Can you overuse dry shampoo?

Expert says excessive use could cause problems

DETROIT – It's quick and convenient, but can you overuse dry shampoo?  It's a question we were wondering as the products become ever more popular.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, dry shampoo is a starch or alcohol-based product used to absorb oil and odor from the hair on days that you don't wash it.

The concept has been around for centuries, when people put powdered clay in their hair for the same purpose.  Today's products generally come in an aerosol spray, and a lot of women are using them on a regular basis.

There's no question that dry shampoo is a real time saver, but can you overuse it?

We asked Dr. Diane Jackson-Richards, a Henry Ford Health System dermatologist, to weigh in.

"I would say that you would want to limit it to a couple times a week, maximum," said Jackson-Richards.

Overall, she said, dry shampoos are fairly safe, but there are risks to overusing any product.

"Anytime we are using products that build up on our scalp or on our hair, that can clog our follicles, and the more our follicles are clogged, that can lead to folliculitis, which is an inflammation around hair follicles.  And then you may see some scalp issues and shedding because of that. But I think that might be excessive use to do that," said Jackson-Richards.

She said there is another potential risk of overuse.

"I think if you were relying on dry shampoo, doing it too often, it could dry your hair strands and then that dryness leads to more breakage," said Jackson-Richards.  "Dry shampoo, again, it doesn't really clean your hair as well. You're just absorbing the excess oil.  Often the dry shampoos may leave the feeling of a residue in your hair so it may not feel quite as clean."

The starch in dry shampoo can also feed any bacteria or fungus already on your scalp.

Experts say part of the problem is that some people aren't using dry shampoo properly.

"The proper way to use dry shampoo is to apply it to the root and then to comb it through," said Local 4 style editor Jon Jordan.  "That way, you will be able to control the amount of product that you're putting in your hair and combing through the end."

Jordan also recommends getting to the root of your hair problems.

"The first thing to think about is: Why is your hair oily or problematic?  Whatever your hair issues are, you need to think about why they're happening," said Jordan.

He said using a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo to wash your hair can help reduce excess oil production and thus the need for dry shampoo.

Jordan had another suggestion, too, courtesy of his celebrity connections.

"Years ago, when I was backstage at 'Days of Our Lives,' I was nosing around and the hairstylist there told me about their secret weapon, which is sea salt spray.  It's basically sea salt dissolved into a water base.  They use it in between takes and to freshen the actors' hair.  They just spray it in, and they swear that it gets rid of residue, oil and freshens the hair."

You can make your own sea salt spray or buy it in drug stores, where it can be found near the dry shampoo.

As for how often you should actually wash your hair, there's no one-size-fits-all answer.

"How often you shampoo your hair really varies from person to person," said Jackson-Richards.  "Some people secrete more oil. They have more naturally oily scalps than other people. They may need to shampoo more frequently."

When we pressed her for numbers, she said, "I think I would say going longer than two weeks is too long to go without shampooing, unless there are some extenuating circumstances why you can't do that," said Jackson-Richards. 

As for other end of the spectrum, she said, "There's nothing wrong with shampooing every day if you're not causing overdrying to your hair."

She also recommends a sulfate-free shampoo and says to use your dry shampoo, but don't overdo it.

"It's something you would use in a pinch," said Jackson-Richards.  "But I think, overall, your hair is not going to feel as clean and look as shiny as if you shampoo your hair traditionally."