You know the drill if you’ve been dealing with an oily scalp for a long time. You wash your hair every morning, scrubbing your scalp relentlessly to cleanse it, and by the end of the day, your roots are feeling greasy again, and your hair falls flat. So what gives? Why do some of us seem more prone to oil production and grease issues on our scalp? What can we do to manage our scalp, so we don’t have to shower twice a day? This post outlines eight simple and effective ways to deal with an oily scalp that won’t damage its microbiome or your hair’s health.
The first step toward a solution is understanding the problem. Let’s talk about why oily scalps happen, there are several reasons you may be experiencing grease.
One of the most common reasons for an oily scalp may be related to your current hair care routine. The products and tools we use have a huge influence on the look and health of our hair.
Specifically, it’s important to check the ingredients label of your shampoo. Sulfates are found in many shampoos, especially traditional drug store products. Compared to other shampoo cleansers, they are far more effective in clearing away oil and build-up. As a result, your scalp may overcompensate, producing more sebum (the oil your scalp naturally produces) and quickly flooding your scalp with oil.
The tools you use also play a part. If you’re using heat tools too often, you may find that your scalp and hair become dry. A dry scalp means your sebaceous glands will work harder to produce sebum to moisturize your scalp, which sometimes means they work too hard resulting in an overproduction of.
It’s also important to regularly clean your styling tools to ensure you aren’t introducing more dirt to your scalp, contributing to that greasy feeling. Remember, some oil is good (and natural!). It gives your hair volume and coats and protects hair strands. When battling grease, the goal is to restore your hair’s natural and balanced oil production rather than completely stripping it of all oils.
When it comes down to it, some of us are simply more prone to oily skin, and that includes the skin on our scalp. Many variables impact our skin and scalp. Anything from the weather, to your gender, hair type, and hormonal changes can play a role.. For example, studies show that we’re all more likely to experience oily skin during the warmer months when humidity is high. Additionally, men typically have a higher sebum output than women do. However, women can experience spikes in sebum output as their hormones fluctuate.
Your hair type is also closely related to how oily or dry your scalp feels. People with thin, straight hair tend to have more oily hair, while thick, curly hair tends to be dryer. This is because sebum travels down the hair strand. If your hair is thin and straight, the sebum has an easier journey and you start to notice oily hair sooner, while curly hair tends to remain dryer as sebum doesn’t travel as easily down coily hair
Lastly, there are medical conditions that may contribute to oily hair.
Dandruff, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, is a common skin condition. When we’re experiencing dandruff, we’re also experiencing an overgrowth of a fungus called Malassezia.
This sends your scalp’s natural balance totally out of whack. Your sebaceous glands begin to overproduce sebum, and before long, you’re seeing a build-up of oil on your skin and scalp, and flakes on your shoulders.
No matter what’s behind an oily scalp, there are a few strategies that you can use to address oil and bring balance back to your scalp. It may take some experimentation to find what works best for you. Below are a few solutions we recommend.
If you’re dealing with build-up from seborrheic dermatitis, there is only one real solution: using a medicated dandruff shampoo. Many dandruff shampoos include the active ingredient Zinc Pyrithione, a natural antifungal ingredient that has decades of studies proving its safety and efficacy.
That’s why we chose it as the star flake-fighting ingredient in our Balancing Shampoo alongside other scalp-healthy ingredients like coconut oil, lavender oil, and squalane for an effective and heavenly-smelling solution. It works to minimize excess sebum, clear build-up, and leave your scalp feeling soothed.
While many traditional conditioners are formulated specifically for your hair strands, our Nourishing Conditioner has been specially formulated with the skin of your scalp in mind and should be used from root to tip.
It not only hydrates the hair, but also soothes and smoothes your scalp with key ingredients like probiotics and colloidal oatmeal. You can safely condition from root to tip - without the greasy residue.
The hair closest to your scalp will benefit most from your natural oil production. If you tend to notice greasiness closer to your roots first, focus on applying conditioner to your ends, where your hair may be receiving less of the natural oils produced by your scalp.
Medicated serums can be applied to either a damp or dry scalp and help to regulate scalp discomfort between washes..
One of the hardest parts about dealing with an oily scalp is feeling like you need to wash your hair every day. Seriously, who has the time for that?
Luckily, there are other solutions that will refresh your scalp and soak up some of that moisture in between washes. You’re probably familiar with dry shampoo that can be sprayed onto oily hair for a quick refresh that extends your wash a bit further. However, some dry shampoos can dry out your scalp and even have a flakey effect (which we’re definitely looking to avoid). Be sure to choose a scalp-healthy dry shampoo that does the job without sacrificing the health of your scalp and hair.
Another helpful solution for treating an oily scalp between washes is a scalp serum with an active ingredient. Our Restoring Serum is a leave-on medicated product that helps to control oil production on the scalp and soothes irritation from flaking, dryness, and redness. Medicated serums can be applied to either a damp or dry scalp and help to regulate scalp discomfort between washes..
Dryness is one of the principal motivating factors that contributes to sebum production. When we use ultra-hot water in the shower, we dry out our scalp and strip it of its natural oils. In response, your hair follicles produce even more sebum to compensate.
Try using lukewarm water, and even end your shower with a cool rinse for your hair (trust us, it’s refreshing). Cool water on your scalp and hair helps to lock in moisture and seal your cuticles.
We can’t necessarily prevent build-up from pollution, but we can take extra measures regarding our hair care tools.
Make sure you regularly clean your hairbrush, and any styling tools like straightening and curling irons. Dirt and oil living on your hair tools can wind up on your hair and scalp leading to irritation and buildup.
If buildup contributes to your oiliness, introducing a regular exfoliation is key. Using a quality scalp brush ahead of your shower can make all the difference. Our fingers alone can’t clear away all the dirt and oil on our scalps. You need something with bristles that can gently, but effectively clear out the build-up and leave your scalp fresh and ready to be shampooed. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much further your regular wash goes when you exfoliate first. Bonus, using a scalp brush feels amazing. Chemical exfoliants are also helpful in resetting your scalp and clearing it of debris. Our Purifying Mask does just that. Using the exfoliating power of volcanic ash, this soothing and cooling mask is a feel-good way to clarify your scalp each week.
Our last tip is maybe the hardest one, but it pays off. As much as possible, try not to touch your hair or scratch your scalp. Even with regular washing, our hands encounter so much dirt and oil on a typical day and regularly touching your hair can in turn make it oily and greasy. Additionally, scratching an itchy scalp can further irritate it leading to increased sebum production and flaking.
It’s never a bad idea to get an expert opinion. If you’re experiencing an oily scalp over several seasons (not just summer) or if none of the above methods provide meaningful results, it’s worth a visit to your dermatologist A dermatologist or trichologist can help diagnose medical conditions and provide insight into long-term treatment. Remember, your hair and scalp are parts of your body, just like any other, and can benefit from a proper medical diagnosis and treatment.
We know an overly-oily scalp can be frustrating, and hope that the tips shared here can bring some relief from scalp discomfort and promote back gorgeous, healthy-looking hair. Want to learn more about the products best suited for you? Take our quiz here.