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15 ways to refresh hair in between washes

15 Ways to Refresh Hair Between Washes (Even Without Dry Shampoo)

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Main Image – Live That Glow

That fresh blowout feeling is amazing (cue visions of bouncy-haired models working out of a salon).

But in reality, who has the time/money/energy to completely restyle hair more than a few times a week?

Which begs the question, how do you refresh oily, flat hair, frizzy ends or limp curls between washes?

And (gasp) even worse, how do you do it if you suddenly find yourself sans dry shampoo?

Luckily, I’ve had 37 years of a largely lazy hair routine to figure this one out and I’ve now got a full list of quick (and very easy) ways to refresh my hair in between washes.

And on top of that, I’ve interviewed hair experts, Sophia Tang, the founder of Nako Cosmetics, and Kate Ross, a hair specialist at Irresistible Me, to get their invaluable insights.



This is new, up-to-date information. We updated this article in April 2024 to add extra tips and remove outdated content.


1. Re-comb your parting

Pretty much the quickest, cheapest way to visually refresh roots left clean from greasiness.

Recombing your parting lifts roots, providing instant volume, and separates strands, which gives makes dirty hair look less noticeable.

Just comb your parting backwards towards the nape of your neck before letting it fall naturally back into place and then tousling with fingers.

Brush through the ends of hair to smooth any flyaways that might have crept in.


Image – Live That Glow


Ross agrees, saying, “Changing your part can instantly uplift your look and add volume where it’s needed most.”

“Refreshing your parting can instantly lift the roots, giving your hair a cleaner look and added volume, mimicking a freshly washed appearance,” adds Tang.


2. Dry shampoo

The second easiest (but not quite as cheap) way to refresh hair is also the most obvious for its instant degreasing, volumising properties.

Tang agrees, “A staple for extending the life of your hairstyles, dry shampoo absorbs oils and adds texture. Just ensure to use it sparingly to avoid buildup.”

“A quick spritz absorbs oil and gives your hair a fresh, clean appearance without water,” adds Ross.

To get the most out of your dry shampoo (without any of the stiffness or white residue), here are my top tips for applying:

  • First shake the bottle before spritzing from a 12-inch distance on the oiliest parts of my hair, working in sections. That means not just spraying your parting, but also lifting up hair about an inch on either side of it (and at the back of the head too) to give a quick spritz.
  • If you have a fringe, lift this up and give the underside a quick blast too, since this is one of the first places to show grease (thanks T-zone).
  • Finally, leave hair for a few minutes before gently massaging roots with fingertips to disperse any residue and add volume.

Finding the right dry shampoo for your own hair type is half the battle here.

For full-on day-4 hair or curly, thick or oily types the best dry shampoo I’ve found is IGK’s First Class Charcoal Detox Dry Shampoo which will soak up pretty much anything you throw at it. (And for our full thoughts on this day 4 hero, browse our review here).

If you can’t get your hands on dry shampoo though- or you’re worried about potentially harmful chemicals in them- fear not as we have some great tips for refreshing hair between washes even without shampoo below.

Read on!


3. Bronzer or highlighter

As anyone who has reached for their dry shampoo on an oily hair day to suddenly find it empty will know, this can be a bit of a bummer.

Luckily there are quite a few substitutes you probably have at home that will work.

The first of these is bronzer, translucent or highlighting powder (depending on your hair shade) as the talc-like powder will here help to absorb some oil.

Simply take a large blending or bronzing brush, swirl generously in the powder and dab onto roots starting with your parting first and then working through roots in sections.

Brush hair afterwards to tame any resulting flyaways and show your makeup brush some love by cleaning it afterwards.


15 ways to refresh hair between washes

Image – GalinaZhigalove/Adobe


Tang confirms, “Applying a bit of bronzer or highlighter to your roots or parting can add a shimmering touch, disguising grease and enhancing your hair’s natural colour.”

“Applying a bit to your roots can blend regrowth or grays temporarily, enhancing your hair’s overall glow,” agrees Ross.


4. Move your parting

Similar to point one, moving your parting is a pretty much instant (and completely free) way to increase volume and refresh limp-looking hair.

I do this at some point in the middle of the day most days by combing hair backwards before using the end of a hairbrush or fingers to trace a line elsewhere on the scalp and create a new parting.

“Switching your parting is an easy trick to hide greasiness and change up your style,” points out Ross.


5. Corn starch

Corn starch has excellent grease absorption properties, meaning it can do much of what a good dry shampoo can (just without the fragrance).

This makes it the perfect way to quickly battle oily roots if you’ve run out of dry shampoo.

Tang calls corn starch, “A natural and cost-effective alternative to dry shampoo, corn starch can absorb excess oil without leaving a heavy residue.”

“Just a little dabbed on roots absorbs oil as effectively as many commercial dry shampoos,” Ross confirms.

Most people have this in their kitchen cupboards and it can be applied with a bronzing or blending brush similar to step 3.

If you have very dark hair and you’re worried about corn starch leaving a residue, just mix it with a small amount of cocoa powder for an instant tint and to stick with the natural ingredients theme.

(Oh, and if you can’t find any corn starch, see if you’ve got rice starch instead. It will work just as well and is another great alternative to aerosol sprays and dry shampoo products).


6. Baby powder

Another dry shampoo-free way to degrease hair is baby powder.

Instead of applying with a brush though, use a small amount (think a teaspoon) and apply to roots in sections.

“Similar to corn starch, baby powder can absorb grease, but be sure to use it sparingly and blend well, especially on darker hair to avoid a dusty look,” offers Tang.

This tip is admittedly best for blonde hair types however, due to the risk of residue, so for degreasing other hair shades stick to tips 3 or 5.

