Illustration by Aisha Franz
If she could, Hali Helfgott would wash her hair every day. 'I have longish hair, so shampooing, conditioning, and blow-drying my hair is time-consuming,' she says. On busy days, Helfgott, 45, a communications director at the University of Southern California, uses Tresemmé dry shampoo instead. 'It works pretty well,' she says. 'It's a really good quick fix.'
A growing number of people in the U.S. agree and are cutting daily washes from their hair-care routines. Dry shampoo is typically a powder in an aerosol can. Ingredients can include rice and tapioca starches, which soak up but don't strip hair of its natural oils.
As women extend the time between washes, major hair-care companies and are rolling out more dry shampoos. entered the market this year with seven varieties under its Herbal Essences, Pantene, and Vidal Sassoon brands. 'Americans tend to overcleanse both their skin and their hair,' says Whitney Bowe, a dermatologist in New York City.
The dry shampoo rage is part of a growing emphasis on hair health, says Tim Barrett, an analyst at Euromonitor International in Chicago. Younger consumers want to avoid chemicals that can damage hair over time. Others want to preserve coloring or hair's natural oils, which protect individual strands, keeping them shiny and smooth. 'Consumers are looking for alternate ways to clean their hair or extend the life of a style, like a great blowout,' says Cheri McMaster, a P&G spokeswoman.
About 83 percent of women in the U.S. skip a daily wash at least once a week, Unilever data show. Some are abandoning shampoo altogether as part of the so-called no-poo movement. For advice on alternatives, they consult online forums such as nopoomethod.com.
Rae Heller, 22, a computer technician and part-time model in Peterborough, Ont., stopped using commercial cleansers, hoping her hair would grow faster. She rinses it with cider vinegar and baking soda once or twice a week and uses a homemade dry shampoo-cornstarch, baking soda, cocoa powder for coloring, and some cinnamon for fragrance-as needed. The result is longer, healthier, and glossier hair, she says: 'It doesn't get frizzy anymore.' Bowe says some ingredients in home remedies can be harmful: Cider vinegar, for example, can cause skin burns, whereas products made by established companies have been tested extensively for side effects.
With the increasing popularity of dry shampoos, Unilever introduced three varieties under its Tresemmé and Suave Professionals brands this year. Dry shampoos are a shiny spot of growth in hair-care products, says Mohamed Omer, an analyst at Mintel Group in Chicago. In the first half of this year, they made up 5 percent of all new shampoo products, compared with 1 percent five years ago, he says.
Prices vary according to brand, but ounce for ounce, dry shampoos cost more than their regular counterparts: A 4.9-ounce bottle of Pantene Original Fresh Dry Shampoo is about $7, compared with $5 for a 12.6-ounce bottle of Pantene Classic Care shampoo.
'The segment's momentum will contribute to growth in the hair-care category and could even bring about a permanent change in consumer behavior toward daily hair washing,' Omer wrote in a report last year.
He says the big companies are adding benefits such as color and conditioner to expand their dry shampoo lines. L'Oréal's Volume Extend dry shampoo, released under its Garnier Fructis brand, promises to bulk up hair for 24 hours. Tokyo-based Angfa came out with a line in April to treat dry scalp. Says Omer: 'Dry shampoo is moving toward becoming more than just a cleanser.'