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5 Things to Know About Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo can help you get naturally gorgeous hair.
Dry shampoo can help you get naturally gorgeous hair.
Dunca Daniel/istockphoto

Some are blessed with thick, amazing hair that looks fantastic no matter what they do. Others of us have fine tresses that, one day after washing, look like they've been dipped in oil. Those mornings tend to coincide with the days you have absolutely no time to jump in the shower.

Your hair can get weighed down by dead skin cells, sweat and environmental factors like dirt and pollutants, on top of what comes out of the sebaceous glands on your scalp. The best way to cleanse it is with gentle shampooing, but when you're short on minutes, technology has an answer for you: dry shampoo.

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Dry shampoo is a way to make your hair look fresh when it's anything but. Depending on the product, you can sprinkle or spray it on your hair, wait for it to absorb gunk, brush, and then style.

People who love their dry shampoo (and some of them are like cult members) swear that a good product can give shine and volume comparable to a regular wash-and-style. Plus, they add, washing your hair daily may be damaging [source: Bouillon]. Shampooing gets rid of oil, sure, but it gets rid of too much oil sometimes, leaving your locks dry, flat and prone to frizz. Dry shampoo can keep your curls pretty between showers. And considering the devotion of dry shampoo fans to their hair care regimen, you definitely won't be the only one who didn't shower that day.

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You're more likely to see ammonium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate on the ingredients list of your shampoo and conditioner than lizards in olive oil, but you aren't a 12-century European [source: Scott].

The Egyptian hair-washing preparations of 2000 B.C. contained citrus juices, animal fats and plant oils. The acidic juice was for cleansing, while the fats and oils followed to coat the hair and keep it smooth. Hair complaints aren't a thing of the Cosmopolitan magazine era -- people have been complaining about oiliness vs. frizz for as long as recorded history.

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A New York Times writer wrote in 1909, "The wet shampoo is exhausting in itself" and went on to describe a Parisian alternative: "cleaning" the hair with gas fumes [source: NYT].

When not trying to knock people unconscious with ether fumes, people throughout history have come up with some creative ways to absorb oil from hair, from clay to colored powder. An early 20th century article described a dry shampoo containing rice flour [source: American Journal]. Since then, you'd be more likely to see starches, vegetable powders and chemicals.

Popular brands of dry shampoo today include ingredients such as natural polysaccharides, wheat proteins, starches and clay. The cheapest of the cheap: plain old baby powder.

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Dry shampoo isn't perfect. For one thing, it doesn't get your hair as clean. Actually washing your hair changes the way oil is distributed throughout your tresses [source: Zviak]. If your hair is really dirty, no amount of dry shampoo is going to make it look clean without caking and dulling the shine.

Dry shampoo is generally meant to be an in-between-showers option. When you're styling your hair into an updo or curls or anything that requires hold, a little dirtiness helps it stay and dry shampoo can mask the oiliness. But cornstarch won't get you to shiny, clean hair day after day.

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In the 1950s, it wasn't uncommon for some women to get their hair done at the salon once a week and not touch it the rest of the week. This approach is coming back into vogue in some parts of the U.S. Daily shampooing is simply too harsh for most people's hair, so if you can stretch out a shampoo for a few days, it might save you a little frizz.

Stylist Robert Vetica offers another use for dry shampoo: Use it after a long day at work before meeting up for dinner, drinks or time with friends [source: Vetica]. Brush out the day's oils and head out with a new 'do -- without an hour and a half to shower and blow-dry.

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