How to Use Dry Shampoo Correctly to Get The Results

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Dry shampoo is a beauty arsenal staple for many reasons. It conveniently and easily helps soak up excess oil in seconds, adds instant volume to day-old (or two- or three-day-old) hair, and can significantly extend the life of your blowout.

Still, as popular as dry shampoo is, it's not always the easiest product to apply (hello, chalk-white roots). Moreover, dry shampoo continues to evolve from its original aerosol version — now there are tinted versions, powders, sprays, and even foams — and just like normal shampoo, different types of dry shampoo tend to work more effectively on different hair types and textures. All of this is to say, it might be time to brush up on your dry shampoo know-how.

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Below, experts answer all of our burning questions about dry shampoo, including how to properly apply it, how long you should actually leave it on your scalp before shampooing, and how to choose the right product for your hair type.

As mentioned, dry shampoo comes in many different variations, including aerosol, spray, powder, and foam — and the specific type you use does make a difference.

“For instance, if you have fine hair and you use powder, it might feel heavy and weigh down your hair,” explains hairstylist Adriana Tesler. “I recommend powder for thicker and oily hair because it soaks up the oil and won’t weigh [the hair] down.” On the flip side, those with fine hair might benefit most from a spray or aerosol version, because they tend to dry faster and add more volume, Tesler says.

Additionally, you’d also be wise to “make sure you’re reading all the details so you can get the right product for you,” advises hairstylist Chris Appleton, who counts J.Lo, Ariana Grande, and Kim Kardashian as regular clients. This is because, just like regular shampoo and conditioner, different dry shampoo formulas work better for different hair types and concerns.

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“Normally, people with curlier hair need more moisture, while people with an oily scalp don’t,” Appleton says. “Dry shampoos cater to specific hair types, [and] some dry shampoos come with other properties like volumizing and texturizing.”

Basically, just as you would for any other skin or hair care product, read the product description page thoroughly in order to make sure that a formula’s features pertain to your needs. If you have curly strands, seek out a dry shampoo that also has moisturizing elements — Appleton recommends ColorWow Style on Steroids. If you have fine or thin hair, try a lightweight aerosol dry shampoo, such as Kerastase’s Powder Bluff or Klorane’s Gentle Dry Shampoo. For those who tend to have an oily scalp, use a dry shampoo that’s formulated to be super absorbent, such as Drybar’s Detox Dry Shampoo or Ouai Super Dry Shampoo.

It’s worth noting that all four of the hairstylists polled for this story cited aerosol as their favorite type of dry shampoo delivery system. Why? The pressurization of product combined with the aerosol spray nozzle allows for a more even application, some say, as well as more control. “It also gives us the added benefit of adding a little more volume and texture,” says hairstylist Adel Chabbi.

After you’ve picked out your dry shampoo, you’ve got to know how to apply it — correctly, so as not to end up with white roots or stiff strands. Follow these steps for best results.

Step 1: Prep & Part

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“Before you even think about spraying it in your hair, shake the bottle up,” Appleton says, referring to aerosol, spray, and foam dry shampoos (you don’t need to shake up powder). “This will make sure the product’s formula is evenly distributed inside of the bottle, making for even distribution on your scalp.”

Next, grab a comb. To apply dry shampoo properly, you’ll want to part your hair into small sections. Start by parting through the oiliest section of your hair.

“Work in subsections moving horizontally up or down, depending on where you start,” advises hairstylist Matt Rez. “And keep in mind that you can layer on as needed.”

Step 2: Aim & Apply

The rule here is to aim directly at the roots and hold the bottle one foot (yes, a whole 12 inches) away from your roots. “Keeping the proper distance between your hair and the aerosol bottle is so important,” Appleton says. “You don’t want to spray the product too close to your scalp because it will leave a residue that’s hard to remove.”

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When do you apply, don’t go overboard — only apply the dry shampoo onto areas that are oily, not all over the entire scalp. The amount of product needed will depend not only on how oily your scalp is, but also on your hair type.

“The thicker the hair, the more product may be needed to fully saturate and soak up hair oil,” Rez explains. “For finer hair, less product is needed.”

Step 3: Pause & Massage

One of the glorious benefits of dry shampoo is that it works quickly, with almost immediate results. However, in order to produce the best possible results, you should allow for a bit of extra time before you have to run out the door.

“It’s really crucial to let the dry shampoo sit for a few minutes so it can work its magic properly,” Appleton says. “After you’ve let it sit, you can massage it into your scalp with your hands to really activate the ingredients that soak up the oil.”

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If you’re noticing too much residue after said massage, go ahead and run a brush or a comb through your hair from root to tip in order to disperse and build-up.

You probably already know what we’re going to say here: Dry shampoo does not replace a real shampoo, nor is it meant to. In fact, relying on dry shampoo too much can negatively impact the health of your scalp and thereby, your hair.

"When dry shampoo particles build up on the scalp over time, they can clog hair follicles, trap oil, and prevent normal skin cell turnover," explains Nancy Samolitis, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles, California. "This can lead to overgrowth of bacteria and yeast that normally live healthily on the scalp and can cause folliculitis and dandruff." Folliculitis, or the inflammation of hair follicles, can lead to red pimples and pustles — sort of like acne on the scalp, Samolitis explains.

While everyone's hair and scalp needs are different, at the bare minimum, Samolitis recommends shampooing no less than twice per week. Appleton agrees, recommending that, "you should only use dry shampoo once or twice a week and rely on washing your hair more often than that to really maintain proper hair health."

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More hair how-tos:

  • How to Remove Hair Dye From Your Skin, According to the Experts
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  • How to Cut Your Own Short Hair at Home, According to Experts

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