15 Ways to Refresh Hair Between Washes (Even Without Dry Shampoo)
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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 36 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.
Here are my top 15 tips.
This is new, up-to-date information. We updated this article in June 2023 to add extra tips and remove outdated content.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.
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.
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.
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 for to tame any resulting flyaways and show your makeup brush some love by cleaning it afterwards.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Not a tip that’s that 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.
For some quick tips to do this without completely destroying hair in the process, there’s a pretty comprehensive (and useful) guide here.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
14. The posh pony
Instead of the Mrs Trunchbull-esque bun, it’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.
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.
Just be warned, since perfumes do by nature contain some alcohol (which can potentially dry out hair), make sure to keep up the conditioners as well.
Et voila, sweeter smelling, degreased and volumized 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.