The name "dry shampoo" is a bit of a misnomer. Available in both aerosol sprays and powder formulas, these "instant" shampoos don't actually wash hair; instead, they soak up excess oil on the hair shaft to make hair look cleaner between washings. Because they can be used without water, they're a good choice for those who are on the go or like to avoid shampooing too frequently. Users at Amazon.com, Drugstore.com, and MakeupAlley.com say that they extend the time between washings by one to three days.
Dry shampoos have other benefits, as well. Beauty advisor Paula Begoun recommends them for fine, limp, or oily hair, saying they add volume while fighting greasiness. Julyne Derrick, the beauty expert at About.com, also recommends them for volumizing fine hair and adds that dry shampoo is "the perfect start to a long-lasting updo."
The one dry shampoo we found that gets consistently positive reviews from both experts and users is Batiste Original Dry Shampoo (Est. $6 for 6.7 oz.). Described in multiple reviews as a "cult favorite," this reasonably priced spray shows up on pretty much every list of the best dry shampoos. In blind tests conducted by Good Housekeeping, users found it easy to apply and brush out. They also said that, unlike many dry shampoos, Batiste didn't leave any powdery residue on their hair. Most users at TotalBeauty.com and Amazon.com agree and add that Batiste does a good job removing oil, leaving hair clean and soft. Reviewers also find it helpful for adding volume.
The point Batiste users disagree about most is the scent. Most testers at Good Housekeeping and Amazon.com reviewers like it, describing it as fresh, herbal, or citrusy. However, a few users describe the smell as unpleasant and chokingly strong. Still, at just $6 a bottle, it's not too big a risk to try it and find out whether the smell is to your taste.
Other dry shampoos receive more mixed reviews. For instance, both Begoun and Derrick recommend Oscar Blandi Pronto Invisible Dry Shampoo (Est. $25 for 5 oz.) despite its high price. Derrick says its extra-fine blend of rice, oat, and tapioca starches goes on clear, without leaving any visible residue even on dark hair. She also notes that it's free of parabens, sulfates, and other synthetic chemicals, and it isn't tested on animals.
Despite these benefits, however, user reviews of Oscar Blandi Pronto range from mediocre to downright miserable. At TotalBeauty.com, users give it only 5.6 stars out of 10, saying it's overpriced, over-scented, and apt to leave a dandruff-like residue on hair. Reviewers at MakeupAlley.com are still less enthusiastic, giving the shampoo only 1.5 "lipsticks" out of 10. In addition to its high cost, they say, it's totally ineffective as a shampoo, sometimes even leaving hair greasier than it started out. Most users say it does indeed go on clear and has a pleasant, lemony scent, but these benefits aren't nearly enough to justify its high cost.
Psssssst Instant Spray Shampoo (Est. $17 for three 5.3 oz. cans) gets somewhat more positive feedback. Derrick says this dry shampoo gives her sister-in-law "enviable" hair with only one washing a week. Reviewers at Good Housekeeping are somewhat less enthusiastic. They find Psssssst easy to apply and brush out, and they say it makes hair look clean, with no visible residue. However, they also say it leaves their hair feeling powdery and dull, and it does nothing to add volume or hold hairstyles in place. And users at Drugstore.com, while generally positive about the shampoo's performance, complain that the can tends to depressurize and become unusable after a single spraying.
A final note for those who would like to try dry shampoo is that, according to Derrick, simple ingredients such as baby powder, cornstarch, or baking soda can do the job of a dry shampoo for a fraction of the cost. If you're interested in this DIY option, several videos at YouTube.com offer recipes and demonstrate how to use these homemade concoctions effectively.