“Great for lighter hair, it soaks up oil and adds volume but should be used sparingly to avoid residue,” Ross agrees.


15 ways to refresh hair between washes

Image – neonshot/Adobe


7. Blotting

“Just like your face, your scalp can get oily too. Blotting gently can remove excess oil without disturbing your style,” Ross claims.

Blotting papers are a must-have handbag product for anyone with oily skin, but if you’re worried about slightly greasy hair, papers can work here too (particularly for fine hair).

“Just as blotting papers work for skin, gently pressing a clean, dry cloth on oily hair sections can absorb some of the oil, providing a temporary refresh,” agrees Tang.

For best results, don’t just do your parting – also concentrate on your hairline and the sections near your parting.

Be warned though, this one isn’t for heavy-duty grease, which is better handled by dry shampoo or corn starch.


8. Backcomb

A tip that’s not great for the health of hair to be honest (but occasionally useful nonetheless) is backcombing hair around the hairline and parting.

This immediately increases volume and disguises any flatness/oily roots/thinning hair between washes.

“Backcombing sections of your hair can add volume and texture, making it look more lively and less flat from oils,” offers Tang.

Ross agrees, “Adding a bit of tease at the roots can lift your whole look, masking oiliness and flatness.”


9. The upside-down flick

If the thought of teasing hair (and the potential breakage) is a hurdle too far, instead boost volume by flipping hair upside down before tousling roots with fingers and flicking back up.

“Flipping your head upside down and fluffing your hair can instantly add volume and freshness,” says Ross.

Bonus volume points for adding dry shampoo while upside down.


10. Dry shampoo before working out

For keeping hair looking vaguely presentable even after a workout, dry shampoo hair before exercise so all that oil-absorbing goodness gets to work as you go along.

This has been one of the hair-changing hacks for me, keeping my locks looking vaguely presentable even after exercise (although sadly nixing my excuse to never work out again).


A review of IGK First Class Charcoal Detox Dry Shampoo

Image – Live That Glow


Tang says, “Applying dry shampoo to your roots before a workout can help absorb sweat and oil as they occur, keeping your hair fresher.”

While Ross points out, “Preventing sweat absorption before it starts can keep your hair looking cleaner, and longer.”


11. Blast roots with cold air

After exercise, use one of those hair dryers that every gym has that’s surgically attached to the wall and switch it to the cool setting.

Blasted on roots, cold air dries out any excess sweat without making hair look oilier.

Even if you haven’t been working out though, blasting roots with cold air will lift roots which instantly makes hair appear less greasy.

Ross also points out that, “Cool air helps to close the cuticles and refresh your scalp, making your hair look shinier and less oily.”


12. Toothbrush and hair spray

For frizzy, fluffy roots (especially in humid weather, after exercise or for dry, damaged hair- so all of the above in my case), use an old stylist’s trick involving a toothbrush and hairspray to comb through and slick down any wispy bits.

Tang offers, “A toothbrush sprayed with hair spray can tame flyaways and control frizz around your hairline, for a more polished look.”

To do this on the go, keep a travel-sized toothbrush or spoolie and mini hairspray can with you in your bag.


13. Embrace your curls

Of course, not everyone wants to smooth oily roots. Some prefer to embrace the texture that day 3 hair can bring, and this tip is a particularly great one for curly hair.

Tang points out that, “Curly hair can hide oil better than straight hair. Use this to your advantage by enhancing your curls with a curl-defining cream or mousse.”

If that’s you, pick an effective (but not sticky) texturiser spray to spritz through hair before using your hands to either twist or scrunch hair into beachy waves or curls.

As someone whose hair can vary between slightly wavy and pretty curly depending on how it dries, one of my favourite styling products is Ouai’s Wave Spray.


Ouai Wave Spray review

Image – Live That Glow


14. The posh pony

Instead of the Mrs Trunchbull-esque bun that’s easy to sport between washes, consider a slicked-back pony.

This takes advantage of the natural oils you get from second-day hair to create a sleek pony that looks like you wanted it that way in the first place.

Ross comments, “A sleek ponytail can conceal greasiness and elevate your style, especially with a little twist or accessory.”

“Pulling your hair into a high ponytail or chic bun can mask oiliness while giving you a sleek, sophisticated look,” Tang agrees.

For added smoothness, take advantage of the toothbrush and hairspray tip in step 9 to cut back on any frizz.


15. Hair perfume

And finally, nothing says ‘I totally have my life together’ (at least in beauty terms) like hair that smells fresh and out-of-this-world gorgeous.

So for a quick way to mimic a just-washed scent, top your refreshed locks with a specially-designed hair perfume like Gisou’s Honey Infused Hair Perfume.

Or for a (pretty much) free alternative, spritz some of your regular perfume on your brush before combing through hair, which should be less drying than applying alcohol-laden perfume directly to strands.

“Not only can hair perfume make your hair smell great, but some formulas also contain oil-absorbing and shine-enhancing ingredients,” Tang points out.


The takeaway

Et voila, sweeter smelling, degreased and volumised hair between washes, with or without dry shampoo!

How long you actually leave your hair between washes is entirely up to you, but just remember to use a good scalp scrub if you regularly wait a few days between washing. This will help to remove product buildup from oily scalps, meaning more volume and healthy hair growth.


Meet the experts

Sophia Tang is the founder of Nako Cosmetics.


Kate Ross is a hair specialist at Irresistible Me.


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Sally Underwood is a journalist, *serious* beauty fan, and Editor-in-Chief of Live That Glow. Formerly Editorial Director of one of Europe's largest newspaper groups, Sally has been a beauty obsessive since her teen years spent dragging her long-suffering (but immaculately-groomed) friends around every beauty counter in London. She now leads Live That Glow's editorial operations.

Expertise: Skincare, Body care
Education: University College London

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