Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Dry Shampoo Bad For You?



Short answer

Dry shampoo, while convenient, can cause scalp irritation, product buildup, and potentially inhibit hair growth if overused. Respiratory concerns are associated with aerosol varieties, especially in poorly ventilated areas. Eco-minded users may seek non-aerosol types to avoid environmental harm. Moderation and thorough scalp cleansing remain key to minimizing adverse effects.



Long answer

Chemical Ingredients in Dry Shampoo and Scalp Health

Understanding the relationship between the chemical ingredients in dry shampoo and scalp health requires delving into what's really inside that convenient spray or powder. Numerous dry shampoos on the market include a variety of compounds designed to absorb oil, provide a pleasant scent, and make application easier. Here, we'll examine some of these chemicals and how they might impact your scalp health.

Alcohol and Propellants: Aerosol dry shampoos often contain alcohols and propellants. The alcohols serve to quickly dry out the product after application, while propellants help to eject the product from the can. These substances can be drying to the scalp, which may lead to irritation or an imbalance of the scalp's natural oils if used excessively.

Starches and Absorbents: Starch-based ingredients, such as rice or corn starch, are common absorbents found in dry shampoo. They effectively soak up excess oil, but overuse can lead to product buildup, which may interfere with natural hair growth and irritate the scalp if not adequately cleansed away.

Fragrances: To make the product more appealing, fragrances are often added. However, these can be culprits for allergic reactions or sensitivities. For individuals with a sensitive scalp, fragrance-free formulas might be a better option to reduce the risk of irritation.

Preservatives: To elongate shelf-life and prevent bacterial growth, preservatives are a must for most beauty products, including dry shampoo. Parabens and phthalates, common preservatives, have been under scrutiny for their potential health impacts, including endocrine disruption. Nonetheless, the concentration in cosmetic products is typically low and regulated to limit exposure risk.

It's important to consider peer-reviewed studies when assessing these ingredients' effects. For instance, a study in the International Journal of Trichology addressed potential hair and scalp issues related to cosmetic product use, noting that while occasional usage is unlikely to cause severe problems, overuse can lead to concerns such as dermatitis and product buildup.

Talc: Some dry shampoos may contain talc, which has been mired in controversy due to its potential contamination with asbestos – a known carcinogen. However, cosmetic-grade talc is supposed to be asbestos-free, and the FDA monitors this. Still, those with concerns may opt for talc-free formulations.

Butane and Isobutane: These gases are used as propellants in aerosol dry shampoos. While they are generally considered safe when inhaled in very small amounts, they can be flammable and, if used in poorly ventilated areas, could pose inhalation risks.

List of Common Chemical Ingredients in Dry Shampoos:

  • Alcohols (e.g., ethanol, isopropanol)
  • Propellants (e.g., butane, isobutane, propane)
  • Absorbents (e.g., rice starch, corn starch, silica)
  • Fragrances (varied chemical composition)
  • Preservatives (e.g., parabens, phthalates)
  • Talc

While most of these chemicals are approved for use in cosmetic products and are safe in regulated amounts, individual sensitivity can vary. Moreover, the health of your scalp can be influenced by factors such as frequency of use, duration of product on the scalp, and personal sensitivity to these ingredients. As a best practice, it's advisable to use dry shampoo sparingly and to thoroughly cleanse the scalp regularly to prevent potential negative effects from product buildup or irritation. Consultation with a dermatologist is recommended for personalized advice, especially for individuals with sensitive scalps or pre-existing conditions.

Potential Respiratory Effects from Aerosol Propellants

In the bustling life of today, dry shampoo has become a staple for people seeking a quick fix to revitalize their hair without water and suds. However, behind the convenience, there might be concerns particularly related to the aerosol propellants used in many dry shampoo products. Aerosol propellants are gases used to eject the product from its container, and while they're effective for delivery, they raise some questions about respiratory health.

When you press down on the nozzle of an aerosol dry shampoo, you're not just releasing powdery substances designed to absorb oil and dirt from your hair. You're also releasing a mixture of propellant gases into the air. Common gases used in aerosol products include butane, isobutane, and propane. While each canister contains a small amount of these gases, frequent use in a poorly ventilated area can lead to an accumulation of these substances in the lungs.

Respiratory Irritation: For starters, these gases can be irritants, potentially triggering coughing or a sharp intake of breath. For sensitive individuals or those with pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD, this may exacerbate their symptoms. There's a consensus among health experts that irritants found in the environment can to lead to temporary discomfort and should be used with caution.

Inhalation Risks: A more significant concern arises if one inhales a substantial amount of these propellants. The risks can range from minor to more serious effects. Studies have shown that at high concentrations, propellants may cause dizziness, headaches, and in extreme cases, even asphyxiation. This is because they can displace the oxygen in the air, particularly in confined spaces, and lead to hypoxia (a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues).

