I tried safer dry shampoo and this is what I found…
…that there is no reason I shouldn’t choose them over any other version.
Here’s the deal: I have used aerosol dry shampoo as a crutch for several years. It was a great way to keep my locks looking fresh in between washes. I would use it anywhere between 3-5 times a week. The spray dry shampoo was so easy and convenient, plus it gave me extra volume! What’s not to love? Until recently, I never really thought twice about dousing myself in the stuff and breathing in the cloud of fumes around me. If it wasn’t safe to inhale, there’s no way that people could be putting this stuff on the market, right? It was a popular drugstore brand that everyone knows and I trusted. So many people use it, so it can’t be that bad. It’s just another hair care product and that cloud of stuff I was inhaling is a totally normal part of being a woman. The beauty industry will protect us because that’s the right thing to do.
Wrong. Let me throw some knowledge your way with a few facts, a small portion of many I wish everyone knew. Unfortunately in this format I cannot properly create footnotes (if someone knows how let me know!) so I will be linking all of the sources for you within the text.
What you may not know about the beauty industry:
- The United States has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products since 1938.
- The FDA does not require that cosmetic ingredients be assessed for safety before they go on to the market, and they cannot issue a product recall.
- There are approximately two pages of federal legislation to regulate the U.S. cosmetic industry, which was valued at $62 billion in 2016. The United States has banned or partially restricted approximately 30 ingredients from personal care products, while the European Union has banned or restricted over 1,400 ingredients and Canada has done the same for nearly 600. We’re way behind the ball here, to say the least.
- Beware of the term ‘fragrance’ listed in the ingredients, even in products labeled as ‘natural’ or ‘organic.’ More than 3,000 materials have been reported as used in fragrance compounds found in cosmetics and other consumer products. But since “fragrance” is considered a trade secret, companies do not have to disclose the ingredients used to create their fragrances, and the consumer is often left in the dark. The blends may include phthalates, synthetic musks, and other ingredients linked to hormone disruption and allergies.*
I want you to stop and think about how many people you know who have had cancer and, out of those people, how many have had a genetic predisposition. Now think about how many women you know that have hormone and fertility issues not linked to their age. How many times do we hear of the rise in allergies, especially severe, deadly allergies like those that lead to anaphylaxis?
I don’t know about you, but I can count more people in my life that have been impacted by the above conditions than I have fingers and toes. That’s big. These are just a few of the many reasons why I’ve started paying more attention to the beauty and hair care products I’m using every day. I’m not saying that I’m perfect or that I’m going to replace every possible toxic thing in my life. All I want is to eliminate factors that I can and reduce my risk of harmful disease and health issues. This is about progress, not perfection.
So, back to the dry shampoo. The aerosol brand I was using listed the following ingredients, in this order: Isobutane, Propane, SD Alcohol 40-B, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Butane, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Citrus Tangerina (Tangerine) Peel, Isopropyl Myristate, Silica, Fragrance. At first glance the major concerns that jump out to me are butane and propane. Propane is a colorless, odorless gas that is usually used as fuel, refrigerant, solvent, or, as in this case, as a propellant. It is on the NJ Right to Know Hazardous Substance List and you can read the full Hazardous Fact Sheet here. This is also the case with Butane, which is another gas that is used as a propellant, fuel source, and making chemicals for the rubber, plastics and solvent industries. Not only am I applying that to my scalp, but I’m inhaling it! Second would be aluminum, which is used as an absorbent. Exposure to aluminum has been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and is also a major ingredient in anti-antiperspirants for it’s absorbent qualities. The rate of death from Alzheimer’s in the United States has increased by 89% since 2000 according to the Alzheimer’s Association. In short: this is definitely an ingredient I would like to avoid whenever I can. The third concern that jumps out at me is ‘fragrance,’ which I have discussed in the above list of facts. All of this made me realize that by switching to a non-aerosol, aluminum free dry shampoo I could be saving myself a lot of risk.
I did some research and was able to come up with 3 major brands that are providing a safer alternative to my usual dry shampoo. The three contestants were as follows:
- Mermaid Dry Shampoo by Captain Blankenship
- Acure Dry Shampoo
- Scalp Revival Charcoal + Biotin Dry Shampoo by Briogeo
All of these items were labeled as ‘natural’ dry shampoo options and after looking at their ingredients list for the most part this was true! All of them were effective, but there was definitely one that stood out the most to me. Here is how it all shakes out:
#1: Mermaid Dry Shampoo by Captain Blankenship. This was by far the stand-out winner to me! It’s all natural and the primary ingredients are Arrowroot Powder and White Clay. Extra bonus is that it’s naturally scented with essential oils! I love the fresh, light scent that it provides, plus it give a great volumizing lift. When I first tried it I didn’t have any issues with it blending into my strawberry blonde hair color and now that my hair is darker for Fall I still haven’t had any issues. The application can be a little tricky to get used to, but just gently tap the powder onto the roots of dry hair, then work it through with your fingers, brush or hair dryer. You can layer it or reapply as needed. It stayed light and never gave me that crunchy feeling that some aerosol dry shampoo have done in the past.
#2: Acure Dry Shampoo. I tried the brunette to dark hair version of this powder, but it also comes in a traditional white version. I thought that the darker tone powder blended really well with my hair color, but I didn’t get as much volume when using this product. I also feel like it took a little more of it to get the same effect as the Mermaid Dry Shampoo. However, I think having different color options is fantastic and it is another great example of a safer product option. The primary ingredients are corn starch, arrowroot powder, and kaolin clay. The coloring comes from the use of cocoa powder and it’s naturally scented with rosemary oil and peppermint oil. Big wins here! It was a tough call between this and our #1 contestant.
#3: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Biotin Dry Shampoo. First of all, I want to give Briogeo points for being the only brand I saw during my research that tried to duplicate the convenience of an aerosol can by providing a ‘spray’ dispenser. After shaking gently, squeeze the bottle to dispense the powder onto your hair. It produces a “puff” of powder, less of an actual spray. While a great idea, it wasn’t super effective. I felt like I had to constantly shake and squeeze the bottle in order to get enough product out of it. It didn’t provide consistent performance in terms of the dispensing method. However, once I got the product on my scalp it worked great. It’s primary ingredients are rice starch, corn starch, and kaolin clay. While it contains orange peel oil and peach fruit extract, which I am assuming is meant for scent, it’s last ingredient listed is ‘fragrance.’ I have to give it a ding for that based on what I know about ‘fragrance’ in supposedly ‘all natural’ products. If the other two products were able to just use essential oils to scent their products, why do you need ‘fragrance?’
I hope you found this post helpful and informative. I just want to reinforce that I have no expectations of perfection in this mission towards healthier, safer beauty products. If you choose to use aerosol dry shampoos I do NOT judge you! It’s totally your choice and everyone has their needs. I just want to provide an honest review of some safer options in case you decide to make the switch.
*Taylor KM et al. (2014) Human exposure to nitro musks and the evaluation of their potential toxicity: an overview. Environmental Health, 13:14.