Photo by Hail Ballantyne on Ballantyne Beauty

Dry Shampoo vs Hair Wash


Dry Shampoo vs Hair Wash? Aren’t they the same? They are dry shampoos. They can both be powder shampoos. What’s the difference?

Let’s talk dry shampoo.

Dry shampoo is not new. Dry shampoo actually originated in the 1940s, despite its popularity today. Back then, dry shampoo was commercially sold in a powder format through the Minipoo brand. Although it wasn’t exactly the same formula that you will find commercially today, Minipoo had the same purpose as the modern-day dry shampoo we are familiar with.

Dry shampoo’s primary purpose is not to clean your hair, despite what it may sound like. That’s why the term “shampoo” is misleading, but when there were less products on the market in the 1940s the term made sense. During it’s modern-day revival, the term stuck around. So if dry shampoo is not meant to clean, what is its purpose?

Dry shampoo makes your hair:

  1. Look clean
  2. Smell clean

Dry shampoo does not clean your hair.

So, how does dry shampoo work?

Dry shampoo contains ingredients that are highly absorbent to hide oil and make your hair look clean. In addition to the elimination of the appearance of oil build up, there is usually a fragrance that masks odor and makes your hair smell good as well.

The first dry shampoo, Minipoo, was made up of three ingredients- talc, magnesium carbonate and fragrance. With its modern-day revival, dry shampoo rarely has talc due to the possibility of contamination with asbestos. Talc that contains asbestos has been classified as “carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Common oil-absorbing agents in dry shampoo today include:

Corn starch, silica, tapioca starch, kaolin (a type of clay), aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, oryza sativa (rice) starch, avena sativa (oat) kernel flour, and the list goes on.

Fragrance is still very much a common ingredient found in dry shampoo products. Additionally, dry shampoo has a few more form factors than it did in the 1940s. You can now find dry shampoo in the form of an aerosol spray, an aerosol foam and even a paste.

So what is Hair Wash?

In 2016, before Hair Wash had its name, there were a lot of different product descriptions we played around with. Since dry shampoo was already defined in the industry, there were challenges around the perception of a powder shampoo that hydrated with water to become a liquid shampoo. It is a liquid shampoo, delivered in a different form. We tried powder shampoo, dehydrated shampoo and waterless shampoo. The difficulty we were facing with all of these terms was that it still did not imply the product actually cleaned the hair. “Hair Wash” however did imply cleansing. There is already face wash and body wash, so why not hair wash? It just made sense to us.

Breaking down the ingredients in Hair Wash, no oil absorbing ingredients are present. The ingredient list of Hair Wash contains surfactants, just like you would find in a traditional liquid shampoo. Primary surfactants in a shampoo formula are the ingredients responsible for the cleaning properties of a shampoo. There is more on that here in a previous post.

Read the Details:

Minipoo, The Original Dry Shampoo

Talcum Powder, by The American Cancer Society

Inside the Bottle: Shampoo