Vulnerable Populations: Children and the elderly, who often have weaker respiratory systems, are particularly at risk. Additionally, frequent use of such products in salons by professionals can lead to a chronic exposure scenario, necessitating the use of proper ventilation systems to mitigate the risks.

A study published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology discusses the potential occupational hazard for hairstylists who are frequently exposed to aerosols. It emphasizes the importance of adequate ventilation in salons to minimize the inhalation risks associated with these propellants. Similarly, in a household setting, it's recommended to use aerosol products such as dry shampoo in a well-ventilated area.

While the occasional use of aerosol dry shampoo is not likely to cause significant harm to the average, healthy adult, it is still important to use such products judiciously. Excessive and prolonged use in an unventilated space should be avoided, and those with existing respiratory conditions should be extra cautious, possibly choosing non-aerosol alternatives.

In some cases, opting for dry shampoo products that are not aerosol-based, such as powder or foam versions, can be a healthier alternative for both the user and the environment. This shift can reduce the potential for respiratory issues and also lessen the environmental impact, as aerosol propellants have been linked to climate change concerns due to their potential as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone—a key component in smog.

Overreliance on Dry Shampoo and Hair Hygiene

While the convenience of dry shampoo can be a lifesaver on busy mornings or during back-to-back meetings, it's essential to consider the implications of using it as a regular substitute for traditional hair washing. The primary function of dry shampoo is to absorb excess oil and refresh the hair, giving it a cleaner appearance without water. It’s a quick fix, but not a comprehensive cleaning measure.

When dry shampoo is overused, it can lead to a build-up of product on the scalp. This accumulation can potentially clog hair follicles, which, in turn, may irritate the scalp and even inhibit hair growth. Studies have shown that a healthy scalp environment is crucial for the maintenance of healthy hair, and scalp hygiene plays a direct role in preventing issues such as dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and other scalp conditions.

Furthermore, an overreliance on dry shampoo does not remove the sweat, bacteria, and environmental pollutants that regular shampooing can. If not adequately cleansed, these factors can contribute to an unhealthy scalp and hair. A study in the International Journal of Trichology has emphasized that the mechanical action of washing hair and massaging the scalp are vital components of maintaining scalp health, which is something dry shampoo cannot replace.

It is also worth noting that certain ingredients found in some dry shampoos, such as alcohols and fragrances, can be drying or irritating to the scalp over time, especially if used excessively or without proper intervals of regular washing. For those with sensitive scalps or underlying skin conditions, these ingredients can exacerbate scalp issues.

Here are some general guidelines to maintain healthy hair hygiene while using dry shampoo:

  • Limit dry shampoo use to once or twice between regular washes.
  • Choose a dry shampoo with ingredients that suit your scalp type and are free of irritants, if you have sensitivities.
  • When applying dry shampoo, keep it focused on the roots where oil accumulates, and avoid overuse on the scalp directly.
  • Maintain a routine of washing your hair with water and traditional shampoo regularly to ensure thorough cleansing.

Remember, dry shampoo is a tool in your hair care arsenal, but it shouldn't be the only one. Incorporating it sensibly, alongside other measures of hair hygiene, can keep your locks looking fresh without compromising the health of your scalp or hair.

The Environmental Impact of Aerosol Dry Shampoos

When considering the effects of aerosol dry shampoos, it's crucial not just to focus on the convenience they offer or the potential impact on our scalp and hair health, but also to contemplate their environmental footprint. While reaching for that instant fresh-hair feel in a can, it's easy to overlook that this personal care habit can have repercussions beyond our personal space.

Most aerosol dry shampoos rely on liquefied gases to propel their contents out of the can. These often include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which include a variety of chemicals, some of which can have serious health effects. But their impact also extends to the larger environment. VOCs released into the atmosphere can react with nitrogen oxides to form ozone, a primary component in smog. Ground-level ozone is known to have detrimental effects on crop yield and forest health, and it's also a concern for anyone with respiratory conditions.

Furthermore, the cans used for aerosol products are often made from aluminum or another type of metal, which requires significant energy to mine and manufacture. Although aluminum is recyclable, the rate of recycling for aerosol cans is lower than for other aluminum products, such as soda cans, due to the remnants of product and propellants left inside the can that can complicate the recycling process.

It's not all dire news, however; there are dry shampoo options that are more environmentally conscious. Non-aerosol dry shampoos, for example, come in powder form that you sprinkle or dust onto your hair. These avoid the use of propellants altogether and typically come in packaging that's easier to recycle, creating less environmental strain.

In summary, while aerosol dry shampoos may not be the champion of environmental sustainability, understanding their impact can encourage us as consumers to make more informed choices. Whether that's by selecting products with eco-friendlier propellants, choosing non-aerosol alternatives, or simply reducing our use of dry shampoo in favor of less frequent washes and more traditional hair-cleansing methods.

