Oily Hair

How oily is your hair? How often should you wash your hair? Get some answers as to why your hair seems to produce more oils even when you’re washing diligently!

What’s the Deal

Some patients have oily hair. They wash their hair 2-3 times a day and regardless end up with weighed down, oily-appearing hair. A common misconception is that if the hair is oily, you must wash it more often. The truth is, the sebaceous oil glands in the scalp are producing too much oil or sebum. The sebaceous glands are stimulated by hormones, stress, dry skin, and detergents. While washing your hair to remove the sebum seems like a quick fix, the dry scalp left behind after shampooing stimulates the sebaceous glands to coat the dry skin with sebum. Your body is extremely adaptive and will learn to compensate and even over-compensate for this resulting dryness. Therefore, more washes, more dryness, more sebum produced on the scalp that slides down the hair shaft, hence oily hair.

Tips for Less Oily Hair

Follow these steps for less oily hair:

  1. Wash Hair Less. Although it’s tough at first to get used to less washing, avaoid the temptation to continually remove your natural oils. Try not to wash the hair and scalp any more than 2-3 times a week. Frequent shampooing will strip away sebum and stimulate sebaceous glands to overproduce oil as a result.  
  2. Avoid High Heat. Try to avoid blow dryers or avoid their high-heat options. Try using them on low cool settings at a half-arm length from the scalp to avoid further drying of the scalp.
  3. Limit Use of Acidic Products. Try to avoid or limit the use of Alcohol, lemon, vinegar, or tea rinses for oily hair. While these acidic solutions can close cuticles and give more shine to the hair shaft, when applied to the scalp, they will strip the scalp of oils only continuing the dry scalp-stimulated sebaceous gland cycle. These solutions, too acidic, can harden the cuticle layer and cause breakage.
  4. Use a Mild Shampoo. Your shampoo should not have a lot of fragrance or dyes. Common anti-dandruff shampoos contain medication that can harshly strip oils and leave both the scalp and hair dry. When possible, limit these shampoos to once or twice weekly.
  5. Don’t Strip Your Natural Oil. You can try products that claim to remove residue, give an ultra-clean, or are marketed primarily for oily hair. However, try to limit their use as they likely contain harsh detergents that will strip all oils.

These few steps will prevent the sebaceous glands from overproducing sebum and allow a check and balance between the moisture content of the scalp and the amount of oil produced. If you continue to struggle with an oily scalp and oily hair, don’t forget that the scalp is skin and a board-certified dermatologist, especially one that specializes in the scalp and hair, can help you reset and balance the oils your scalp produces.