We all have struggles with our hair, but one of the most frustrating and exhausting issues you can experience is chronically oily or greasy hair. We work so hard to make our hair shiny, bouncy and lush, but some of us can’t get away from limp, thin and greasy hair, clinging and clumping together. Not only that, the regimens advised for solving this common problem can be elaborate, messy and often contradict each other!
What’s a greasy haired guy or gal to do? Well for one, it’s important to know the root causes of the problem. Then, there are some lifestyle tricks and homespun remedies that work great for a lot of people. And finally, there are some solid products out there with us in mind. Stay tuned.
What causes oily hair?
Oily hair is caused by overactive sebaceous glands. These are the glands that naturally lubricate the entire outside of the body, namely the skin and hair. They are found everywhere on the skin, except the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Sebaceous glands secrete an oily, waxy substance called sebum, which waterproofs and protects the skin and hair, keeping them supple and healthy. The idea of sebum may be gross, but it’s good stuff. Think of it as the body’s natural conditioner or lotion.
And yet, to be covered with an excessive amount of conditioner or lotion would be icky, and that’s the equivalent of what’s happening with overactive sebaceous glands. And that’s exactly what’s happening in people with greasy or oily hair. It’s also the same thing that’s happening when people suffer from acne problems.
Hormones can cause overactive sebaceous glands, so oiliness can be a problem during adolescence and during pregnancy. But for the most part, it’s just the way some of us are wired. It’s also common among people with fine hair, since they typically have more hair follicles on the scalp, and therefore, more glands.
There’s one more thing to note, however. Oily hair isn’t always from excessive sebum. Sometimes it’s excessive…other stuff. Namely, hair product. Sometimes our best efforts to have beautiful, lustrous hair can backfire. Beauticians often find that when people come in complaining of oily hair, it’s often due to an accumulation of hair product or heavy conditioner and shampoo.
Prevention and treatment
If your problem is this latter scenario, you’ll notice it because your scalp may be quite dry, but the strands of hair themselves will be heavy and greasy. In this case, your solution is simpler than others. For one, lay off the moisturizing shampoos, conditioners and hair products. Then, treat the hair with a clarifying solution, either a store bought super clarifying shampoo or a homemade treatment. These will work for any kind of oily hair, but in the case of too much buildup one good soak can wash away the gunk.
Tea tree oil is a great natural remedy for this problem. Mixing a bit into water and rinsing hair in the solution can be very effective. A mixture of two tablespoons vinegar to one cup of water can be effective. Also try alcoholic drinks (I know it sounds weird), a few tablespoons of booze mixed with water, or diluted tea, which contains an astringent.
Another tip for cutting back on oiliness is going easy on brushing the hair, and switching to a hair pick instead of a comb or brush. A pick will untangle the hair while minimizing the spread of oil.
Finally, if it’s a persistent problem, see a dermatologist. There can often be underlying health issues that lead to oily hair. Rule them out first before throwing every trick in the book at your poor hair.
Oily Hair Shampoos
Unless you’re trying the bold but trendy approach of ditching shampoo altogether, the fact of the matter is that, oily hair or not, you probably gotta keep shampooing your hair. And while some claim that scaling back on shampooing will actually reduce the hair’s oiliness, that’s not a great option for a lot of people and it’s disputed. You might want to try shampooing just every other or third day, but even taking that approach, it’s crucial to find the right shampoo.
It’s also very irritating, sifting through the sea of marketing, flashy labels and celebrity testimonials to get to the truth of what a person with oily hair should be using. There are, however, a few guiding principles that should help to find a product that’s right for you.
First off, look for shampoos that are clear. I know it sounds simplistic, but shampoos that are opaque or creamy often have conditioning ingredients that can contribute to oiliness. See, people on the other end of the spectrum are trying to rejuvenate and repair their dry hair, and many products are, labeled that way or not, actually adding moisture and oils. On that same note, avoid shampoos with never-ending lists of ingredients.
You’ll also want to look for shampoos with a high pH (this is how acidic or basic a liquid is). Most hair needs a shampoo with a pH between 4.5 and 6.7, but oily hair should be treated with a more basic, or alkaline shampoo, higher than 6.7. Most shampoos labeled for oily hair should have such a pH.
This may seem obvious, but avoid shampoos that are advertised as hydrating, moisturizing or smoothing. Instead, you want to seek out words like volumizing, strengthening or balancing.
Daily clarifying shampoos, or for times when oily hair is out of control, a super clarifying treatment can be effective. But don’t use such products too often. When you dry your hair and scalp out too much, it actually torments those little sebaceous glands into running overdrive, swinging the pendulum back into the oily end of the spectrum. Remember, you’re not trying to eradicate all oil from your hair; it’s all about finding the right balance.
Another set of magic words to seek out when hunting for your perfect shampoo are tea tree oil. We’ve discussed the benefits of this above, but many shampoos include this magical substance, which for many people absorbs oil naturally without irritating the sebaceous glands.
One important thing to keep in mind, you should buy small sample or travel bottles first. Trial and error is, unfortunately, important to striking the right balance. Here are a few shampoos that hair care specialists have recommended:
1. Phyto’s Phytopanama Daily Balancing Shampoo for Oily Scalp
This balancing shampoo is a favorite, as it regulates excessive sebum production without sending the glands into mass production mode. Key ingredients are oils from the bark of the Panamanian Quillaja tree, as well as juniper berry oil.
For conditioner, the Phyto Phytobaume Volume Express Conditioner is solid, with its total absence of silicone.
2. Whole Foods 365 brand shampoo in Herbal Mint.
For one, it’s a great deal. But it’s also very light and clear so won’t weigh down the hair.
3. Aveda’s Scalp Benefits Balancing Shampoo.
Aveda makes high quality products all around, and this well-rated shampoo is all about cleaning the hair down to the root and removing excess buildup of sebum.
4. Neutrogena Shampoo, Anti-Residue formula.
Also very affordable, Neutrogena is all about pure and clean treatments. This shampoo is crystal clear with only ten ingredients. It’s recommended for use just once a week in place of usual shampoo. Very powerful.
5. Suave Daily Clarifying Shampoo for Normal to Oily Hair.
Some of these are downright criminal in price, but this option is not one of them. Suave is available and affordable to anyone, and this clear, simple, popular and highly rated shampoo is a great standby for people with oily hair.