What Is Dry Shampoo Doing to Your Hair?

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What is going on in those hair follicles?
What is going on in those hair follicles?

Your worst dry-shampoo fears were confirmed last week when a Facebook post from a girl in Belfast blamed dry shampoo for her hair loss. Ahhh! It sounded like a horror story your mom would use to scare you out of being too lazy to wash your hair, or a plot line on a modern-day Goosebumps. But was it a beauty urban legend or based on some fact? Let’s find out.

We all use dry shampoo. Is our laziness making us bald? Not quite. As with most health things, experts agree that moderation is the key when it comes to dry-shampoo usage. Using some dry shampoo won’t make you bald overnight, just like eating some sugar won’t make your face fall down. Dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi flatly says, “There is no real association between dry shampoo and hair falling out.”

And Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss (yes, that’s her real name), says, “If you think about the millions who use dry shampoo and have thick, full heads of hair, it’s not an epidemic problem.” Dr. Day hasn’t experienced any dry-shampoo-hair-loss cases yet.

But in extreme cases, dry shampoo could cause you to shed more hair. You could react to an active ingredient in dry shampoo — or any hair product — that irritates your hair follicles and causes some excessive hair shedding. Some people have sensitivities to certain products. For example, Dr. Day says, “Certain hair products just don’t do well with certain people. At camp, when I was little, I used to use Herbal Essence shampoo. Every time I used it, my hair would shed like crazy.” Day speculates that this could have been the situation with the dry shampoo horror story.

Wait, but how much hair is too much to shed? I shed a lot of hair, at least according to my Swiffer. If you are allergic to your dry shampoo or a hair product, you will know, says Dr. Day. “You’ll feel it. It’s not subtle. You’ll get excessive itchiness, scaliness, shedding, and dandruff.”

Hair growth and shedding occurs in cycles, and every individual hair on your head is in a different phase of the cycle. Each hair on your head is either in the anagen (growth), catagen (triggering), or telogen (resting or shedding) phase. Depending on genetics, the anagen phase can last anywhere from two to 10 years, which is why some people can’t grow their hair past a certain length. “90 percent of the hair on your head is in growth phase, and 10 percent is in the hair-shedding phase,” explains Dr. Day — that’s why you’re not completely bald.

But is dry shampoo bad for your hair? If you use it enough, it could inhibit some hair growth. “If there’s a lot of buildup and you don’t shampoo and get it all off, it could affect hair growth,” says Dr. Day. Hair-and-scalp specialist Anabel Kingsley at Philip Kingsley Institute says, “If oils, dead skin cells, and sweat are left to sit and build up on the scalp, they can negatively impact the function of hair follicles.”

Dr. Day and Kingsley also agree that dry shampoo could cause hair breakage. “It can be especially noticeable around the temples and front hairline where strands are weaker,” says Kingsley.

Ultimately, using some dry shampoo won’t cause you to go bald. “Dry shampoos do have a place in hair care as long as they are not used consistently as a replacement for shampooing for more than 2 days in a row,” recommends Kingsley. So the usual common sense applies here: Eat your vegetables, drink water, and don’t overuse dry shampoo.