of dry shampoos containing high levels of cancer-causing chemicals (via CNN). Brands like Dove, Nexxus, Suave, TIGI, and TRESemmé are only some of those that were recalled because of the potential presence of benzene. According to the American Cancer Society, benzene has been "shown to cause chromosome changes in bone marrow cells in the lab," which is why everyone should avoid it as much as possible. Having it in your dry shampoo certainly doesn't sound good.

The study that found benzene in dry shampoos was completed by the independent laboratory Valisure, which concluded that "11 samples showed levels over 10 times more than 2 parts per million (ppm), the FDA limit for drugs" (via CNN). Apart from this, Valisure found that "by directly sampling contaminated air after spraying dry shampoo products" there is "potential for short- and long-term inhalation exposure to high levels of benzene." Luckily, not all dry shampoos contain benzene. In fact, we rounded up 12 dry shampoos that are safe to use amid recalls.

Now, let's get to the TikTok hack. User Alex James posted a video of herself applying dry shampoo to damp roots, claiming that that is how the product works best. The video has over 4.7 million views, with viewers wondering whether this hack could help them fight that second- or- third-day greasiness and prolong the time between their hair washes. Now, we've done the research so that you don't have to. Let's see whether this hack actually works, what experts say about it, and what you need to know about applying dry shampoo to wet hair.

The TikTok hack claims dry shampoo works better on wet hair

TikToker Alex James reveals in her video that she struggles with greasy hair and that she has tried everything from trying to train her hair during coronavirus lockdowns to experimenting with different products marketed for greasy hair. "I get greasy hair the same day that I wash it. I can shower in the morning and by the time I go to bed my hair is an oil bomb. It's just how my hair works and I've accepted that. I've tried masks, I've tried not washing my hair for weeks. ... Nothing works until I started doing this," James says in the video.

The TikToker revealed that she discovered the dry shampoo hack by accident. "I was on my way to school after dry shampooing my hair, and I was sweating because I was late to class. When I got to class my hair was a little damp from sweat. By the time my hair dried, it was clean. And it stayed clean for another three days," she adds.

Of course, the popular social media platform is known for its numerous hacks that blow up overnight, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they always work (or that they are healthy). While applying dry shampoo to wet hair doesn't necessarily seem like a bad idea, there are some things you should know about the proper application and health risks when doing so.

How do professional hairstylists feel about using dry shampoo on wet hair?

TikTok may be flooded with people sharing their personal tips and tricks, but more often than not, those people aren't experts, which is why their advice should always be taken with a grain of salt. However, when it comes to this hack, it seems as if celebrity hairstylists are on board with it, so is this one in the clear?

Stylist Michael Dueñas — who has, over the years, worked with stars like Hilary Duff, Riz Ahmed, and Ilana Glazer — revealed to Byrdie that he uses dry shampoo on wet hair for incredible volume. "I was out of mousse on a job that required volume, and in a panic, I used my dry shampoo. I was astonished at how well it worked," Dueñas explains. "It has just become normal for me now." Of course, hearing that the rich and famous use this hack is reassuring, as it's doubtful any celebrity hairstylist would risk doing something dangerous to their client's hair. What's more, celebrity hairdresser Vernon François recommends always looking for a dry shampoo that contains "no silicones, no sulfates, no talc" in order to maintain your hair's health, according to Oprah Daily.

Will dry shampoo on wet hair make it look dirty?

Anyone who has ever used dry shampoo knows that it can quickly begin looking ashy and the hair usually still feels dirty to the touch. However, applying it to wet hair tends to have a different outcome. Michael Dueñas claims that it will end up looking like there is no product in the hair at all, making it superior to any other product. "It all depends on the type of volume I want. I use dry shampoo when I want the hair to look like there is absolutely no product in the hair. So when I am looking for large volume, but an airy, not-so-set-in-place style, dry shampoo is my go-to," the stylist tells Byrdie. "Dry shampoo does not have any hold factor to it, just body-building properties. You always have to finish with your favorite hair spray, albeit sparingly."

While dry shampoo, if properly applied, shouldn't leave a white residue, plenty of people struggle with using it, especially if they have darker hair. "Spraying dry shampoo directly on your roots can leave a white powdery residue," Jennifer Matos, a hairstylist at New York City's Rita Hazan Salon, tells Prevention. She advises holding the spray 8 to 12 inches away from your head and then slowly building the product up. Remember, you can always add more, but once you put too much of it on your roots, getting rid of the white residue will become difficult.

