Banishing Bad Hair Days since 1997!™

Dry Clean Your Hair: Instant Shampoo Formulas


Corn Starch

There are a wide range of reasons why you may not be able to wash your hair with water and your choice of cleansers.

On days when you can't use water, you can still remove dirt, debris, grease, oil or similar by dry cleaning your hair.

Dry cleaning your hair means you're simply substituting instant or dry shampoo formulas for water based products.

Dry shampoo is also known as instant shampoo and can range from a Do It Yourself (DIY) home formula to a sophisticated shampoo in a can or kit.

When your hair needs to be cleaned and water isn't available or desirable, an instant formula is the next best thing.

Dirty Hair Options

If you don't have access to water and suds or don't wish to dry clean your hair with an instant formula you can also opt to wear your hair in a ponytail, pulled up in banana clips or styled into a quick chignon bun to hide the evidence of your encroaching greasies.

The good news is that some hair styles like braids and buns actually hold better and style faster on "day old" hair so those hairstyles work great for dirty hair days.

Dealing With Bedhead Or Wild Cowlicks

Conair Blow Dryer

Grab a clean misting bottle to cure bad bed head hair, wild cowlicks or pillow bends. Fill the bottle with lukewarm water. Spritz the water lightly over the problem hair areas. Use a boar's head paddle brush and your friendly blow dryer to do some spot straightening.

If your hair is flat you can also use a round brush combined with the blow dryer to add fullness and turn ends up or under. If you wish to speed up the drying process use a metal core brush which retains heat.

Dry Crunchy Hair

If your aged hair feels dry and crunchy, add a few drops of leave-in conditioner to the lukewarm water in your misting spray bottle. Shake well. Mist lightly over the dry areas.

Blow dry using a paddle or round brush. When hair has been reshaped to your desired look blast over the entire head with the cold shot button or a cold setting.

Whatever you do, don't panic. Remember that giving your hair a day off from shampoo can actually offer a good rest for your roots.

Although some people have a hard time going a day without shampoo, when you can do it, your tresses will love you for it.

Shampoo Myths & Facts

Modern Bath

Cleansing hair with water and shampoo only became popular in the early 1900s due to the increase in air pollution from factories and other industries.

Modern plumbing which made water more readily available added to the overall popularity of daily hair washing with water and soap.

For many prior centuries hair was only washed when absolutely necessary and was avoided like the plague.

During the Middle Ages washing the hair with water was detested and considered an actual health hazard.

It's rumored that in the 18th century men and women actually carried antiseptic fluids on their person to help kills any bugs which might fall from their pest infested scalps.

Missing one or even two days of wet hair washing with warm water and your favorite shampoo is definitely safe when compared to ancient standards for hair care.

Eliminating Oil & Dirt Slicks

When your hair is a major oil slick you have several dry shampoo options. These will take a little more time but can still save you time.

1. Cornstarch For Your Hair

Conair Brush ProTech w/Smart Strip Tourmaline, Ionic & Ceramic Boar Bristle Vented Brush

Store some cornstarch in a glass jar in your bathroom. Keep in mind that cornstarch can be messy. Use as little as possible.

Pour a little cornstarch into a saucer. Dip the tips of your fingers in the powder and then dab on the oily areas of your hair. Fluff gently.

Use a paddle brush to remove. Don't forget to rinse the brush after use.

Cornstarch or any dry shampoo can be very messy. Remember that a little bit goes a long way so limit your use of the powder as much as possible.

While cornstarch will remove the oils and grease, it also tends to be somewhat drying. If your hair is naturally dry, consider other alternatives to prevent static electricity from forming.

A few drops of jojoba or Vitamin E oil rubbed into the palms of your hands and then smoothed over the tops of your strands will prevent frizz from the dry shampoo treatment. A dab of  a popular defrisant  will do the same thing for most hair.


Note: There are many great dry shampoo products on the market to try.

2. Alternative Aromatherapy Cornstarch Recipe

Pour 1/2 pound of cornstarch in a beautiful clean glass container that has a tight lid.

Place your favorite dried flowers or herbs on top of the cornstarch. Try lavender, dried rose petals, hibiscus or violets. I personally love dried rose petals for a fabulous aroma.

Close the lid tightly and let the mixture set in a dark cupboard for 2-4 weeks.

Remove the first batch of dried flowers and add new ones. You can also add your favorite dried herbs.

Use this fabulous aromatic mixture on your hair for a wonderful dry shampoo treat. You may be in a hurry but your hair will smell wonderful.

3. Cornmeal Or Cornflower

Keep some fine powdered cornmeal or cornflower in a glass jar in your bathroom. Remember that cornmeal is just as messy as cornstarch. Use as little as possible. Pour a little cornstarch into a saucer. Dip the tips of your fingers in the powder and then dab on the oily areas of your hair. Fluff gently. Use a paddle brush to remove. Don't forget to rinse the brush after use.

Rene Furterer Naturia

While cornstarch will remove the oils and grease, it also tends to be somewhat drying. If your hair is naturally dry, consider other alternatives to prevent static electricity from forming.

4. Aromatherapy Cornmeal Dry Shampoo

This recipe takes a lot more time than the simple cornmeal dry shampoo. The main benefit of this recipe is that it allows someone to "clean" their hair without water. This may be required due to recent plastic surgery to the face that prevent getting it wet or other similar situations.

This recipe will require the use of a food processor or blender to make sure that everything is well blended. Double the ingredients amounts of you have long or thick hair.

