In recent years, it seems like every beauty blog and style site that mentions hair care and hairstyles has been advocating the use of one particular product with ever-increasing enthusiasm: dry shampoo. What used to be a niche product only a handful of beauty enthusiasts had encountered has now taken over store aisles, with all kinds of varieties promising to soak up grease and make our “second-day” hair look clean even after a trip to the gym. We’ve even heard stories of women stretching their time between shampoos to three, four, or even five days, so great is their faith in the power of dry shampoo to take care of the mess. Just one problem: while extended dry shampoo use might make things look clean and healthy, it can actually be doing the exact opposite. And one of the biggest issues with it is making the rounds on the Internet’s beauty rumor mill: dry shampoo causes hair loss.

So is it true? Is it just a rumor? Should we all chuck our dry shampoo bottles into the garbage right this second and add it to our list of products not worth the money? Here’s everything you need to know.

DOES dry shampoo cause hair loss?

The short answer? Possibly, but only when you use it to excess.

The longer answer? Like so many things, it depends on you: your skin type, your hair type, your scalp health, your dry shampoo use, and your regular shampooing routine. Dry shampoo is, at heart, an oil-absorbing powder, and build-up can irritate your scalp and weaken hair follicles which, in turn, can possibly cause hair to fall out. Dr. William Yates tells Refinery29:

In extreme circumstances and used excessively, dry shampoos could actually cause damage and thinning or balding [. . ] 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.

Basically, as long as you’re still regularly shampooing and cleaning your hair and scalp – the frequency will vary from person to person, but experts usually recommend at least twice a week – and not using dry shampoo to excess, you should be fine. How much is “excess?” Again, it’ll vary for each person, but generally, try not to use it more than twice a week, and use it only as a stop-gap guest in your routine, not as a replacement for correct shampooing.

Woman holding dry shampoo powder in her handapid via Deposit Photos

OK, so why is everybody freaking out about dry shampoo making people go bald?

The simple answer is that, in our ever-more-connected Internet age, it doesn’t take much for rumors to go viral and take on a life of their own, especially when it comes to our health and our beauty. This particular one seems to have started with a Facebook post by a U.K. woman named Nicole Baxter, which quickly started spreading across the social network. You can check out that original post here if you really want to, but the gist of it is that after being diagnosed with triangular alopecia, Baxter stopped using dry shampoo. When her scalp subsequently showed improvement, her doctor suggested her original problems stemmed from her dry shampoo use.

That’s it. So why did so many people take one woman’s individual experience and apply it to everybody? Part of it is that sometimes people just like to panic, but the OTHER, more important thing to know, is that sometimes dry shampoo use can make it look like your hair is falling out even when everything is normal. It’s all because dry shampoo is so sticky and because it builds up, making it look like your hair is falling out in one or both of two ways:

  1. You’re pulling out healthy strands when you brush.
    Sticky hair is tangled hair, and tangled, sticky hair is easy to pull out during a normal hair brushing. Hair that would normally and naturally – and healthily! – come out gets mixed up with a few extra strands, and the overall effect can make it seem like your brush is pulling out a ton of hair.
  2. Your shed hair is sticking to your scalp.
    We’re supposed to shed hair; it’s a perfectly natural process. The stickiness of dry shampoo, however, often means that those dead hairs are shed, but still stick to your scalp. They don’t actually come off your head until you wash your hair and remove the stickiness, and when that happens, it can seem like half of your hair is coming out in the shower. It’s NOT, though; you just had some build-up hair that would have otherwise come out gradually.

Combine those two common occurrences with an Internet rumor, and you can see why people bought into the “dry shampoo makes you bald” worries. The truth, as always, is a little more complicated.

Should we change our dry shampoo routines?

The ultimate verdict: Only use dry shampoo in moderation, and do not use it as a replacement for for regular shampooing. And friends? Wash your hair! It’s really that simple. If you’re shampooing regularly, you’ll wash away any dry shampoo build-up. We know there’s lots of debate over just how often one should wash her hair, but chances are you’re not doing as much damage as you think. Your scalp deserves regular cleaning and exfoliation, and a real wash is the way to get it. As dermatologist Francesca Fusco tells Refinery29, “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.”

So that’s what we’ll do. Wash your hair, use just a pinch of dry shampoo just twice a week, and live your fabulous life. Your hair, and your scalp, will be fine.