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Dry shampoo is one of those game-changing beauty products that gives you immediate results and even saves you time. But if you have sensitive skin or find yourself using dry shampoo on a daily basis, you may have noticed that it can be irritating, too. Ultimately, what triggers skin sensitivity in one person might be completely fine for the next, but in general, the best dry shampoos for sensitive scalps are made with soothing ingredients and without potential irritants, (which, for many people — though not everyone — tend to be fragrance and alcohol). "Dry shampoo contains starch and alcohol, which absorb the oil and grease on the scalp and along the hair shaft," trichologist Penny James explains to Elite Daily. "But it does not clean your scalp as the label implies, and with continued use, the product will clog the follicles," she says of how overusing dry shampoo can lead to irritation. "A few signs you may be experiencing scalp irritation due to dry shampoo include itchiness, sensitivity or tenderness, [a] flaky or dry scalp, and redness," hairstylist Cherilyn Farris says of symptoms to look out for. "Look for ingredients in dry shampoo that are soothing," Farris recommends. "Oat or oatmeal tends to be soothing, rosemary has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, zinc has been shown to be anti-fungal, and aloe vera can also be calming.”
Penny James is a board-certified trichologist with more than 20 years of professional experience. She is the owner of Penny James Salon in New York City.
Cherilyn Farris is a Los Angeles-based hairstylist and Mane Addicts artist. Her celebrity clients include Jenna Dewan, Kendall Jenner, and Romee Strijd.
How To Use Dry Shampoo Safely When You Have A Sensitive Scalp
For those with sensitive skin, alcohol and fragrance tend to be the most common culprits behind immediate scalp irritation, but again, potential irritants vary from person to person (and since one of dry shampoo’s main selling points is that it refreshes your hair and masks odors, choosing a fragrance-free dry shampoo may not be in the cards for everyone). But in the long run, dry shampoo buildup can lead to scalp sensitivity, which is why you'll want to be conscious of how often you're using it. "Dry shampoo is safe to use on the scalp once or twice a week at the very most," James says, noting that overuse can lead to irritation and clogged hair follicles that can cause folliculitis. "Use a bristle brush regularly through the scalp to the ends of the hair to help aid oil absorption as well as to distribute the dry shampoo through the lengths," Farris adds of a styling tip to make the most of your dry shampoo.
If you do start to experience irritation, James says that you should take a break from dry shampoo and actually wash your hair. "When the scalp becomes itchy, this is an indicator that it is now irritated, and you should shampoo your hair and scalp," James says. "If you have any kind of scalp condition like erythema, seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, or pityriasis, do not use dry shampoo until you have treated your scalp condition," she stresses.
Shop The Best Dry Shampoos For Sensitive Scalps
In a hurry? Here are the best dry shampoos for sensitive scalps:
- The Overall Best Dry Shampoo For Sensitive Scalps: Hair Dance Volumizing Dry Shampoo
- Best Dry Shampoo For Dark Hair & Sensitive Scalps: Acure Dry Shampoo Brunette To Dark Hair
- Best Prestige Dry Shampoo For Sensitive Scalps: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Biotin Dry Shampoo
- Best Dry Shampoo Mist For Sensitive Scalps: R+Co Spiritualized Dry Shampoo Mist
- Best Dry Shampoo Alternative: Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray
1. The Overall Best Dry Shampoo For Sensitive Scalps
For finer hair types that use dry shampoo to absorb excess oil and add volume, this Hair Dance Volumizing Dry Shampoo gets the job done with a formula that's free from fragrance, talc, and drying alcohols. Instead, the dry shampoo uses rice starch and silica to soak up oil, colloidal oatmeal to soothe the scalp, olive leaf to leave hair feeling silky, and lavender oil to give it a subtle scent sans synthetics. Hair Dance is cruelty-free and vegan, and the dry shampoo is packaged in a non-aerosol spray bottle, making it a more environmentally friendly choice.
Soothing Ingredients: Colloidal Oatmeal Fragrance-Free: Yes Alcohol-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: "I’ve tried so many dry shampoos and this is BY FAR the best product I’ve used. I have a very sensitive and oily scalp and this dry shampoo really does the job without irritating my scalp. Also, a little goes a loooong way so the small bottle lasts quite a while. It also adds great volume and texture as well. The ingredients are also high quality and I love that 10% of the proceeds go to the Mercy Shops organization. I cannot recommend this product enough, I tell everyone about it! 10/10."
