Having an oily scalp can be so frustrating—you’ll wash your hair in the morning and later that night, look in the mirror only to wonder how it’s possible that your strands already look greasy. But that isn’t a sign that you should be washing your hair more frequently; in fact, it might be the exact opposite.
“A normal, healthy scalp is constantly producing sebum, a thick waxy substance that is also our body’s natural moisturizer,” explains hair transplant surgeon Dr. Craig Ziering. Usually, the excess oiliness occurs when we overproduce sebum. That said, it can be hard to suss out the cause of an oily scalp because, as trichologist Bridgette Hill explains, “all abnormal scalp conditions result from one or a combination of these factors: genetics, lifestyle, diet, hair styling habits, environment, health, stress, hormones, and medications.” When it comes to managing an oil-prone scalp on a day-to-day basis, remember these nine tips from Ziering and Hill:
1. Work on training your hair to be washed less. “Skip a daily wash,” Ziering suggests, explaining that in the beginning it will be hard but will ultimately help “break the cycle.”
2. For fine hair, try conditioning first. “Apply conditioner 10 minutes before you shampoo to dry, dirty hair—[then] shampoo, and rinse. This allows the hair fiber to receive the humectants, lipids, and proteins necessary to keep the hair healthy from conditioning, while preventing any additional buildup on the scalp,” Hill says.
3. In lieu of frequent shampooing simply rinse your hair with water. “Rinsing will remove topical debris and water-based hair products,” Hill advises, noting that this is particularly nurturing for coarse, wavy and curly textures.
4. Choose dry shampoos carefully and look for ones with hydrating properties, so you don’t overly strip your scalp of necessary oils.
5. Use products that have good-for-your-scalp ingredients like clay, peppermint, apple cider vinegar, zinc, and witch hazel.
6. Try to limit touching and running your fingers through your hair. “We have oils on our fingers that can make hair look greasier,” Ziering warns.
7. Even with an oily scalp—beware of over-drying ingredients. Ziering says: “Sulfates and alcohol are too harsh and have a tendency to strip too much moisture out of the hair and scalp.”
8. Brush your hair each night so oil does not “pool at scalp,” Ziering recommends.
9. Exfoliate the scalp with a scrub to “keep the surface clean and clear of dry skin cells and oil buildup,” he add.
Fortunately, as scalp health becomes something more people are aware even exists, the amount of useful products to choose from just keeps growing. Here are some of our favorites that make managing an oily scalp NBD.
1. Headquarters For Oily Roots & Scalp Nourishing Mist
Headquarters is a buzzy new brand that targets the condition of your roots and scalp. And this nourishing mist is the fourth and final product designed specifically for oily scalps. (There’s also a scrub, shampoo, and conditioner, if you want to try them all.) It’s tempting to totally avoid extra product if you tend to get oily, but the truth is, your scalp needs nourishment, too. Each spritz provides nutrients, while protecting the scalp from pollution.
2. Philip B. Peppermint Avocado Scalp Scrub
A bevy of botanical ingredients come together to work their magic in this resetting scrub. Sea salt exfoliates, while arnica flower extract and witch hazel water soothe and balance. Finally, peppermint and eucalyptus oils purify and invigorate—all while making your shower smell like a spa.
3. Rene Furterer Curbicia Purifying Clay Shampoo
Like the clay masks you’re used to—but this time for your head—this rhassoul-packed shampoo also contains thyme, rosemary, and clove essential oils which work together to enhance volume and shine. And (bonus!) it will help extend time between washes.
4. Sunday Riley Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum
This formula is as power-packed (with doctor-recommended ingredients) as your fave Sunday Riley facial serum. Doesn’t your scalp deserve that kind of high-quality treatment? Glycolic and salicylic acids exfoliate and manage sebum buildup, rose clay absorbs oil and balancing zinc gets to work while you let the product sit for up to 30-minutes. Once your phone timer dings, you could rinse and then shampoo as usual—or skip right to conditioning.
5. Moremo Caffeine Biome Shampoo
This Korean shampoo is filled with unexpected ingredients like caffeine and probiotics to balance the scalp’s microbiome and manage excess oil. It also has cooling tea tree oil which delivers the most delightful refreshing feeling.
6. Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment Serum
Both oily and flaky scalps will benefit from Briogeo’s ultra-lightweight scalp serum, which uses binchotan charcoal and tea tree to absorb oil, and get rid of impurities, buildup and flakes. Witch hazel balances oil production and the addition of biotin is generally beneficial for hair health.
7. Kristin Ess Deep Clean Clarifying Shampoo
When you need a deep clean, turn to Kristin Ess’s affordable Clarifying Shampoo, which works to remove mineral deposits, product, excess oils and silicones—all of which can build up over time.
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