Dry-shampooing is the jujitsu of personal hygiene: The powders improve the quality of your hair, reduce your dependence on normal shampoo, and add a nice smell to your mane with those fragrant, tiny, oil-absorbing particles. But only if you choose the right product and use it correctly. Done wrong, dry-shampooing transforms you into a gross girl with dirty hair caked in stinky products.
This “technology” has been around for decades (or since the eighteenth century, if you count the oil-absorbing and color-tinting powders nobles sprinkled in their wigs) but recent campaigns like the ecoconscious “No ‘Poo Movement” have unleashed a boom in the market. Gone are the days when late-blooming teen girls had to rub baby powder into their oily scalps if they were too ashamed to be seen showering after gym class. But with dozens of specially formulated powders and aerosols, which one works best?
In the name of science and journalism — and an excuse not to wash my hair for weeks on end — I tested dozens of dry shampoos. I applied each one to my roots, then brushed, for two consecutive non-showering days. (Yes, I showered every third day. Deal with it.) Here are the results.
Ojon Full Detox Rub-Out Dry Cleansing Powder ($24)
I thought this would be good because it’s expensive. (I know, I’m a Marxist’s nightmare.) It was the lightest and most invisible powder compared to the others upon application, but it left my scalp with an unpleasant chalky feeling that I have come to associate with hair powder. Every time I ran my fingers through my hair, I cringed, fearing a nails-on-chalkboard moment.
Bumble & Bumble Hair Powder in Black ($35)
Another expensive disappointment. The aerosol can delivered a fine mist, offsetting the inherent chalkiness of the ingredients, but the black tint (even on my black hair) made a horrible mess. All day long, I found it on my hands, hairbrush, shirt, even my bedroom wall. Turns out the downside of canned mist is free-floating clouds of weird dark hair chemicals.
Recommended With Reservations:
Klorane Dry Shampoo w/ Oat Milk Aerosol ($17.99)
BIG. I wrote that in my notebook and underlined it twice. Big hair is the main priority of my beauty regimen, and I will keep and continue to use this shampoo because it delivers. It left no residue, but dulled my hair and tangled it up. It also smells like the stale dust at the bottom of a Quakers Oatmeal tub, which some may find unpleasant. For me, that is a reasonable trade-off in the pursuit of BIG.
Baptiste Dry Shampoo Original ($7.99)
A drugstore staple with the best price-per-ounce ratio of those tested, this aerosol came closest to delivering actual clean hair. There we no huge gains in volume, but it was impressively shiny and bouncy. The “clean & classic” scent veers a bit into car deodorizer territory — but, as someone who grew up shopping suburban malls, the artificial scent was comforting.
Prive Volumizing Dry Shampoo ($29.88)
Formule aux herbes, says the label, and the aerosol spray smelled mighty herbacious. Impressively volumizing, I found myself tossing my hair around on the days I used this shampoo. If you are easily seduced by nice-smelling products, you should also know that excess use of this one will make your hair feel a bit stiff.
Philip B. Russian Amber Imperial Dry Shampoo ($28)
I also tossed my hair around a lot on the days I used this shampoo. It offered great volume and bounce, but no dullness or residue. I assumed I’d hate the scent, which the brand describes as “the intoxicating, spicy-warm scent of Pure Russian Amber.” (In my experience “intoxicating” is beauty-industry-speak for “overwhelming.”) In practice, it was more like an amber-scented candle from Anthropologie. Not bad.
Oscar Blandi Pronto Invisible Volumizing Dry Shampoo Spray ($25)
In the month or so that has elapsed between the conclusion of my dry shampoo test period and today, I have used this aerosol at least twice a week. The resulting coif is BIG, but also glossy and touchable. No sticky residue, no chalk. Just gloriously fake-clean hair, bouncing around for days. The scent was on the chemical side, but reminiscent of a high-end salon, which seems appropriate for a woman’s head.
Johnson’s Baby Powder ($3.45)
After weeks of high-quality dry-shampooing, I was curious to return to the oil-soaking remedy of my youth. The results included a white film over the roots of my dark hair, as though I was an old lady in desperate need of a root touch-up or had dandruff. I smelled like a baby’s butt crack and my scalp felt like a piece of chalk. Never again.