When I woke up, I would tip my head upside down, spray on the shampoo, shake my head a bit, flip it back over and grin at the reflection of my fluffy bouffant, in a move I like to call the Grimy Laker Girl.
“That’s disgusting,” my boyfriend would say. “You know people stopped cleaning themselves with powders in like the 18th century, right?”
I ignored him, since he didn’t even own body wash until he met me.
I would look and smell clean when I was anything but. At first, the dry shampoo was just a stop-gap until the next day, when I would cleanse myself with actual water. But eventually my dry-shampoo days started outnumbering the regular-shampoo ones. Some mornings I would even do my trusty “15-minute Dumbbell Blast” routine and then head on into the office, my head coated in a thin patina of rice starch and “clean fragrance.”
I started recommending dry shampoo to busy and tired female friends, in the conspiratorial tone that Not-An-Actresses use in infomercials. “Feel my hair. FEEL IT,” I would demand. Then, the big reveal: “I haven’t showered since Tuesday.”
Gradually, though, I began to notice something disturbing. The two sides of my hair looked like they were slowly drifting away from each other at the part. Granted, it’s hard for me to tell when my hair is thinning. I am half Scandinavian, and nowhere is this more evident than my scalp, which, with its sparse, wispy growth, conjures the snowy white tundras of Lapland.
Still, a few dozen strands would defect from my head and onto my fingers each time I showered. It was a lot, even for me.
“Does my hair look thinner to you?” I asked my boyfriend one morning.
“Hmm, yeah maybe,” he said.
Figuring he has expertise in this area (he’s basically bald), the next morning I anxiety-Googled “dry shampoo hair loss.”
I saw a lot of headlines like, “Is Your Dry Shampoo Making You Go Bald?” (Reader, the answer is never “no.”) I also found a terrifying photo, posted on Facebook by a woman in Belfast, showing a bald spot she believes was caused by over-using dry shampoo. “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),” she wrote, somehow summing up the fears of all of womankind in a single parenthetical. “Just wash your hair people!”
Of course, the problem with the wise woman’s counsel is that I’ve previously read (and written) about how showering and shampooing too often is also not good for your dreads. Damned if you ‘poo, it seems, damned if you don’t.
To get to the bottom of this, I unscientifically polled 11 hair experts and dermatologists about how frequently, if ever, I’m supposed to launder my hair, and with what.
According to them, women have fallen prey to a mass delusion that dry shampoo is actually shampoo. It’s not, in that it doesn’t clean your hair. It soaks up excess oil, and in the process, it irritates your scalp. That can lead to hair loss, as can the clumping that dry shampoo and other hair sprays sometimes cause.