Everyone is making the same mistake with their dry shampoo. Let’s fix that.


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Photo: Stocksy/Javier Díez

I’ve heard it plenty and I’ll admit that the phrase “dry shampoo doesn’t work for me” has, in fact, rolled off my tongue on more than one occasion. That is, until I got a tip that pretty much made it my new favorite product (I know, I know, I’m late to the party). Previously, as much as I’d wanted to love the stuff that extends washes and adds enviably effortless vibes to strands, I’d somehow wind up with a white dusting that looked more flakes than flawless. But that’s simply because when it comes to dry shampoo usage, I was doing it wrong.

“Dry shampoo is really such a misunderstood product and people use it the wrong way,” says Dove celebrity hairstylist Mark Townsend. “It’s a wet product on the inside of the can, even though it’s ‘dry shampoo,’ so it needs that millisecond of air to dry it before it hits the scalp.”

The fix is a cinch. All you’ve got to do is hold the dry shampoo can further away from your head so that the wet ingredients have a second to flash off before those actives, in the form of powders and starches, hit your scalp and start sopping up oil. According to Townsend, 10 to 12 inches (or the length of your forearm, roughly) should do it. Once you’ve sprayed the dry shampoo, you want to really work it in either with fingertips or a brush that can push it further to the scalp to do its job.

Alternatively, try spraying it directly onto a mixed-bristle brush, such as a Mason Pearson Brush ($205) and then sweeping it from the top of hair to the tips. “It’s really going to attach itself to the boar bristle which is the smaller bristles that really get closer to the scalp,” Townsend says. “The longer white plastic bristles just lift the hair up and push it into the boar bristles.”

It can also help to pay attention to the ingredients in your dry shampoo: Powder tends to absorb more oils and sebum, while starches are lighter and provide a nice reset to your overall look. (Starches are for day one while powders are for day three, if you will). “The powder’s a lot more absorbent when it comes to real big oil,” Townsend tells me. “If you want to get rid of oil and sebum of the root, that’s when you go for the Ultra Clean Dry Shampoo ($5),” which has powders and starches. On days when it’s more of a fluff and go, opt for a lighter formula like TRESemmé Between Washes Basic Care Dry Shampoo ($6).

When I try the trick for myself, I prep my unwashed brown hair by parting my hair directly down the middle, then I direct the dry shampoo at a ruler-length distance and spray it on. Just like Townsend says, no residue is left behind. I move my part to both sides and repeat, working the product in with fingertips to leave my waves untouched, and in mere minutes I have the not-too-perfect style of my dreams…in like under a minute. The verdict? I suppose in the case of dry shampoo usage, distance really does make the heart grow fonder.

BTW: Here’s how Townsend would shop for beauty under $100 and this is what he has to say about Mary Kate and Ashley’s effortless waves.

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