The Adverse Effects Dry Shampoo May Be Having On Your Hair And Scalp

When you haven't washed your hair in a day or two (or five), and there's no time in your near future to get it done, there's one product that can save your look: dry shampoo. The handy little bottle of magic is known for absorbing oils on the scalp to give you a fresh look without actually washing your hair. Easy, convenient, dependable, and effective — it's obvious why so many people have formed a special bond with their dry shampoo.

A billion-dollar industry, the dry shampoo market is only rising in popularity and is expected to jump to an estimated $3.5 billion by 2027 (via Statista). Despite the dry shampoo recall in October 2022, when an exclusive set of dry shampoo products was removed from the shelves due to "potentially elevated levels" of a cancer-causing chemical, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, many people remain loyal fans of their dry shampoo.

Although the recall was an isolated incident that doesn't occur often, it might lead you to wonder if there are any other adverse effects that dry shampoo may be having on your hair and scalp. While most things in life are okay in moderation, there may be truth behind the term "too much of a good thing" when it comes to dry shampoo, as daily or excessive use may have harsh drawbacks.

Dry shampoo can clog your hair follicles and cause other scalp conditions

Despite its name, dry shampoo isn't actual shampoo that's properly cleansing your hair. Instead, the powder sits on the scalp and absorbs the oil. It's possible that excessive use can cause folliculitis — a condition that occurs when your hair follicles become clogged and inflamed, resulting in uncomfortable, itchy, scaly, pimple-like symptoms, per Real Simple. "If used daily, it can create problems including dryness, flaking, inflamed scalp, and aggravate other conditions, like Demodex (human hair mites) or seborrheic dermatitis if they are already present," certified trichologist William Gaunitz told Real Simple.

There is a link between scalp issues and hair loss, according to Healthline. Although it's not likely that dry shampoo on its own will lead to hair loss — at least there isn't enough evidence to support that claim — potential scalp conditions can cause hair loss. Therefore, it's essential that you properly wash your scalp after using dry shampoo to remove the powder, oil, dead skin cells, and anything else collecting on your scalp. You may want to invest in a scalp brush to exfoliate it all away, and double cleanse your scalp for safe measure!

Dry shampoo can cause hair breakage

Dry shampoo isn't necessarily the most nourishing of hair products. In fact, it's quite drying. Advanced Dermatology Houston shared an informational YouTube video about the overuse of dry shampoo, explaining that it can cause hair breakage. As dermatologist Dr. Sherry Ingraham stated in the video, "If you put too much hair powder on every day, your hair can become thick and sticky and brittle, and actual friction can occur between the hair and cause breakage." While the breakage won't cause extreme baldness, it can still lead to unhealthy hair, especially if you have a sensitive scalp to begin with.

Aveda Master Stylist Stacy Stanton told Insider that you could avoid breakage by capping your dry shampoo use at two days in a row. Continuous use several days in a row after the two-day mark may result in hair damage and uncomfortable side effects. It's also important to note that, "Dry shampoo is to be used on a dry scalp with dry hair," according to Stanton. "No sweat. No dampness." People with scalp conditions and sensitive skin should talk to their doctor or dermatologist before reaching for dry shampoo.

A potential connection between dry shampoo and cancer

The concerning dry shampoo recall may lead you to wonder if all dry shampoos can cause cancer. The unfortunate truth is that many dry shampoos contain benzene, the carcinogenic chemical that caused the recall. According to Healthline, an independent laboratory called Valisure found that as many as 70% of dry shampoo products on the shelves today contain benzene. While the amount of benzene varied depending on which product was being tested, the fact that you may come in contact with a potentially cancer-causing ingredient every time you use your dry shampoo may be a cause for concern.

However, continued research needs to be done to determine if the amount of benzene in dry shampoo is enough to pose a significant cancer risk. Currently, it's up in the air just how dangerous the benzene levels in dry shampoo can be. Joe Schwarcz, PhD, a chemist and the director of the Office for Science and Society at McGill University, wrote in a blog post that while the exposure to benzene is small enough that it most likely does not pose a risk to our health, limiting unnecessary exposure to any carcinogen is always a good idea.

Dry shampoo alternatives

Washing your hair every day sounds like a silly request — one that we wouldn't impose on you (we got your back). And honestly, it's not recommended for many people, according to WebMD, unless you sweat every day or have hair that is very thin or fine. So, what are you supposed to do if you shouldn't wash your hair daily and you're concerned about overusing dry shampoo? Rest assured, the adverse reactions to dry shampoo occurs when you use it too often, so using it only a few times per week should be okay.

However, for those who want to ditch dry shampoo altogether, there are safer alternatives. TikTok creator @itsshelbywright creates a DIY natural dry shampoo by mixing corn starch, baking soda, and cacao powder for her brunette roots (skip this ingredient if you have blonde or light hair), along with peppermint essential oil for a sweet smell. She uses a clean fluffy powder brush and dusts the DIY powder on her roots.

A simpler DIY method is a slight dusting of corn starch, which is an effective dry shampoo alternative on its own, especially if you have light-colored hair. For those with super oily hair, you can even make a cornstarch hair mask, per Curl Centric. But, as always, everything is best when used in moderation. So if you haven't washed your hair in more than three or four days, you may want to put the powdery products down and hop in the shower.