oily hair

Managing oily hair

Some patients have oily hair.  They wash their hair 2-3 times a day and regardless, still 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.  Therefore, more washes, more dryness, more sebum produced on the scalp that slides down the hair shaft, hence oily hair.  Follow these steps for less oily hair:


  1. Try to not 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. Read about how shampoos remove oil and dirt from scalp in “The cowash myth.”


  1. Try to avoid blow dryers or use them on low cool settings and at half-arm length from the scalp to avoid further drying of the scalp.


  1. Try to avoid or limit the use of Alcohol, lemon, vinegar, tea rinses for oily hair. While these acidic solutions can close cuticles and give more shine, if applied to the scalp they will strip the scalp of oils therefore continuing the dry scalp-stimulated sebaceous gland cycle.  These solution, of too acidic, can harden the cuticle layer and cause breakage. Read more about hair pH in “What’s hair pH got to do with it.


  1. Use a mild shampoo that does not have a lot of fragrance or dyes. See a list of hypoallergenic, or low allergy shampoos in “Could you be allergic to your shampoo.” Anti-dandruff shampoos contain medication that can harshly strip oils and leave scalp and hair dry. Limit these shampoos to once or twice weekly as much as possible.
  2. You can try products that claim to remove residue, give an ultra clean, or are marketed primarily for oily hair.  Try to limit their use as they likely contain harsh detergents that will strip the 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.