By Arey Co-Founder Jay Small & Cosmetic Chemist Valerie George
Dry shampoo can benefit our hair in multiple ways. It’s a common go-to for oil reduction and deodorizing between washes, and can also help add volume and texture. The first dry shampoo was sold in the early 1940s when the Stephanie Brooke Company of Jersey City, New Jersey developed ‘Minipoo’, the first retail brand of commercially produced dry shampoo powder.
In 1972, the French cosmetics company Klorane launched its first dry shampoo product and took the industry by storm. Marketed specifically to women who cannot wash their hair due to physical limitations, this product transcended its original use case and became a purposeful tool for many hair types. Often used to help mask days-old greasy hair, it can also be applied to clean hair for added volume and texture. I used powder dry shampoo for the first time about ten years ago and loved the texture it added to hair; but felt the delivery of the product needed improvement. The most widely available options were either a shake dispenser (similar to a baby powder container) or aerosol spray; neither of which distributed product evenly.
In October 2022, a number of dry shampoo products with aerosol dispensers were recalled due to the presence of a potentially harmful chemical called Benzene. Benzene is not an intentionally added ingredient in dry shampoo, but rather an impurity in the aerosol propellant used to deliver its ingredients to the hair. In my career as a hairstylist I’ve used my fair share of aerosol products, but in recent years I’ve limited the use of these products for the health of my clients and myself.
Aerosol dry shampoos also tend to contain unnecessary ingredients such as propellants, wheat protein, synthetic fragrance, and starches. The propellant used in dry shampoo may also contain butane, isobutane, or propane, which makes up to 95% of the total composition. Dry shampoos may also contain anionic surfactants that do not dissolve in water—none of which have any use for making greasy hair feel clean or adding texture to clean hair. This begs the question, why use a product that is less effective and much more harmful to the environment and our health?
“Non-aerosol formulations may be a better choice for consumers because they offer peace of mind from any benzene concerns and are better for the health of the environment. They also can contain more active and effective ingredients.” - Valerie George Cosmetic Chemist
In recent years, powder dry shampoos have started to incorporate ingredients that have been found in skincare and makeup. These ingredients are designed to absorb oil and refresh the hair and scalp in between hair washing. It’s important to remember that dry shampoos in either form are meant to be washed off every few days and are not a traditional shampoo replacement.
So what makes a good dry shampoo?
First, look for non-aerosol dry shampoos in a powder format. When it comes to ingredients, here a few that I’ve found to perform best for oil reduction and texture:
Mica is used in a wide variety of cosmetic products due to its sheer, light-reflecting properties that create a natural glowy look. Due to its natural lustrous qualities, mica likely got its name from the Latin word micare, which means ‘to glitter’. When added to dry shampoo it can add pigment to blend better with the hair and the scalp.
Aluminum Starch is highly effective at absorbing excess oil and sweat. It also gives products good spreadability and longer lasting results. Primarily used in skincare products like lotion, powder, and makeup, it can keep foundation from caking onto the skin, or lessen the greasy shine associated with certain lotions. These qualities make it an ideal ingredient to help control oil near the scalp and not build up over time.
Silica is quite often used as a flow agent and anti-caking agent, which means it makes your dry shampoo spray consistently, and prevents nozzle clogging. When used topically it absorbs oil well and prevents powder dry shampoos from building up on the hair or scalp.
Along with these ingredients that tackle oil management, conditioners and scent will need to be considered when finding the best dry shampoo for you. Conditioners have fatty alcohols, humectants, and oils to make hair soft and flexible. Some have protein to temporarily bind split ends, and some have thickening agents to make hair feel fuller. Dry, damaged hair can be static because it has a negative charge. Ingredients like Capryloyl Glycine and Undecylenoyl Glycine can leave hair feeling more manageable, soft and volumized.
The bottom line? Aerosol dry shampoos contain a lot of things your hair and body don’t need, and shouldn’t be exposed to. Seek out a powder dry shampoo with some of the effective ingredients described above that are truly beneficial to both hair, scalp and the environment.