2. Best Dry Shampoo For Dark Hair & Sensitive Scalps
For an alcohol-free and synthetic fragrance-free dry shampoo that was designed for brunettes, try this Acure dry shampoo. The non-aerosol formula contains corn starch and kaolin clay to help soak up oil, as well as other multitasking oil-absorbers, like arrowroot powder, which is rich in zinc, and cocoa powder, which blends in better with darker hair colors. You'll also find rosemary oil in here, which Farris explains can have anti-inflammatory benefits.
Soothing Ingredients: Arrowroot Powder, Rosemary Oil Fragrance-Free: Yes Alcohol-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: "This is my first time using non-aerosol dry shampoo and YES. YES. YES. No more choking on residual spray or harsh perfumes. Plus it was way easier to use than I thought it was going to be. Plus, it works great and doesn't irritate my sensitive scalp."
3. Best Prestige Dry Shampoo For Sensitive Scalps
No dry shampoo will be a substitute for washing your hair, but Briogeo's Scalp Revival Charcoal + Biotin Dry Shampoo covers almost every other base imaginable. To soak up excess oil and help regulate oil production in between washes, the dry shampoo combines charcoal powder with three different types of starches. Meanwhile, hyaluronic acid and bamboo offer moisturizing and soothing benefits, and there's even biotin in the formula to help support healthy hair growth.
Soothing Ingredients: Bamboo Extract Fragrance-Free: No Alcohol-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: "As someone who has tried several dry shampoos over the years and ALWAYS wound up itchy, I didn't dare worry about the "revival" of my scalp by a dry shampoo when I ordered this; I was just pulled in by the non-aerosol packaging and the absolute need for a solution between washes. [...] Several puffs of this stuff rubbed in and combed through gives me truly clean-looking hair, soft and bouncy volume and ABSOLUTELY NO ITCHING! My scalp feels even better than if there was nothing in my hair at all. Never before could I get away with skipping two washes, but this powder lets me get on with my life when I just don't have time to worry about washing/drying/styling."
4. Expert’s Pick: Best Dry Shampoo Mist For Sensitive Scalps
Okay, technically this one isn't a dry shampoo because it's not your typical powder formula, but it's Farris' top recommendation for sensitive scalps that want to stretch out their wash days. "R+Co Spiritualized Dry Shampoo Mist has a micellar water base that works well for refreshing the hair but is more gentle," she says of the vegan formula. As the micellar water removes oil, ingredients like castor oil, calendula flower extract, and camellia japonica seed oil moisturize the hair and soothe the scalp. Even though it's a liquid mist, you can apply this as you would a traditional dry shampoo, or use a blow dryer after you've spritzed the product throughout your hair to enhance the results. Note, however, that this does contain fragrance and alcohol, in case you have a sensitivity to either of those ingredients.
Soothing Ingredients: Calendula Flower Extract, Camellia Japonica Seed Oil Fragrance-Free: No Alcohol-Free: No
Relevant Review: "This is my favorite dry shampoo to date, and I have tried my fair share. It is a very light dry shampoo. If my hair is really oily, I may have to spray my roots and blow dry it and then apply again to a few areas and blow dry again. I love that it doesn't leave my hair powdery looking and smell super strong like most dry shampoos. My scalp doesn't get as dry and as much buildup using this, but I have found that all R+Co products I've used generally help with healthy scalp."
5. Expert's Pick: Best Dry Shampoo Alternative
If you typically turn to dry shampoo to add volume and texture to your hair, James suggests opting for a texturizing spray instead, since it doesn’t require you to concentrate the product on your scalp. "I use Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray," she shares of her favorite pick. "Yes, there is alcohol in the ingredients, but there are also calming ingredients," she adds of the soothing aloe leaf and edelweiss flower extracts found in the formula. Not only does the multi-tasking product help with absorbing excess oil and adding grip to your hair so that your style will last longer, but it also contains other hair-nourishing ingredients like sunflower seed extract, ginger root extract, and watermelon fruit extract to keep your hair shiny and protected.
Soothing Ingredients: Aloe Leaf Extract, Edelweiss Flower Extract Fragrance-Free: No Alcohol-Free: No
Relevant Review: "I found my new can't-live-without hair product. I don't have to use any mousse or foam volumizers anymore, just this texturizing spray. It acts like an invisible dry hair shampoo and doesn't irritate my scalp, but makes my hair feel as though it's twice as thick. […]"
Penny James, board-certified trichologist and owner of Penny James Salon in New York City.
Cherilyn Farris, Los Angeles-based hairstylist and Mane Addicts artist.