Do you find it difficult to deal with greasy hair? Greasy hair is a common problem that many people face but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are some simple ways to deal with it and the fix ultimately comes down to understanding why hair is oily.
This allows you to use the right products to treat the problem at the root—no pun intended!
What Causes Greasy Hair?
The substance that causes greasy hair is called sebum. This waxy, oily substance is the same thing that keeps your skin moisturized and acts to form a barrier against external irritants. Just as it protects your skin, it also helps protect your hair and keep it healthy.
Each hair follicle can act as a source of oil, and this is the primary reason that you can end up with greasy hair even if your skin itself isn’t particularly oily. There is a much greater concentration of hair follicles on your scalp and each one of these produces oil.
Genetic variance is another significant factor too, however. Some people just have oily hair while others will suffer from dry hair. Your genes control how much sebum each hair follicle will produce and this can even vary depending on where the follicle is located.
It’s possible to have oily skin but normal or dry hair and vice versa. It’s also possible to have both. Short of taking certain potentially risky medications like isotretinoin or high doses of vitamin A, it’s not possible to change how much oil your follicles naturally produce.
The best (and safest) method to treat greasy hair is to change how you approach washing and styling it.
1. Choose the Correct Shampoo
Shampoo emulsifies dirt, oil, and other debris so that water is able to remove these contaminants from your hair. The shampoo you use is the biggest factor in how much oil is left in your hair because oil doesn’t dissolve in water. If your shampoo doesn’t work effectively enough, it won’t remove enough oil and it will just build up and lead to greasy hair.
While many shampoos are designed to market to consumers looking for gentle cleansing, this isn’t the right product for someone with greasy hair. Using this kind of shampoo allows oil to build up even with frequent shampooing and the use of styling products compounds this further.
The best shampoo to use if you have oily hair is either a shampoo designed for oily hair, or a clarifying shampoo, which is actually close to the same thing anyway. These shampoos can be drying when used inappropriately but this is an unlikely issue if you have greasy hair.
Choosing the correct shampoo for oily hair is important. Using it correctly is just as important.
If you only ever shampoo your hair once, you’re doing it wrong even if you have dry hair. The first shampoo mostly serves to open the hair cuticles and break surface tension from natural oils and any products used so that you can clean your hair more effectively.
It is the second application that actually does the bulk of the work of cleaning your hair. Always wash your hair twice using shampoo. If you have very oily hair, you can even add in an additional wash to make a regular shampoo more effective. This isn’t necessary if using a clarifying shampoo though.
2. Always Condition Your Hair
Conditioner is a moisturizing agent so it’s technically oil-based. So why would you want to add oil back onto your hair after you’ve just managed to strip it off? The answer lies in how your scalp reacts to cleaning.
Your body always wants to maintain homeostasis. Whenever you strip oil off your skin or scalp, your follicles react by ramping up the production of sebum to prevent dryness.
You may have noticed a similar effect if you’ve used products like lip balm or hand moisturizer and stopped at any point. There’s a period where your skin will constantly feel dry until it begins to adapt. Frequent moisturization reduces sebum production in your follicles because they think they’ve already done their job.
It’s the same for your hair. While shampooing with a stronger shampoo or washing your hair more frequently is the single most effective way to deal with greasy hair, this can cause a rebound increase in oil production. Not washing your hair isn’t the answer either though because then you still end up with greasy hair.
The best way to deal with this problem is to always condition thoroughly after washing your hair to prevent your follicles from working overtime to return to an oily state. This also helps to make your hair feel great because you do need some oil to protect and nourish it.
A good conditioner is not only lighter than your hair’s natural oil but it also doesn’t cause your hair to clump and look dirty. This is because sebum is a complex mix of fats, waxes, dead skin cells, and other things while conditioner is designed to moisturize hair without making it look greasy.
If you have greasy hair and don’t condition because you’re worried it will only contribute to the problem, stop. Use a strong shampoo. Strip most of the oil out of your hair. Then, condition it thoroughly with a decent conditioner and keep this up for 1–2 weeks.
There will be an adjustment period of overall increased oiliness but after a few days, your follicles will start to produce less oil once they stop thinking your scalp isn’t moisturized properly. To help this process, try to massage the conditioner into your scalp during washing to ensure that your scalp is adequately moisturized as it’s scalp dryness and not hair dryness that determines oil production.
3. Shampoo Frequency
Your shampoo frequency is another factor in causing greasy hair and can be used to eliminate it too. Shampooing too frequently to the point that your scalp experiences dryness and irritation leads to increased oil production because your follicles are trying to compensate for this.
At the same time, shampooing too infrequently can easily lead to greasy hair because it allows time for products and natural oil to build up. This leads to clumping and other problems that can make your hair look terrible.
Most people respond best to shampooing every second day and this is true if you have greasy hair too. If your hair is extremely oily, you may need to wash it every day to keep it from becoming an oil slick but in many cases, the true problem is the use of the wrong shampoo or improper washing technique, to begin with.
Always use a strong shampoo on oily hair. Shampoo twice, taking extra time to massage the second application from roots to tips, and also massage your scalp with it. Then condition well. Do this every second day.
You only need to increase your shampooing frequency if the amount of oil in your hair doesn’t stabilize after 1–2 weeks of doing this. You won’t really know whether it’s working straight away because of the adjustment period and you may have assumed that you needed to wash your hair every day in the past because of this and other factors like not conditioning out of fear of making the problem worse.
4. Dry Shampoo For Oily Hair
Dry shampoo is a quick and easy way to remove excess oil from your hair without having to go through all the time and trouble of washing it. This doesn’t make it a replacement for real shampoo but it can be a good spot-treatment between washing.
It should only be used in situations where it’s really necessary though, or occasionally as a way to improve the appearance of your hair if you don’t have time to shampoo it. Overuse exacerbates greasy hair and also leaves additional product buildup that can make washing less effective afterward.
5. Check Product Use to Avoid Oily Hair
The types of hair products you use, and hair frequently you use can lead to greasy hair or make an existing problem worse too. This is because product buildup in your hair needs to be removed by your shampoo too. Each wash can only remove so much from your hair and excess product use leaves more oil in your hair after shampooing.
In some cases, the way you use products can be the actual cause of excess greasiness. In most cases, it’s just one more thing contributing to having greasy hair. It still needs to be looked at though as part of a holistic treatment addressing all factors that can cause oily hair.
If you absolutely must use large amounts of product to get your hair to look the way you want, you need to use a clarifying shampoo every time you wash your hair because nothing else will strip out all that product and oil properly. If you can change or reduce the products you use though, that’s even better as it makes it easier for your shampoo to do its job.
You may even find that cutting down on products or following the other tips in this article for shampoo choice and use may reduce your need to use as much product anyway. If you’re using hair products to compensate for having oily hair, treating the problem properly can reduce the amount of product you need.
Greasy hair can be annoying but it’s not the end of the world. Some people just have oilier hair than others and that doesn’t mean you can’t make your hair look and feel good. You just need to adjust the way you wash and care for it to ensure that you’re not feeding into the problem.