In all likelihood, you have come to this page because you’ve had enough of oily hair and the embarrassment it can cause. A greasy scalp and hair looks and feels bad, and sometimes it even has a bad smell. Maybe you even have some extra acne around the hairline, and aren’t feeling so great about yourself. Time to fix all that and say goodbye to your oily scalp!
What’s causing all the grease?
Step 1 in solving the problem is understanding why it is happening in the first place. Sometimes a short-term hormonal change can be the root of the problem. Puberty, a thyroid problem, a pregnancy and even menopause can be the culprit. Generally, our hair gets less oily as we get older, but there are exceptions. In these cases, your body’s hormones trigger your scalp to produce more sebum (the natural oil produced by your scalp). For other people, the scalp just naturally produces a high amount of sebum throughout your life, and in many cases, using the wrong hair products can cause a problem that you can address easily through new habits.
If you suddenly develop this problem for no obvious reason, it’s a good idea to mention it to your doctor so that you can investigate any possible hormonal or other medical issues.
Otherwise, keep reading and you’ll learn a few tricks to help you win the battle against your greasy scalp.
The Cycle of Oily Hair
If you have oily hair, you may be locking yourself into a vicious circle by using practices that seem to work in the short term, but make the problem worse in the long run. It’s true, as you may have heard, that shampooing your hair too often can actually make your scalp greasier. Here’s how that works: In an attempt to get rid of the excessive oil in your hair, you attack it with shampoo, stripping all of the natural sebum from your hair in the process. Your scalp panics and works overtime to replace the lost oil. For some people, this response is more vigorous than it needs to be, and hair can start to look greasy again even before your lunch break. The next morning, you decide to use a clarifying shampoo or similar product to remove even more oil from your scalp, and your scalp likewise pulls out the big guns and produces more sebum than ever. This is not a war you can win.
Using harsher products or shampooing more frequently just makes the problem worse. So what should you be doing?
Breaking the Vicious Circle of Sebum Production
To break out of this pattern, begin by skipping your morning shampoo. If this sounds scary or even disgusting, don’t worry: keep reading and I’ll explain how to do this while still maintaining your usual standards of hygiene.
Take it slowly. If you have been shampooing your hair every single day, pick one day a week to skip shampooing. Choose a day when you can cover it with a hat or scarf, or when you’re not planning to go out anyway. Once this feels okay, take two days off per week. Work towards the ideal of always going two or three days between washes if you really want to get the problem under control. It may take a while, even several months, so don’t worry if it seems to take a long time. Try using products like hair powder or dry shampoo if it’s really looking oily. These products (which are discussed below) absorb some of the excess oil, but will not strip your hair and triggering your scalp’s panic response.
It’s also important to think about what kind of products you are using, even if you’re not quite ready to consider skipping shampooing yet. Your instinct has been to strip away as much oil as possible, and to use products with little or no moisturizing ingredients, and you may not condition at all. It’s understandable that you don’t want to add moisture and oil when there already seems to be too much of both. But actually you should be choosing products that balance your hair and scalp’s moisture. A super moisturizing, ultimate hydration shampoo or condition is not what you’re looking for, but conditioner and shampoo that offer light moisturizing will keep your hair and scalp from being stripped, and your scalp will not go into overdrive producing sebum.
Instead of skipping conditioner, just be sure that it doesn’t get on your scalp (the point of conditioner is to moisturize your hair’s ends, not the scalp) and also make sure to rinse it away completely. Choose a light weight conditioner, or a spray that you leave in (as long as you only use it on the ends) rather than an ordinary product. If it still feels like too much moisture, try using the conditioner before you shampoo instead of after.
Some Quick Fixes
Whether your oily hair is a chronic or a temporary issue for you, there are plenty of tips and products to make your life easier. Below are a few great ideas to help you cope with your greasy scalp and hair:
- Be sure that you are rinsing your hair very thoroughly after you use shampoo. That means that you should rinse for 30 seconds at the bare minimum. Leftover hair products that are not rinsed away can make you think that you have greasy hair when your scalp it not the culprit at all.
- Use cool water when rinsing your hair. The heat from water may stimulate sebum production in your scalp’s glands, but cool water can shut down this response. Cool water will also reduce hair damage by closing the cuticle. Hair dryers can cause the same problem. If possible, allow your hair to air dry, or at least use the lowest heat setting on your dryer. Heat causes the sebum glands to work faster.
- No Hands. Touching your hair with your hands, as well as brushing and styling it will stimulate those hardworking scalp glands to – you guessed it – produce more oil. So don’t handle your hair any more than you have to.
- Twice a month, wash with a clarifying shampoo or treatment. The gradual buildup of product can make your hair feel oily. Even if you are careful not to use too much product, it can really stick to some people’s hair. Clarifying treatments every couple of weeks can get rid of any traces of products or oil.
- Make friends with dry shampoo. You can use it to quickly soak up oil any time you feel like your hair is looking or feeling too oily, even throughout the day. You can also use it on the days you skip shampoo. Dry shampoo absorbs the oil as well as the odors that excess oil can cause, and it makes your hair look thicker and fuller at the same time.
- There are also hair powders that absorb oil that you can try. Sprinkle them on the roots of your hair, as close as you can get them to your scalp, and they will absorb grease for a long time. If your hair is a light color, you can use corn starch or baby powder, while cocoa works on dark hair. Hard to believe, but true. You can also buy hair powders that really put a stop to grease and give your hair more volume at the same time.
- Look for volumizing styling products if you have oily hair. These usually have fewer moisturizers and oils in them, so they will not add to the problem. Avoid any products that claim to enhance shine. Extra shine generally means extra oil.
- Make friends with your natural waves and curls. Straightening your hair with a flat iron every day will make it noticeably oilier. It is easier for the grease to travel down a straight path than a curvy one, so curls and waves will actually make your hair appear less greasy for longer.