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03rd Feb 2024

Is dry shampoo actually bad for you? Dermatologists explain the risks

Sophie Collins

Dry Shampoo

In 2022, we saw dry shampoo fall from hero to zero as many people began speaking out about the negative effects of using it on social media.

That year, an independent study found that more than 70% of 34 dry shampoo brands tested contained elevated levels of benzene, resulting in many recalls in the US.

Benzene is highly toxic and is a known carcinogen; exposure to it may cause leukemia, according to

It’s important to note that at the time of these mass recalls hitting headlines, the HPRA told Leinster Leader that it had not been informed about any dry-shampoos on the Irish market being impacted by this issue. 

The body explained that benzene is included in the ‘list of substances prohibited in cosmetic products’ as part of the European Cosmetics Regulation, and so it is not permitted in cosmetics on the Irish market.

However, in response to this scary revelation, lots of people have been sharing their at-home, natural methods of keeping their hair looking great in between washes.

So, is dry shampoo actually bad? 

In 2023, Dr. Nada Elbuluk, associate professor of clinical dermatology at USC Keck School of Medicine, spoke to to explain other issues associated with the products more generally.

“The name dry shampoo is actually a misnomer because it’s not cleaning the hair the way that our traditional shampoos would,” she said.

Dry shampoo cannot be used as a method of replacing shampooing and conditioning your hair regularly.

Shari Lipner, associate professor of clinical dermatology at the Weill Cornell Medical Center also told Today that the ingredients used in dry shampoo “don’t really clean the hair.”

What they do is absorb oil to give the hair a cleaner, fluffier look, according to Lipner.

“Dry shampoo is not a cleansing mechanism for your hair or your scalp,” she said.

“It is a way of absorbing dirt, oil, debris, bacteria and old haircare products that are lying on the scalp and the hair from the preceding days.”

Although using it every now and again wouldn’t cause any major issues, “overuse can certainly affect the scalp and the hair.”

Elbuluk echoed this and said when used “appropriately”, it isn’t likely to cause any major scalp problems for most people. 

But if you overuse dry shampoo, you might notice irritation of the scalp or folliculitis, which is an irritation of the hair follicles, Elbuluk explains.

According to the Belfast Skin Clinic: “Folliculitis is a common skin condition in which hair follicles become inflamed”. 

It’s usually caused by a bacterial or fungal infection and at first it may look like small red bumps or white-headed pimples around hair follicles.

The infection can spread and turn into non-healing, crusty sores.

Folliculitis signs and symptoms include:

  • Clusters of small red bumps or white-headed pimples that develop around hair follicles
  • Pus-filled blisters that break open and crust over
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Itchy or burning spots
  • Tenderness or pain
  • A large swollen bump or mass

Experts also stress that if you let dry shampoo sit for too long or rely too heavily on it, without actually washing your hair the traditional way, it could also lead to hair breakage.

Elbuluk went on to explain that because dry shampoo usually contains an alcohol or starch-base, it can dry out the hair.

“As you dry hair out, that also affects the hair health, and it can become more prone to damage and breakage,” she says.

In line with some major concerns that have been raised over recent years, Healthline states that: “It turns out a few of those concerns are well founded”. 

They go on to say that “using dry shampoo too much can lead to hair breakage, clogged follicles, or hair loss.”

So, if you’re using dry shampoo properly and are not relying on it regularly you should be in the clear for the most part.

If you have a sensitive scalp, or any derm issues with the skin on your head, it’s best to avoid using these perfumed products.

Like everything, you should do research into the specific products you’re using before purchasing, be aware of any side effects, and make sure to do a patch test!