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Dry Shampoo

New Mom Toolkit: How to Use Dry Shampoo

By Amalah

Oh, dry shampoo. You are the savior to tired, rushed women everywhere. A new mom essential that I continue to use well past that new-mom stage because WHO HAS THE TIME, some days.

But here’s the thing: dry shampoo was much more straightforward when I was a blond (and an ashy, dirty blond at that). It blended in easier, maybe only leaving a little bit of a gray-ish hint to my hair that I was okay living with, because slight grayish tint vs. an extra 45 minutes of sleep? Not even a competition. Some days I’d just use baby powder or corn starch and be done with it.

Bounce Back ArchivesBut then I dyed my hair red and the dry shampoos suddenly didn’t work as well. My beloved Oscar Blandi powder made me look like I was wearing a damn powdered wig. I assumed I needed a tinted version — which are available (Bumble & Bumble’s Hair Powder and Buttercream’s Shampowder), but are often more expensive than the untinted versions — or some in applicators that I dislike. (The aerosol cans, for example, run out MUCH faster than loose powder, are prone to clogs and a lot more wasted product.)

Turns out, I really didn’t. I was just using it wrong. FOR ALL THIS TIME!

The Right Way to Use Dry Shampoo

If you haven’t taken the plunge and tried dry shampoo, or tried it and weren’t thrilled with your results, here are some of the stupid-obvious things I’ve learned:

1. Use it at night, NOT in the morning. I know, I know. Sometimes you plan to wash your hair but oversleep and want the dry shampoo for this purpose, but I swear, it works soooo much better if you use it the night before. It will actually work to PREVENT excess scalp oil overnight, so you aren’t trying to fight an uphill battle the next day to absorb it all. (My hair also has more volume the next day, thanks to less oil.) Your head rubbing your pillow really works it in too, completely eliminating that powdery-white residue problem.

2. Rub it in vigorously with your fingers (nothing else will really activate the product and rub it fully in), but wash and dry your hands thoroughly first. And no hand cream until AFTER you’re done.

3. Watch those brushes! When you do go to comb it through, remove all excess shedded hair from your brush — this will just put oil back in your hair and/or suck the dry shampoo onto the brush. Shampoo your brushes every now and then, when you can remember. Clean brushes = clean hair.

4. Spot-treat ONLY in the morning. I do touch-up with the dry shampoo in the morning — usually the back of my head or behind my ears need a little more help. While I apply it generously at night, I’m very light-handed in the morning, usually dispensing it into my palms first instead of putting it right on my scalp.

5. Embrace the hair spray. While I’m not a fan of the aerosol dry shampoos from a cost/how-long-they-last basis, I DO like the added volume and root-cleansing they can give. But a good aerosol hair spray (I like Big Sexy Hair) will give you the same effect. (My hairdresser usually advises me to blast my roots with hair spray before bed to fight the oil, but I prefer the more gentle, nourishing dry shampoos then.) But if you do use a dry shampoo and still notice a little oil in the morning, a blast of hair spray will sometimes do the trick WITHOUT that pesky powdery look.

6. Put some shine back in. This remains the one Unsolvable Problem that applying dry shampoo at night still didn’t fully solve: unwashed, powdered hair is going to look dull, dull, dull. Your color might be a little muted. It’s fine if you’re just bundling your hair up in a clip, but if you’re trying to look pulled together enough for business meetings, you might want to try (VERY VERY CAREFULLY) to touch up your ends with a shine product. I have always gotten great lightweight results from BedHead’s Headrush. Just don’t spray it anywhere near your roots — ENDS ONLY.

7. Unshampooed hair shouldn’t always be unconditioned hair. I have the worst combination hair in the world — crazy oily roots and dry, breakage-prone ends. And it’s all super-fine. So sometimes the spray shine isn’t enough and I need a leave-in conditioner to keep my ends from frizzing the hell out. I like Fredric Fekkai’s Glossing Cream and I love (LOVE LOVE LOVE) Sebastian’s Potion 9 Lite. (But definitely check that you’re buying the Lite version, if your hair is fine or oily.) Wet your hands, then dab or spay a teensy bit into your palm and apply only on your roots.

8. Day One of unwashed hair will usually look worse than Day Two. Or even Three. So don’t give up, and DON’T YOU JUDGE ME.

Whew. That’s a lot of steps for something that claims to be a time saver, but really, it is easy. And time-saving! And now, thanks to dozens of drugstore brands coming out with their own versions, you don’t even have to go to Sephora for a decent one.