To make more environmentally sustainable choices, consider the following tips:

  • Select dry shampoos with natural ingredients and without harsh chemicals.
  • Look for products that use environmentally friendly propellants, or better yet, opt for non-aerosol dry shampoos.
  • Research brands that are committed to environmental sustainability and support their initiatives by purchasing their products.
  • Participate in recycling programs that accept aerosol cans, ensuring you follow the guidelines for recycling hazardous waste.

By taking these steps, we can collectively lessen the environmental impact of our personal care routines and move towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Alternatives to Conventional Dry Shampoo for Hair Care

While the convenience of conventional dry shampoo is undeniable, some individuals may be concerned about the potential side effects such as scalp irritation, hair damage, or the inhalation of chemical particles. For those looking to maintain a fresher hairstyle without these worries, there are a variety of hair care alternatives to consider:

  • Natural Absorbents: Items like cornstarch or arrowroot powder can be excellent substitutes for the standard aluminum starch in dry shampoo. Simply sprinkle a small amount on the roots and brush through, just as you would with any store-bought version. These natural powders absorb excess oil without the use of added chemicals or fragrances, which can be a boon for those with sensitive skin or allergies.
  • Essential Oils: Adding a few drops of essential oils like lavender or rosemary to your natural powder can create a pleasantly scented alternative to conventional dry shampoo, while providing some potential scalp and hair benefits. Studies have suggested that certain essential oils not only provide a refreshing aroma but also can promote hair growth and scalp health.
  • Diy Dry Shampoo for Dark Hair: A combination of cocoa powder and cornstarch can work well for those with darker hair, helping to mask the powder's presence while reaping the oil-absorbing benefits. This natural concoction blends seamlessly with darker hair shades, avoiding the dreaded grayish cast that sometimes accompanies the use of traditional dry shampoos on dark tresses.
  • Hair Brushing Techniques: Simply changing your brushing technique can distribute hair oils more evenly from root to tip. Using a boar bristle brush, for instance, can help move the oil down the shaft of the hair, naturally conditioning the hair and minimizing the oily scalp appearance.

In addition to these alternatives, it's important to consider the frequency of use. While dry shampoo can be a lifesaver on busy mornings, relying too heavily on these products (conventional or alternatives) without regular washing can lead to build-up and potentially exacerbate scalp conditions. Practicing moderation and incorporating regular cleansing into your hair care routine ensures the long-term health of your hair and scalp.

Lastly, it's worth exploring the world of organic and non-aerosol dry shampoo options. These products often boast a cleaner ingredient list and minimize the inhalation risks associated with traditional aerosol cans. Always check the label for certifications and ingredient transparency to find the best option for your hair care needs.

By incorporating these alternative methods and products into your hair care regimen, you can enjoy the benefits of fresh-looking hair without the potential drawbacks of conventional dry shampoos. Remember, the key to any hair care routine is balance, and understanding what works best for your individual hair type is essential for maintaining its health and vitality.

Frequently asked questions

Eco-friendly options for dry shampoo include non-aerosol formulas that use natural absorbents and are free from harsh chemicals. Look for powder-based dry shampoos that come in recyclable packaging or consider using common kitchen ingredients like cornstarch or arrowroot powder as alternatives.

Yes, overuse of dry shampoo can exacerbate existing scalp issues, such as dermatitis or dandruff, due to product buildup and potential irritation from certain ingredients. It's crucial to manage usage, particularly for those with sensitive scalps or pre-existing scalp conditions.

Hair stylists, due to their occupational exposure to aerosol propellants, could face respiratory risks and should utilize proper ventilation systems in salons to mitigate these risks. Frequent exposure may necessitate additional precautions to protect their health.

Using dry shampoo every day is not recommended as it can lead to scalp irritation and hair follicle clogging. It's intended for occasional use, ideally between regular washes, to maintain proper hair and scalp hygiene.

Ask a question about Dry Shampoo and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • scalp irritation
  • product buildup
  • allergic reactions
  • dermatitis
  • respiratory irritation
  • coughing
  • dizziness
  • headaches

Possible long-term side effects

  • imbalance of scalp's natural oils
  • scalp irritation
  • hair follicle clogging
  • inhibition of hair growth
  • dermatitis
  • asphyxiation
  • hypoxia
  • potential endocrine disruption

Ingredients to be aware of

  • alcohols
  • propellants (butane, isobutane, propane)
  • starches (rice, corn)
  • fragrances
  • preservatives (parabens, phthalates)
  • talc


  • oil absorption
  • cleaner hair appearance
  • convenience
  • pleasant scent

Healthier alternatives

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 04-25-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 04-25-2024

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