Commercially produced dry shampoo has surged in popularity and availability over the last decade or so. It’s become a very common component of many people’s toiletry cache, which unfortunately has normalized the use of a product with more potential for toxicity than a lot of other common hair care products.
The majority of dry shampoos feature butane, isobutane and propane as primary ingredients. When butane and isobutane are combined with propane, it forms a liquified petroleum gas (LPG), a commonly used propellant in aerosol body care products like hair spray and deodorant. There aren’t any comprehensive studies on the effects of exposure to LPG but one study of workplace exposure found statistically significant abnormalities to red blood cells in exposed workers.
It’s important to remember that as with most chemicals used in the cosmetics industry, lack of evidence doesn’t indicate long-term safety. Lead was used in cosmetic preparations for hundreds of years before the dangers were proven in recent history. You don’t need a study to tell you that inhaling and absorbing petroleum through your skin is probably toxic over the long term.
Beside the petro chemicals, most dry shampoos are heavy on synthetic fragrance, which can be made up of hundreds of chemicals that aren’t listed on the ingredients list but can be highly toxic and bioaccumulative.
Best Alternatives To Conventional Dry Shampoo
So if commercially produced dry shampoos are a no-go, then what are the alternatives? On the one hand you could take the all natural or DIY route. When you remove the convenience of application afforded by aerosolization, dry shampoo is essentially just an oil absorbing powder. You could make your own natural dry shampoo with a variety of different oil absorbing bases including corn starch, rice starch, and kaolin clay.
But for those of us that find this option less than appealing, there are luckily a number of non-toxic options that are much nicer to use than a DIY concoction. Natural doesn’t have to be an inelegant and weird second choice. Natural options can be beautiful and enjoyable to use without compromising on safety and sustainability.
Acure Organics Dry Shampoo With Argan Stem Cells and CoEnzyme Q10 (1.7oz) | High End & Budget Friendly
Acure Organics is a higher end natural brand that’s maintained reasonable prices. They make a variety of natural hair care products, including dry shampoos for light and dark hair.
Their dry shampoos are powders. Shown below is the light formulation. Reviews for the dark formulation (orange with white text) weren’t as good, though this is pretty typical and it would likely perform as well as other brands and as well as, if not slightly better than, a DIY concoction.
Reviews for the light formulation are good across a number of different online marketplaces (Amazon, iHerb, Jet etc.) One reviewer mentioned that it performs similar to baby powder, so if that’s your benchmark then you won’t be disappointed.
The ingredients in this product are exactly what you want in a non-toxic dry shampoo: an absorbent powder, a nice scent, some beneficial ingredients and all without the synthetic additives. It’s biodegradable, paraben, sulfate, silicone, sodium chloride, phthalate and synthetic fragrance free. Also vegan and cruelty free.
I haven’t used this product (as I don’t typically use dry shampoo) but I currently use the Acure Organics Hydrating Shampoo (with moroccan argan oil and stem cells) and I love what it does to my hair, especially since I know how difficult natural shampoo formulations are. I find this brand trustworthy on the basis of their ingredients and the quality of the shampoo.
When considering that typical natural dry shampoo prices run around $30, this product is really reasonably priced at under $10, especially for a higher end natural brand. Even if you have darker hair you should give this a try before exploring more expensive options. If you don’t want to buy online you might be able to find this at drugstores or Target. I found the shampoo at Meijer but shampoo and conditioner was all they had.
There are a number of other products from reputable natural cosmetics companies that have stellar ingredients, but at 3 times the cost of the Acure dry shampoo they were just a bit too pricey to get top honours.
Available in lavender & clary sage, jasmine, patchouli & amber, and vetiver & black pepper. Reviews say that this smells amazing and works pretty well, though (of course) there are complaints that it doesn’t work as well on darker hair. Note that this is more than double the amount you get with Acure so it isn’t as expensive as it may initially seem.
Ingredients: *organic corn starch, white clay, baking soda, *organic rice powder, *organic horsetail powder, *essential oils/ *USDA Organic & Oregon Tilth Certified Organic
Rahua Voluminous Dry Shampoo (1.8oz)
Earth friendly, vegan, non-toxic with rahua oil from the Amazon rainforest. Reviews suggest this works better for thicker or curly hair that’s lighter toned. May leave a grey cast and weigh down fine, dark coloured hair.
Ingredients: Fuller’s earth (clay), Organic tapioca starch (cassava root), illucium verum (star anise), vanilla planifolia, citric acid.
As the green beauty movement has gained traction, green or non-toxic alternatives are more readily available, but not all are created equal. Be sure to read labels because brands are not above marketing themselves as green when they aren’t. For example…
Not Your Mothers Dry Shampoo Good price, great reviews and probably available at most stores. Don’t let the green branding fool you.
What’s even worse than subtle suggestions of green branding (like using the colour green) is when a brand fully engages in (and benefits from) the green movement as part of its core identity when it isn’t green at all. One of the most disappointing examples of this is Klorane, a company with a mission statement based on “tireless commitment to protecting both the plant heritage and the environment.”
Yet, Klorane’s dry shampoo looks like this.
I’ve picked up Klorane products countless times in the past and been totally shocked that a well funded, well known and high end natural company uses questionable ingredients in flagrant disregard of their brand philosophy and reputation.
Featured image credit Shop Naturally AU