Self, Health And Wellness

Is Dry Shampoo Bad For Your Hair? Potential Health Risks — And How To Use It Safely

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Is Dry Shampoo Bad For Your Hair? Potential Health Risks — And How To Use It Safely

I don't know what it is, but I always read things about not shampooing or using dry shampoo. I think it's because neither idea seems plausible to me, and I can't believe that your hair can look good if it hasn't been washed or if it's been treated with dry shampoo.

Is dry shampoo bad for you or your hair?

One Belfast woman, Nicole Baxter, found out the hard way that dry shampoo can abolutely be severly damaging to the scalp. People were fascinated when she first shared a since-deleted Facebook post about her dry shampoo troubles, which quickly went viral.

Nicole had been a regular user of Bastiste dry shampoo — until she noticed red sores, blisters, and a bald patch on her head that kept getting bigger.

RELATED: How Long Should You Leave Purple Shampoo On Dry Hair?

Needless to say, Nicole was extremely alarmed when she saw what was happening with her scalp.

Baxter's original Facebook post read as follows:

"So I went to my GP at the end of last year due to having a bald patch on my head which kept getting bigger. Anyone who knows me knows I don't stress and my diet's alright so there didn't seem any reason for this to happen? My scalp was also very itchy and flaky.

"I had wee red sores and blisters all over my scalp and a terrible burning sensation all over my head — to the point where I would wake up several times a night due to the discomfort/pain. She referred me to the dermatology unit in Belfast City Hospital where I had my first appointment in February.

"At this initial appointment I was immediately diagnosed with triangular alopecia (hair loss in one area of the head, usually in a triangle), and was told I'd have to come back to have a scalp biopsy (injection straight into my scalp to numb the area, then a hole punch tool used to remove a part of it, then closed up with stitches) done to see what was causing these blisters and sores I had.

"The doctor asked had I anything on my hair at the minute, I said just dry shampoo. So she advised when I come back for the scalp biopsy to come with nothing in my hair and to make sure it was clean. I thought it was weird she said that; it's only dry shampoo, what's that got to do with it? So I actually stopped using it altogether from that day to see what would happen.

"So today was the day for the scalp biopsy. I've been up to high doe all week at the thought of a NEEDLE GOING INTO MY SCALP. I'd Googled the horror stories and everything — terrible idea. It was a different doctor doing the biopsy to the one who had prescribed it in February, so first thing I asked was, 'Why am I getting this done? What benefit can come from it?'

"She looked at my file and said that it was to see what the blisters and sores were and could they diagnose a cause, and straight away I'd realized that I didn't have them anymore (I don't know why I hadn't realized before). So she compared my scalp today to the pictures that were in my file from February and asked what had I done differently in the last 6-7 weeks that may have helped it?

"I told her I'd stopped using dry shampoo and that was it, nothing else different. You'd of thought a light bulb went off in the woman's head. She said it's the best thing I could have of done for myself. If she had been at my initial appointment, she never would have even prescribed the biopsy if I had dry shampoo in my hair that day, and that a biopsy isn't going to have any benefit because it can't do anything for the bald patch. So I left the hospital with my scalp fully intact and a prescription for a bottle of T-Gel!

"Moral of the story: Dry shampoo caused me to now have this bald patch on my head (which I still have and it may or may not grow back, but nothing can be done) and a terrible scalp for ages. Just wash your hair people! It is not worth having this awful patch that I might be stuck with on the side of my head all because I can't be arsed to dry my hair."

RELATED: 21 Best Shampoos For An Itchy Scalp

Prior to being deleted, her post had been shared on social media over 30,000 times.

After an influx of messages and comments from various concern trolls, Nicole added this follow-up to her original post:

"In the name of God, never in all my life did I think I'd have to explain my personal hygiene to 23,000+ people!

  • I did not use dry shampoo instead of washing my hair properly.
  • I've obviously had a more severe reaction than most people will.
  • I'm sure other brands have the same/similar effects on other people. Batiste is just the one I used.
  • At no point have I said I don't shower, but people seem to think suggesting I shower would have solved the problem!

"I only meant for this to warn my friends that these are the symptoms I had, and after I stopped using dry shampoo most of them cleared up (never imagined it would have 23k+ shares). Then, AN ACTUAL DOCTOR told me it was down to the dry shampoo, not a bunch of people who suddenly gained in-depth knowledge of dermatology and my personal showering schedule."

Obviously, Nicole had a horrible reaction to over-using this particular brand of dry shampoo, and not everybody is going to have that same kind of reaction.

If you use dry shampoo, you may want to note these potential drawbacks and risks:

  • Hair breakage: like any other aerosol hair care products containing alcohol, overuse can be drying and lead to breakage.
  • Clogged hair follicles: as with other hair care products, overusing dry shampoo and going too long without washing your hair can cause buildup on the scalp, leading to itching and potentially even resulting in folliculitis, a bacterial or fungal infection of the hair follicle.
  • Dandruff and/or flaky skin: it should go without saying that dry shampoo is not the same as regular shampoo and it does not clean your hair, which means using it instead of actually washing could mean you are leaving natural oils on your scalp for too long, potentially putting you at risk for dandruff and fungal infection known as seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Cancer: dry shampoos that contain talc could pose a potential cancer risk, as recent research has shown a potential link between use of asbestos-free talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

How to use dry shampoo safely

If you're using dry shampoo, it might be a good idea to do a test run to see how you react to it.

And, as frequency of use seems to be an issue, remember that dry shampoo should not be used as a regular replacement for washing your hair. Perhaps use it only when in dire need.

Another lesson we can learn from Nicole is that whenever you put anything out on social media — trust me, I know from experience — no matter how innocuous you think something is, somebody is always going to find something negative to say to you in response. Be prepared.

RELATED: Can You Use Dry Shampoo On Your Pubic Hair?

Christine Schoenwald is a writer, performer, and teacher. She's had pieces in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Woman's Day, Purple Clover, Bustle, and is a regular contributor to Ravishly and YourTango. Check out her website or her Facebook page.