8 Backstage Hacks Hairstylists Swear By

You might think there's one way and one way only to refresh oily roots: dry shampoo. And look — you’re not entirely wrong. But dry shampoo has its limitations (and complications). It can leave behind a whitish cast. It can make your hair feel stiff, dry, and starchy. And for really slick hair, it doesn’t always work.

Professional hairstylists — the ones who deal with grungy models, over-processed actresses, and punk cool musicians — know the world beyond dry shampoo better than anyone. Here’s how the experts actually deal with greasy roots, limp strands, and all the dirty-haired glory in between.
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Blot It Out
Clean & Clear sheets lift oil from your T-zone — so why wouldn't they also grab it from your greasy roots? That’s exactly what hairstylist Lacy Redway, who works with Olivia Palermo and Lupita Nyong’o, thought when she tried this trick for the first time. (Hairstylist Nunzio Saviano also swears by it.) Even better? You can get the same effect with paper towels.

"Just hold a sheet of paper towel in each hand, then sandwich chunks of hair in between, massaging the oil up and away from the scalp,” Redway says. This method is best for roots that are visibly greasy, not just a little flat.

Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets, $4.99, available at Target.
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Hit The Bottle
“If hair is really overloaded with product and impossible to style, I use an alcohol-based product designed to release the glue from wigs,” says hairstylist Christian Wood, who works with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Katy Perry. (Google “Lace Release,” or check out a beauty supply store for a similar product.) “Spritz it into the roots, then blot with tissue...[and] finish by drying the roots completely with a hairdryer and styling as usual," he says.

If that sounds scary, Redway also likes to spray Amika Bombshell Blowout Spray through dry hair and blowdry it for a similar effect.

Amika Bombshell Blowout Spray, $24, available at Sephora.
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Bring Back The Baby Powder
Hairstylist Kristin Heitkotter, who works with Kiernan Shipka and Camila Alves, still prefers old-fashioned baby powder over modern dry shampoos. “I like to sprinkle a small amount into half-inch sections around the hairline,” she says. Then, she uses a mixed bristle paddle brush — or some vigorous finger shaking — to rake away the powder. (Be prepared — that last step takes some work.)

Johnson's Baby Powder, $4.92, available at Walmart.
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Style Smart
Rather than fight the funk, hairstylist Adir Abergel, who styles Rooney Mara, works with it to achieve a ropey take on beach waves. Just divide your hair into four sections and loosely braid it before misting with salt spray.

“Blast the braids with hot air to set them, then allow the hair to cool down completely,” he says. When you take the braids out, you’ll have “beautiful, carefree texture that feels undone and sexy,” he says. Everyone will be so busy looking at your cool waves, they won't even notice your greasy roots.

Sachajuan Ocean Mist, $31, available at Birchbox.
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Hit Refresh
You might not have time for a shower, but you likely have time for the next best thing. “I like to spray a little water from the roots to the mid-shaft,” says hairstylist Michael Dueñas. “Don’t get it soaking — just a few mists will do.”

Then, he follows with a texturizing spray on just the damp zones. “The water helps disperse the oil in the hair, and the texture spray gives lift and body,” he says. Finish with a rough dry, then style as you wish.

Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray, $44, available at Birchbox.
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Try a Paste
Bobby Eliot, Hailee Steinfeld’s hairstylist, recently discovered R+Co Badlands, an innovative dry shampoo paste that uses volcanic ash to sop up oil. “Rub a pea-sized amount between your fingertips, then massage from the roots through the ends. It’s like the ultimate refresher, without any residue,” he says.

R+Co Badlands Dry Shampoo Paste, $28, available at R+Co.
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Disguise Your Roots
If your roots are growing in (and looking particularly shiny), hairstylist Chad Wood, whose clients include Shay Mitchell and Jaimie King, swears by this double-whammy.

The compact root-touch-up system not only stretches time between color appointments, but the matte powder also helps soak up some excess oil.

Color Wow Root Cover Up, $34.50, available at Ulta.
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Rethink Your Mousse
If you've only used mousse on damp hair, you're seriously missing out. A palmful of foam worked into dry, limp locks can actually bring them back to life. (We've seen it backstage and on photo shoots.)

Just work a dollop from roots to ends, allowing the hair to get a little damp with product. Then hit strands with a blowdryer to remove excess moisture. The heat-activated polymers prop up flat hair, leaving strands lush and lifted.

Tresemmé Extra Firm Control Tres Mousse, $4.99, available at Ulta.
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