Hair Sanitizer Is the Sister Product of Dry Shampoo, But Can It Ruin Your Hair?

It's essentially hand sanitizer, but, you know, for your hair.

Hair Spray
Photo: Getty Images

Since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, hand sanitizers have become a hot commodity in the beauty and wellness industries. According to a Wall Street Journal article, in 2020 alone, hand sanitizer sales increased by 600%, and market researchers predict that the hand sanitizer market will become a 17 billion dollar industry by 2026.

Consider it a hand sanitizer renaissance, if you will, where society is re-recognizing the importance of this product.

But recently, we learned of a new kind of sanitizing product: hair sanitizer. As the name suggests, it's essentially hand sanitizer, but for your hair. And it promises to rid the hair bacteria with alcohol-based formulas.

Naturally, we have many questions, like are sanitizers good for the hair? Are they necessary? And how does it differ from dry shampoo? If you're as equally confused as we were, keep reading because we tapped trichologists to answer all of our questions about hair sanitizers.

What Is Hair Sanitizer?

"Hair sanitizer is an antimicrobial (an agent that kills microorganisms or stops their growth)product that will help shield the hair and scalp from bacteria and germs," says Gretchen Friese, a certified trichologist at BosleyMD.

While the concept of antibacterial haircare isn't a new topic, hair sanitizing sprays are a newer iteration. A quick search in Google, however, will offer product results suggesting it's gaining popularity.

Admittedly, bacteria getting stuck in the hair isn't a huge issue. Friese explains our bodies naturally produce specific antimicrobial peptides that help the follicle maintain a regulated mix of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. However, it is possible for pollutants and bacteria to get stuck in the hair causing dullness or greasiness.

Disinfecting the hair can also help with other hair concerns. "It's usually formulated to disinfect your hair and scalp to get rid of germs, bacteria, and fungus that can cause scalp issues such as itchiness, dandruff, and possibly scarring that can result in hair loss," says Friese.

We first learned about hair sanitizer after the recent launch of the R+Co BIO DOME Hair Purifier + Anti Pollutant Spray ($24, Brand founder and creative director at R+Co, Howard McLaren, says the pandemic has made consumers more aware of bacteria, viruses, and pollution, so this spray was created to help address these concerns.

McLaren says that hair sanitizers help eliminate bacteria, viruses, pollutants, and unwanted odors in the hair with their antiseptic actives. The BIO DOME Hair Purifier, in specific, is also formulated with natural juice extracts and vitamins to offer additional benefits, like softness, shine, and hydration, he explains.

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How Do Hair Sanitizers Differ From Dry Shampoo?

If you're a fan of dry shampoo, then you're probably wondering what's the difference between the two. "Hair sanitizer helps to kill bacteria as dry shampoo soaks up oils to help give volume and extend hairstyles," says Friese. Additionally, dry shampoo can come in multiple formats such as powders, foams, and sprays whereas hair sanitizers mainly come in spray form.

Are Hair Sanitizers Bad for Your Hair?

Friese admits that alcohol can be very drying to the hair. However, if paired with nourishing and moisturizing ingredients, it can balance out those harmful effects. While it shouldn't be replaced for traditionally washing your hair, it can be useful during those dire moments where you need to clean your hair but may not have time to wash it.

"The alcohol found in BIO DOME is balanced with moisturizing ingredients so it won't damage the hair or cause dryness," says McLaren. "Some of the ingredients include aloe juice, vitamin E, panthenol, glycerin and glycolic acid which, in addition to providing moisture, helps strengthen the hair and prevents breakage."

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Who Can Use Hair Sanitizer?

Hair sanitizers formulated with additional hydrating ingredients can be used by all hair types, especially those who don't frequently wash their hair or need a quick fix, says Friese.

"As long as the hair sanitizer spray is lightweight, then it can be ideal for all hair types, including thin and fine hair textures," adds Shab Reslan, a certified trichologist and hair expert. But ultimately, like all things in beauty, it's all about evaluating your needs and using products best for you and your hair.

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