Add 6 ounces of coarsely milled corn flour to your blender. Add 20 drops of extra virgin olive or castor oil. Add 30 drops of lemon or grapefruit essential oil. Blend until well mixed.

Keep in mind that castor oil is very thick and may darken light hair. If you prefer, try the extra virgin olive oil as a good substitute. The lemon and grapefruit oil is wonderful for light hair but will not alter dark hair in any way. If you prefer, substitute rosemary oil for dark hair.

Corn Starch

Spread out a large beach towel or kneel by the side of the bathtub to contain the mess. Take small handfuls of the mixture and massage them gently into your scalp.

It's best to bend over to get the underneath section of the scalp. Separate the hair into sections and then massage one small section at a time.

After you have massaged the corn mixture into your hair use a all natural boar's head brush or a wide toothed comb to remove the excess mixture. Continue brushing and combing until all of the mixture is removed.

5. White Flour

This is similar to either the cornstarch or cornmeal. It can be very messy and would provide limited advantages on some hair.

If you're out of cornstarch, cornflower then by all means give good old fashioned white flour a whirl. Follow the same instructions that you would follow for the cornstarch or cornflower.

6. Flour Substitutes

Clay Powders

If you don't have cornstarch, cornmeal or white flour easily available you can experiment with similar substances.

One visitor wrote and told me that she had tried finely ground oat bran with good results on her light blonde hair.

Another visitor used wheat and oat flour with good results on her brunette hair.

If you are willing to try anything, head for the kitchen and try some of the following substitutions:

  • rice powder
  • rice starch
  • wheat powder
  • potato flour
  • oat flour
  • rye flour
  • buckwheat flour
  • chickpea flour
  • soybean flour

Although most coarsely-milled flour will work, couscous and semolina are also possible options. No guarantees that they will work but at least you will have a good time being creative.

7. Japanese Egg White Dry Shampoo

A hairstylist with a Japanese hairstylist told me that her mother and grandmother used a whipped egg white shampoo that was a little more work than the cornstarch remedy, but worked well.

Egg Whites

This recipe works well on all hair types since it only uses whipped egg whites.

Depending on the length of your hair separate the white from the yolk on two to four eggs. Take the whites and using a blender whip the whites until they form stiff peaks.

Using clean fingers or an old clean pastry brush apply the egg white mixture to your scalp and your strands. Massage the mixture gently into your scalp and strands for approximately 5 minutes.

Take an old but clean towel and a bowl of hot water. Dip the end of the towel into the water and then wipe the egg white mixture off or your hair. Repeat until you have removed all traces.

While this "dry shampoo" actually uses warm water, it does provide a gentle and suds free cleansing and softening. It is definitely not as quick as any of the other ingredients but it does work.

My Japanese hairstylist informed me it's possible to use just one egg and apply a small amount of this formula to just the scalp for oil build-up. This practice would save time by skipping the rest of the hair.

The best way to try this formula is to allow a lot of time the first time and experiment with the number of egg whites for your hair thickness and type as well as figuring out whether this dry formula is really worth all the effort. Only you can be the judge.

8. Egg Yolk Hair Masque

Egg Yolks

What do you do with leftover yolks? Save them in a glass jar in the refrigerator and on make a "hair masque" for your next long shampoo treatment.

For each egg yolk add 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) of a light carrier oil like almond, sesame or jojoba, 5 drops of rosemary, 3 drops of bay or Swiss pine and 1 dash of lemon, grapefruit or lemongrass oil. Multiply this recipe for each additional yolk added.

Add each egg yolk to the oil and mix well with a fork or wooden spoon. Add all the egg yolks to the carrier oil mixing completely.

Once you have a creamy egg and oil mixture add the rosemary and then the bay or Swiss pine. Mix well. Finish with the lemon or grapefruit splash at the end. Of course you can experiment with your favorite essential oils.

Sometimes I like to also add a dash of vanilla or Ylang Ylang which are two of my favorite scents.

Unbleached Cheesecloth

Apply this masque to freshly washed hair that is still damp. Leave the mixture on your strands for approximately 30-45 minutes. Wrap hair in a plastic shower cap or plastic wrap. Add a towel over the plastic to add a layer of warmth to help the mixture penetrate. Shampoo hair to remove the mixture.

9. Old Cheesecloth Technique

One of my great aunts was a big fan of cheesecloth. When I was a little girl I used to watch her wrap a piece of cheesecloth cut from her stash in the kitchen around her big antique paddle hair brush. She would then brush her hair while bent over.

My aunt claimed that the cheesecloth would remove dust and surface dirt and help to "dry clean" her hair.

She often substituted the cheesecloth treatment for a shampoo and her hair always looked healthy and shiny.

10. Dry Clay Mixture

Orris Root Powder

Powdered clay or kaolin can be used for a variety of beauty tasks from dry shampoos to face masks to full body packs. Experiment with the following "dry" options:

  • agar agar
  • white clay
  • red clay
  • green clay
  • powdered orris root


When you're pressed for time to clean your hair only your imagination stands in the way of creative cleansing.

Set some time aside every weekend to experiment and practice quick dry shampooing recipes and techniques so are prepared during a hair emergency. Then relax and punch in that snooze button one more time.

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- Revised Date: 06/16/11

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When blow drying hair always apply a protective leave in conditioner and hold nozzle at least 6 inches away from your scalp. Dry on lowest, coolest setting for extra protection.
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