(Again: most come in aerosol cans, which I personally dislike for the clogging/waste problems I’ve encountered [i.e. a spray can of Oscar Blandi runs out after a couple weeks; the loose powder bottles lasts for MONTHS], but hey, if the can is only costing you a couple dollars, this might not be such a big deal, provided it doesn’t clog up on you on the worst. possible. morning. when your alarm didn’t go off and you forgot about that one meeting and the baby is already up and gaaaaahhhhdamn you aerosol can!!)

(This may or may not have actually happened to me once or twice. I’ll leave y’all to guess which.)

More Advice Smackdown

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About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Amy

    July 20, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    This seems a lot more complicated than just washing my hair. I’m curious though.

    • tere

      June 10, 2015 at 12:16 am

      my hair takes five hours to dry as i dont use a blow drier. using dry shampoo only takes a couple of minutes.

  • Mary

    July 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Thanks for the tip on applying the night before! I generally use corn starch, but it’s good to know there will be more options that don’t require a trip to the mall. I don’t understand how people have the time for the whole “shower, makeup, hair” thing since having the kid, sleep totally comes first (as long as I don’t smell). Whenever my non parent sister stays over it feels like we spend half of the morning waiting for her to get ready- and she’s not even high maintenance.

  • Wendy

    July 20, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Love, love, love the dry shampoo. I swear I couldn’t live without it and I wish Babies r us carried it so I could register for it too! I have the oily roots/dry ends/fine hair issue that you have. And pre-pregnancy, I couldn’t go more than a day without getting greasy. Right now, at 34 weeks pregnant, I’m enjoying the luxury of good, non-oily hair, and with a little dry shampoo, and some creative styling toward the end of the week, I can avoid washing it for 4 or 5 days. Kind of nice with the whole insomnia, up every 30 minutes to pee, can barely get out of bed to stumble in to work on time thing that seems to have become the third trimester norm. Totally agree that Oscar Blandi is the best, but the aerosol can isn’t worth it. I’ve tried everything else – some are super powdery, others actually leave a not-so-refreshing film. Currently I’m giving Tresemme’s new one a shot, but I find it to leave my hair a little stiff. As soon as it’s empty, I’m going back to good ol’ Oscar. Thanks for the tips on the night before – I hadn’t thought of that, but it completely makes sense!

  • Lisa M

    July 21, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I’ve been using the Klorane (hair thursday secrets post) and love it. It’s not tinted, but I love the dispenser! It’s not aerosol, and therefore doesn’t get clogged, but it kind of puffs the powder out, so it comes out lightly, not dumping a whole mess of powder on your roots.
    I’ve always used it in the mornings, but I’m going to have to try the night before.

  • […] Dry shampoo is a gift to new and busy moms everywhere, but if it’s used incorrectly it can actually make your hair look worse.  Check out these tips for using dry shampoo, including most important:  Use only at night. — Alphamom […]

  • Karen

    July 22, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    I’ve actually saved a lot of time by just not blowdrying my hair in the mornings. I used to have stick-straight hair, and then I had babies, and hormones gave me wavy hair. Don’t hate me. I was so used to seeing myself with straight hair that I freaked out and was blowdrying my hair straight every single day.

    Now I just wash it, put in an anti-frizz cream, sometimes a curl booster, and go on my merry way. It actually dries fairly quickly, and ends up looking much, much better than if i used a hairdryer. I think it’s probably healthier, too.

  • Mary

    July 30, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    How about a Price Tag Cage Match between the Oscar Blandi and some of the new drugstore brands? Pretty please? I tried the Tresemme Fresh Start Waterless Foam Shampoo and was underwhelmed. Now I’m debating whether to try another drugstore brand or just shell out for the safe bet (Blandi).

  • Ellise

    January 3, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    Thanks for the tip about using it overnight. I usually don’t like the results I get applying it in the morning–it never really works too well for me no matter what brand. I’m hoping that overnight it will help soak up oil before it sets in too much. 

    Also, Mary, as for drug store products, I really like the Dove brand dry shampoo, it’s not as gross and chalky as the tresemee kind and cheaper than sephora, plus it has a nice fresh smell that isn’t so chemical-y

  • Radiem

    August 11, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Just want to thank you for this article, really really life-changing, as now I have figured out a way to fit workouts into my life and shower at night. I used the Dove dry shampoo last night after showering, and voila! Non-greasy hair that doesn’t looked powdered (or smell to high heavens–many of those dry shampoo scents are potent!). I arrived at work a whole 30 minutes EARLY because I wasn’t used to getting ready so quickly. Hooray!