How to properly apply dry shampoo on wet hair

Applying dry shampoo to wet hair can be intimidating, especially if you're doing it for the first time. After all, you don't want to have to immediately wash your hair because you ended up applying too much of it. Luckily, there aren't many things that can go wrong. In fact, applying it to wet hair is a lot more forgiving than applying it to dry hair. Because the hair will quickly soak up a majority of the dry shampoo, you won't be left with that annoying white residue. Yes, there are dry shampoos that are brown and meant for darker hair, but most of the good ones tend to be white. With this hack, the color of your dry shampoo isn't important at all. 

"While hair is damp (best when about 90% dry), spray the dry shampoo from the scalp to ends," Michael Dueñas explains to Byrdie. "Taking sections as you apply helps for even coverage as well. Once applied in the hair, blow-dry as normal, or rough-dry and style with your favorite hot tool. It doesn't have to be any more complicated than mousse!"

In her TikTok video, Alex James revealed that she discovered the hack by accident and that her hair wasn't actually clean when she applied the dry shampoo as it was wet from sweating. Because the dry shampoo acts differently once it binds to water, you can also use this hack on second- or- third-day hair as well. All you have to do is dampen your roots with some water and apply the dry shampoo to the area. Once your hair dries — you can let it air dry or use a hair drier — it will be clean to the eye!

Why does dry shampoo work better on wet hair than greasy dry hair?

According to Michael Dueñas, the reason why dry shampoo has a different effect when applied to wet hair is because of the way it binds to the hair (via Byrdie). When applied to greasy hair, the dry shampoo absorbs the extra oil, but when applied to wet hair, it "binds itself to the hair strand," making it thicker and giving your hair a lot more volume. Because flat hair tends to be associated with greasy hair, as the oil usually weighs the hair down, having more volume instantly makes the hair appear cleaner. 

Of course, you don't want your hair to be soaking wet — you want your hair only slightly damp for the best outcome. Dueñas recommends waiting for your hair to be about 90% dry before you go in with the dry shampoo (via Bustle). And don't be alarmed if it seems as if your dry shampoo is disappearing on your hair; once the hair dries, it will have a thin and invisible layer of the product on each hair strand. 

Applying dry shampoo to clean hair has been a hack used for decades

While applying dry shampoo to wet hair has recently become popularized thanks to social media, hairstylists have been applying the product to clean hair for years. Hairstylist George Northwood tells Vogue that he has been using dry shampoo to prevent greasy hair. "I use dry shampoo on my clients for prevention, not cure," Northwood says. "Particularly with finer hair which gets oilier more quickly, spritzing it onto a newly blow-dried style will amp up volume and make your hair last longer between washes too."

Northwood adds that in order to prevent the appearance of dry shampoo on your scalp, evenly distributing it and massaging it in is crucial "When you've evenly spritzed the dry shampoo into the hair, massage it into your scalp like you would wet shampoo in the shower — making sure it's all rubbed in and evenly distributed," the hairstylist says tells Vogue. As previously mentioned, when you're applying dry shampoo to wet hair, the residue isn't really something you need to worry about. Adding dry shampoo to your hair before it gets dirty can help prolong the time between washes for a day or two, depending on how much oil your scalp produces, per Salon Kept Secrets

These are the benefits of using dry shampoo on wet hair

Let's round up the reasons why applying dry shampoo to wet hair is beneficial. First, there's the fact that because there is a thin, equally absorbed layer of the product on each of your hair strands, your hair will stay clean for longer — any grease your scalp produces will automatically be absorbed by the dry shampoo. And once your hair starts looking greasy, you can always add a little bit more of the product to your dry hair. (This should be able to give you an extra day without washing it).

Another reason why dry shampoo on wet hair is great is the volume you'll get. Since each strand gets its own thin layer of it, the hair becomes thicker — hence more voluminous. This works great for those who have naturally thin hair, as it adds volume without that hard-to-the-touch feeling mousses and hairsprays can cause. Dry shampoo often contains starch, per Prevention, which is why you can also use it as a volumizing product and not just to make your hair appear cleaner.

