How to Choose (& Properly Use) Dry Shampoo

How to choose between drugstore, salon and organic versions

Klorane Dry Shampoo With Nettle
Klorane Dry Shampoo With Nettle. Klorane, Courtesy of

I have oily hair. The kind that must be washed every other day or I'll look like I dipped a comb in grease before pulling it through my hair. Ok, so that was a wee bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.

For women with fine, blonde hair like me, you can't beat a good dry shampoo. I use it on my freshly washed hair to create volume and I also use it to gain a day or two between shampoos. It also makes my blonde hair even blonder.

But no matter your hair type or hair color, there's a great dry shampoo for you. 

Created to soak up excess oils while leaving hair clean feeling and smelling fresh, dry shampoos are now so popular, they have inundated the market. Not all of them are worth the splurge. I've done the research to help you figure out exactly how to shop for the right dry shampoo for your budget and your hair needs. See my list of the Best Dry Shampoos.

How to Use It

It's common to misuse dry shampoo. You spray too much and too close to your scalp and next thing you know, you're left with a heavy powder residue and you've blown through a bottle of $20 dry shampoo. Here are my best tips:

  • To properly use the spray, hold the bottle at least 6 inches from your head. I recommend reading the directions on the bottle because some sprays suggest 6 inches, others up to 10. This allows you to spray evenly with less chance of build-up.
  • Work in sections by pulling up hair and spraying the powder evenly at the roots. Try to avoid your scalp and aim instead for the hair. 
  • Always let dry shampoo dry for at least 2 minutes.
  • Always brush hair or blow dry hair after spraying to distribute the powder.
  • Never spray on wet or damp hair.
  • You can use the spray everywhere. Spray it on the ends to texturize it. Spray it mid-shaft to give fine hair body.

    Some women wonder how long they can use dry shampoo. After 3 days of use, you should hit the shower or you'll find your scalp may become itchy.

    Various Dry Shampoo Formulations

    Today's versions are formulated for different shades of hair color and different hair types. Some are meant to add volume, some to refresh hair and make it feel and look cleaner. Many are for both. There are organic brands and super pricey salon brands and quite a few drugstore brands. Some have a fragrance, others have no scent.

    To find your best dry shampoo option, decide what's important to you.

    Aerosol or Powder?

    Dry shampoo comes in aerosol and powder form and work in the same way. Which method you choose to use is up to personal preference. Some women love the aerosols because you can direct the spray and it coats more evenly. Others prefer powders because they seem less wasteful. I recommend trying them both and deciding which works best for you.

    The Drugstore Versions

    You can find a pretty good drugstore dry shampoo for under $10.

    You do get what you pay for. Drugstore brands typically come in scents which could be overpowering and many leave a white, powdery cast on your hair. Fix this by brushing your hair well once the product dries.

    Also, don't spray directly on your part, where the white powder may be obvious.

    Your best bets: Batiste Dry Shampoo is the most beloved drugstore dry shampoo. Pssssst! Instant Dry Shampoo Spray is another favorite and retails for less than $10.

    Good for You, Good for the Environment

    Dry shampoos touted as "natural" are about twice as expensive as the drugstore versions. You are paying for products made by companies with high ethics standards. The ingredients are certified organic, are grown responsibly (meaning: no GMOs) and traded responsibly.

    These brands market their natural ingredients, such "calming nettle extracts" and rice powder (Klorane Dry Shampoo) and organic bamboo extract and blue yucca root (Alterna Translucent Dry Shampoo). They also promote what's not in their dry shampoos. Look for products without sulfates, synthetic dyes, phthalates, GMOs and Triclosan.

    Your best bets: Klorane Dry Shampoo With Nettle, Alterna Translucent Dry Shampoo, Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo

    The Fancy Stuff Sold in Salons

    Many salons sell the dry shampoo they use on their clients. These usually come highly recommended by professionals (otherwise they wouldn't use them on their clients), but they can come at a hefty price if the salon is rather fancy.

    Consider the mark-up before you buy from a salon. You might be better off buying cheaper online or from Sephora.

    Your best bets: Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray or Bumble and Bumble Prêt-à-Powder

    How to Keep Your Hair From Turning White

    Some people actually use dry shampoo in order to turn their hair white. Well, at least one person does and his name is Karl Lagerfeld. The fashion designer told Harper's Bazaar back in 2012, "My hair is not really white; it's kind of grayish, and I don't like the color. So I make it totally white with Klorane dry shampoo. That is the best thing to do because my hair is always clean."

    But not everyone wants white hair. To avoid this common dry shampoo problem, make sure to brush hair vigorously after you apply dry shampoo. And if you are a brunette, look for dry shampoo formulated for brunettes.

    Best bet for non-blondes: Rene Furterer Naturia Dry Shampoo or Bumble and Bumble Hair Powder in black, red or brown,

    What's Best for Updos

    Some dry shampoos are specially formulated to give hair the needed texture for updos. These are not meant to be used daily to soak up oils, but are best saved for special occasions that call for extra staying powder. These are called "hair powder" or "volume powder." Spray these on roots to give hair the body needed to create full blowouts and updos that stay all day and night. 

    Your best bets: Bumble and Bumble Prêt-à-Powder or Sachajuan Volume Powder

    Talcum Powder or Dry Shampoo

    Up until I discovered dry shampoo, I relied on talcum powder to gain myself a day between washes. The truth is, I still use talcum powder on occasion, sprinkling it on my hairline and crown, and then brushing it through before styling.

    It works great and you can't beat the price, but you do have to live with a matte, powdered wig sort of look. 

    I recommend keeping talcum powder on hand for travel or those days when you run out of your dry shampoo, which is something that does happen with dry shampoo, according to many, many of the reviews I've read.

    Now, don't miss my list of the Best Dry Shampoos.