Another day, another controversial beauty horror story. This time, it involves two things very close to many women's hearts: hair and dry shampoo. A woman in the U.K. by the name of Nicole Baxter is making headlines after she claimed she developed a bald spot from using dry shampoo. She posted a lengthy status update about the incident on Facebook, which quickly went viral. "Anyone who uses dry shampoo, please continue to read..." she starts out. And, seeing as the post has upward of 30K shares now, a lot of people tuned in. Baxter goes on to explain that she went to her doctor at the end of last year after noticing significant hair loss. "I had wee red sores and blisters all over my scalp and a terrible burning sensation all over my head — to the point where I would wake up several times a night due to the discomfort/pain," she writes. Upon visiting a dermatologist, she was diagnosed with triangular alopecia. Her doctor informed her that she would have to get a scalp biopsy and forgo using any hair products — which included her dear dry shampoo. Fast-forward a couple months after the initial diagnosis, and her scalp improved significantly. "[The doctor] compared my scalp today to the pictures that were in my file from February, and asked what had I done differently in the last six to seven weeks that may have helped it," she explains. "I told her I'd stopped using dry shampoo and that was it, nothing else different. You [have] thought a lightbulb went off in the woman's head. She said it's the best thing I could have done for myself." She ends the message with this statement: "Moral of the story: Dry shampoo caused me to now have this bald patch on my head (which I still have and it may or may not grow back, but nothing can be done) and a terrible scalp for ages," she writes. "Just wash your hair, people! It is not worth having this awful patch that I might be stuck with on the side of my head, all because I can't be arsed to dry my hair."
The question you're probably asking now is: Could there be any validity to her tale? The substance can cause buildup and affect your scalp health over time if used in excess, which is why cleansing your hair thoroughly and regularly is so important. "When you're cleansing, you're removing dead skin, germs, and bacteria," Francesca Fusco, MD, an NYC-based dermatologist, told us back in January. "The skin on your scalp is an extension of the skin on your face... If your face was oily and dirty, you wouldn't just powder it. You'd wash it." But could ditching your regular shampoo for the dry version actually cause your hair to fall out?
William Yates, MD, a board-certified hair-restoration surgeon in Chicago, says that although he hasn't come across any dry-shampoo-related incidents, it's a possibility. "In extreme circumstances and used excessively, dry shampoos could actually cause damage and thinning or balding," he tells us. "Dry shampoos absorb the excess oil on the hair shaft produced by the sebaceous gland. If overused, it could cause the hair to dry and break more easily, leading to thinning and possible balding." If you're not seeing bald spots, but are noticing more hair fall than usual, that could be a result of the dry shampoo disrupting your natural shedding process. "Like hairspray, [dry shampoo] holds the hairs against your scalp," Ken Anderson, MD, founder and director of the Anderson Hair Sciences Center, told us in January. "If it makes [the hair] sticky, it could tangle the hair, causing you to inadvertently pull some healthy hair out when you brush." Dry shampoo can also keep your normal shed hair against your head instead of allowing it to fall out naturally. So when you get in the shower, you might see more hair come out — even though you're not losing any more than you usually are, Anderson says.
Though Baxter didn't call out a specific dry shampoo by name, she did include a picture of Batiste's version, which led many to assume it was the source of her issue. Here's what the brand had to say about the incident: "Batiste Dry Shampoo is committed to producing quality products, which are used every day by millions of loyal customers globally. We would like to assure our customers that all Batiste Dry Shampoo products comply with all government regulations. As with any beauty product, use only as directed and discontinue use if any sensitivity occurs." So, we're not saying you should swear off dry shampoo forever — but it is important to make sure your scalp gets the love it needs in the form of regular cleansing and some good ol' exfoliation. "Dry shampoo certainly has its advantages and can be used intermittently for people with very oily hair," Dr. Yates says. "However, it should not be relied upon as the sole method of cleansing."