There are "big questions," like why are we here, and then there are Big Questions, like does dry shampoo make your hair fall out? The former is certainly important, but not if your hair has to be flat and lifeless while pondering it. After seeing this ghastly dry shampoo claim online recently, I decided to investigate.
The source: Man Repeller's Leandra Medine, who wondered the other day after previously singing dry shampoo's praises whether this devastating suggestion could be true:
Because when I was in Australia, a trusted enough source insinuated that this was the case. If it is true, I am in for a punfully rude awakening that will literally pull the hair off my head. Why? Because I have stopped washing my hair with water as a result of dry shampoo's expert ability to perform the trick hygiene surface skimmers like myself pursue regularly. I am so convicted in my affection for the wonder-product that I even delivered a PSA on it a few months ago. But now this? Is it true? Do you know?
I hope not! When I read this post I had to take a minute and reflect back on my dry shampoo usage over the last few months, trying to note every tender moment between us since our courtship—every uplifting spritz, every in-pouf-erating swoon—before preparing myself to accept the possibility that we might soon part ways. I tried desperately to imagine how I would ever live or love again.
I'd known about dry shampoo from a distance for years, ever since an old coworker told me she couldn't live without the stuff. I was intrigued, as I have very fine, thin hair, but it was like $16 a can at the salon and that was just too much for a lowly alt-weekly editor and I forgot all about it. But then, recently, dry shampoo began showing up in grocery and drugstores everywhere. Some of it was so very cheap that I thought, what the hell. Now I've used Big Sexy Hair's Dry Shampoo, Suave's Moroccan Infusion Weightless Dry Shampoo, and Bumble and Bumble's Thickening Dryspun Finish. As far as I'm concerned, Suave is the best bet for the money, though the B&B goes on clear and smells nicer. (Although I've been wanting to try Klorane since reading Medine's ode.)
Looky: If you have fine, thin hair and you have tried all the things—the volumizers, the root lifters, the spritzes, the gels, the creams, the sprays, the blow drying while upside under a heat lamp before noon but never while on your period, the more washing, the less washing, the haircuts with the layers that aren't supposed to look like layers but always fucking look like layers—then you know about my life, and you know that it ends, simply and with a kind of resigned defeat, at ponytails.
Dry shampoo changed all that. Because for some reason, unlike all that other stuff stylists always recommend, it just makes your hair seem, you know, bigger. Fuller. Like hair. Like real, honest-to-God, actual hair, and it keeps it that way for a while. I even use it AFTER washing my hair with regular shampoo. So if you're telling me that the very thing that makes my hair feel real and alive is now a lie that will make my hair fall out, then I will tell you a story of crushed dreams, which will read very similarly to the previous paragraph, but will feature an actress with better hair.
But it turns out a lot of people are worried that this miracle problem-solver (with multiple uses!) could cause hair loss. Someone at the Mumsnet forum named "coffeecake" said it did:
I heard so many times that washing your hair often was bad for it, but now I'm wondering if a dry shampoo could have done some harm instead. My hair has less volume than it used to have, but is definately showing signs of thinning more on the areas where I used to spray the dry shampoo.
Someone over at complaintsboard.com said "Suave Professionals Dry Shampoo Caused Hair Loss," and wrote:
At first I LOVED it, however after a few months I noticed that my hair was getting thinner and thinner, then I noticed balding patches on the areas where I mostly concentrated on using the dry shampoo. I have very oily hair so this was a god sent, now I am left with bald patches trying to figure out where to go from here. I went to a dermatologist who said that the dry shampoo sucks up the oil leaving it on your scalp therefore clogging your hair follicles making the hair fall out and stunting regrowth. As of today I am starting to use Nizoral shampoo which is for dandruff (I don't have dandruff, but the Dr told me this will help with regrowth because it will reopen the clogged follicles). I spoke to my friend who was also using the Suave Professionals Dry Shampoo (on my recommendation) and was complaining of her hair thinning. I just told her and she said that she started noticing the hair loss since she has been using the product. It may work at first, it may be a great price, but the lasting effects are unbearable. I am so self conscience now and can not wait for my hair to grow back.
One of my friends theorized that if there was any hair loss with dry shampoo, that it was probably a result of not having washed your hair for a long time, and then experiencing normal shedding all at once.
I put this question to a hair loss expert in the UK, Dr. David Kingsley, who said via email:
Dry shampoo will not cause hair loss from the scalp, though it can sometimes lead to breakage due to tangling, etc. As you say, by not shampooing, the normal shedding amount accumulates and so when the hair is washed properly, there appears to be greater loss.
Then, I spoke with Courtney Risse, a master stylist and Redken ar at Nashville's perenially booked-up Salon YaYa. She stressed that overall scalp health is important no matter what products you use, but becomes especially crucial when you're using root lifters or anything that could clog follicles. She said she'd never heard of dry shampoo causing hair loss specifically, but understands why it would be a concern in the overall scheme of things.
"If you're using a substance every day that doesn't allow those follicles to breathe over time, the buildup could cause more hair shedding," she said by phone. "Which is why I recommend that everyone should use a clarifying shampoo at least once a week, just like you would use an exfoliator every so often on your skin."
Risse also confirms what Dr. Kingsley said regarding shedding, that this could be a matter of perception. "On average, people shed 80 to 100 strands of hair a day just from living everyday life, brushing, combing, running your fingers through it," she said. "If you've gone days without shampooing or brushing, it's going to seem like more is coming out."
Risse says this is a common experience for women with curly hair, who might only wash or even brush their hair every five to seven days, and that when they comb conditioner through, they will appear to be losing a lot of hair, when in fact it's a normal amount. And now women are also shampooing less frequently, which also means less shedding every day from washing, and more all at once.
And this, hallelujah, seems to be the prevailing answer to the hair loss claim: not that dry shampoo is causing direct hair loss (unless you're really going to town with it and never shampooing at all)—but rather that you're bypassing some normal shedding that ends up happening cumulatively.
The conclusion: Dry shampoo is still a miracle magical gift to fine-haired women everywhere, providing you use it correctly. Risse says:
It's a great product. I do notice that a lot of people skip the brushing-it-through part. It's best to spray it in short bursts, take a boar-bristle brush or some soft bristle brush and brush it through, because with a lot of brands you'll get a white flakiness, and if you're blonde you might not notice, but if you have dark or red hair it shows up. So spray and then manipulate it and distribute it so it's not clumping in one spot. Then maybe back comb at the root to give volume and then finish with a hairspray.
Risse says companies are now extending the marketing of dry shampoo to showcase its hairstyle-preserving capabilities (she notes that Redken makes a product that promises to extend your 'do by two whole days).
So carry on, everyone! We've been spared the burden of hair loss, and dry shampoo continues to be the best hair product we've ever known.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.