Apart from these two, dry shampoo applied to wet hair will also give your hair a matte texture and more grip. According to Shampoos Hub, this comes particularly in handy if you're someone who loves wearing lipgloss but hates having your hair stick to it. The matte texture of your hair will make it less prone to sticking to your lips. And because your hair has more grip, creating intricate hairstyles with bobby pins or hair ties will be much easier.

Can you do the TikTok hack with powder dry shampoo?

Because of recent recalls, plenty of people are more careful when picking their dry shampoos. Plenty of benzene-free dry shampoos are in powder form instead of the sprays found in classic aerosol bottles. According to Michael Dueñas, the packaging doesn't really make much of a difference. "If you are a master with sprinkling powder, by all means, have at it. Just make sure to distribute it evenly," he tells Byrdie.

According to Stylecraze, powdered dry shampoos tend to have "fewer and cleaner ingredients." While using an aerosol spray dry shampoo might be more user-friendly, those tend to come with alcohol and synthetic fragrances that can be too harsh for your scalp and hair. Briana McDonald, owner of the San Diego hair salon Green + Anchor, tells Prose that powder dry shampoo, which usually comes in a container with holes meant to make sprinkling it on your hair easier, usually has more natural ingredients like arrowroot, clay, and essential oils. 

McDonald recommends distributing the product with a fluffy makeup brush. "Go get a cheap, fluffy powder brush or use an old one and make that your dedicated dry shampoo applicator," she advises. "It's a game-changer. Just sprinkle your dry shampoo on the makeup brush, tap it so the powder falls into the brush as if you were putting on loose powder, and apply to your roots. It's so easy and way less messy." The powder brush application method also works when you want to use dry shampoo powder on wet hair.

Don't confuse this with wet dry shampoo

While applying dry shampoo to wet hair has become a thing recently, products labeled as wet dry shampoos also exist. Per Nylon, these dry shampoos use micellar technology, and when you spray them on your roots they will become slightly damp, but they will dry quickly and make your hair clean again. R+Co's Spiritualized Dry Shampoo Mist claims that it leaves the "hair and scalp feeling cleaner than regular dry shampoos — with no powdery residue."

The benefit of mist sprays over classic dry shampoos is that it doesn't leave your roots chalky — the main thing that most people hate about dry shampoos. L'Occitane's Purifying Freshness Dry Shampoo Mist is advertised to be "instantly absorbing impurities and excess sebum from the scalp without drying it out." The brand also claims that the "silicone-free formula cleans and refreshes the hair without leaving any chalky residue."

Wet dry shampoo can be applied on wet or dry hair, and many people opt to use it after a workout. It does need a bit of time to dry unless you decide to use a hair dryer. However, if the chalky white residue is what drives you away from using classic dry shampoo, giving the TikTok hack a try is worth it, as your hair won't end up looking chalky at all.

Should you apply dry shampoo to wet hair regularly?

This hack may come in handy when you're traveling and you don't want to spend a lot of time washing and styling your hair, but using it on a regular basis isn't something we would advise. Wet hair is known to be more fragile (via Real Simple), and applying dry shampoo to it can cause breakage. Apart from that, putting something on your clean hair will immediately mean that it isn't clean anymore, which is why you should only use this hack when it's justified. 

In fact, dry shampoo in general is something you shouldn't use on a regular basis. Because it only absorbs sweat and oil and doesn't actually remove them from your scalp, it can lead to product buildup and clogged hair follicles. Certified trichologist Penny James explains to Shape that using dry shampoo too often can lead to inflammation and "create irritation that can lead to unhealthy scalp conditions." If you use dry shampoo and tend to have itchy and tender skin on your scalp, you should definitely give your hair a break and see a professional who can determine whether you have developed folliculitis, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

"You can use too much dry shampoo," says Gio Bargallo, colorist at Rita Hazan in New York City. Having clogged hair follicles can "weaken your hair's strength, potentially leading to hair loss and skin issues like infections, dermatitis, and acne," per Good Housekeeping. "For really oily hair, you can use dry shampoo two to three times a week," Ardree Merriweather, lead educator at Drybar, tells the outlet. However, unless you really need to use it, opting for an updo or simply washing your hair is often the healthier choice.