Dealing with oily hair can suck you into a vicious, counterproductive cycle that includes near-
constant shampooing and manipulating — all in an effort to breathe some life into flat, weighed-down strands. It’s enough to make you want to give up and throw on a hat. Before you do so, know this: While it’s true that some hair types are more prone to oiliness, there are ways to make your hair look less greasy — and they involve certain products and tweaks to your hair care routine.
According to Devin Graciano, hairstylist and head of product development at
Goldie Locks, excess oil is a sign your hair is telling you something. “When you have overactive sebum production, it is your body’s way of signaling to you that something is off,” she tells Bustle. It could be that you’re using the wrong products or misusing the right ones. Something in your environment may be triggering an oily scalp, or it could be that you’re just genetically prone to oiliness. Your hair type can be a culprit too: Those with fine strands tend to struggle with greasy hair more often. Graciano explains that “fine” can refer to the number of hairs on your head or the actual circumference of those hairs — and both can be a problem when it comes to combating greasy locks because there’s less hair to absorb excess oil.
Whatever your hair type, read on for experts’ top dos and don’ts for how to make your hair look less greasy.
Devin Graciano is a hairstylist and head of product development at
Goldie Locks. Justine Marjan is a celebrity hairstylist and beauty influencer. Juliana Ohlmeyer is a New York City-based hairstylist and colorist at Bassia Bassia salon. We at Bustle only include products that have been independently selected by our editors. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. Shampoo Less Often
It seems counterintuitive, but
stripping your scalp of oil triggers it to produce more oil. Shampooing too often can “confuse” your scalp, Ohlmeyer explains, and lead to overactive sebaceous glands and greasier hair. People with finer hair and those who work out often can feel tempted to wash every day, but try to avoid that if you want your hair to look less greasy. Shampoo every other day — or maybe even just once or twice a week. Ohlmeyer recommends that you opt for gentle fragrance-free formulas, and keep an eye out for anti-inflammatory ingredients like tea tree oil and chamomile. Graciano adds rosemary, lavender, and peppermint to that list of go-to ingredients.
This particular clarifying shampoo is great for oily and color-treated hair as it boasts rosemary, lemon, and cypress oils to keep your scalp’s oil production regulated.
Pros: Free from parabens, phthalates, and sulfates Cons: Some reviewers note a not-so-great smell. Review: “The clarifying shampoo makes a huge difference in my routine by giving me more time between hair washes (and less dry shampoo!). After each use, my hair looks soft, clean, and shiny,” one reviewer wrote. Condition Mid-Shaft To Ends
One common mistake that can lead to oily, weighed-down hair is overusing or
misusing conditioner. A good conditioner is a great way to replenish your strands with moisture after shampooing, but they’re designed for older, drier strands — aka the ends. Graciano says to keep conditioner away from your scalp — where your natural oils are — and instead focus on applying the product on your mid-strands through the ends.
This lightweight protein-enriched formula hydrates and enhances volume without weighing your hair down.
Pros: Formulated for fine hair (which is prone to oiliness) Cons: On the pricey side Review: One reviewer said, unlike some other moisturizing conditioners, this one didn’t leave their hair feeling greasy but instead clean and soft. “Pureology took care of all the issues and made my hair smooth and manageable.” Wash Pillowcases With A Mild Detergent Washing your pillowcases often with a mild laundry detergent could also help combat greasy hair. “Sometimes heavily fragranced detergent can also aggravate your scalp, causing it to produce more oil as a defense,” says Ohlmeyer. This concentrated detergent by Whirlpool boasts a simple formula free from dyes and perfumes. Pros: Precision pour cap, concentrated for 83 loads per bottle Cons: Some reviewers complain about faulty caps Review: “I was very pleased with this detergent — it lasted months in my house and the clothes smelled clean,” one reviewer wrote. “I didn't need to do second rinses or add anything else to the loads.” Clean Your Brushes
Similar to dirty pillowcases, hair brushes can also pick up contaminants that can irritate your scalp and cause it to produce more oil. That’s why experts recommend
cleaning your brushes regularly to lessen the chances of your scalp coming in contact with irritants. “The natural reaction for your scalp is to produce enough oil to protect itself,” Graciano notes.
This sturdy three-way brush is great for raking out and removing dead hair, dust, dandruff, and product buildup from your hair brushes to keep your scalp healthy.
Pros: Has a pointed tip for raking and removal Cons: Must be cleaned with warm, soapy water Review: “I tested this out by cleaning my partner’s hairbrush and was so astounded I had to take a dramatic before and after pic of mine just to get people to believe me,” one reviewer wrote. “Where has this been all my life?” Don’t Touch Your Hair Too Much
Your hands produce their own oils, and so touching your hair a lot can lead to greasier-looking strands, Marjan notes. Tying your hair back with a cute
head scarf like this one can keep your hair from picking up excess oils from your face and help you avoid those absentminded finger fluffs and strand twirls. Pros: Available in multiple colors and prints Cons: Hand wash only Review: “I'm a college student, and I love wearing these to class. I just wrap one of these on my head and hurry out the door,” wrote one reviewer. “The material is soft as genuine silk and quite long.” Avoid Heavy Products
The experts say to keep your hair type and goals in mind when choosing products. If your strands get oily easily, avoid overusing mousses, gels, or other heavier products as they can lead to excess buildup. Pro tip: Beware of products formulated for dry hair or those that claim to “add shine,” as those often contain heavy oils and moisturizers that can make greasy hair even worse, Ohlmeyer tells Bustle.
apple cider vinegar hair rinse contains lavender plus hydrating aloe vera and argan oil to help remove excess buildup and impurities without stripping your scalp’s natural oils. Pros: Balances pH, great for color-treated hair Cons: Strong scent Review: One reviewer recommends that you embrace the natural scent. “Yes, it smells like apple cider vinegar, but what did you expect? The directions say to wash thoroughly, and no one has ever commented that they could tell. Works great for fine hair!” Use A Clean Dry Shampoo Dry shampoo is a must-have for anyone struggling with greasy-looking strands because it’ll absorb excess oil in a flash, leaving your hair looking and feeling lighter — which is particularly helpful for getting through between wash days. Again, overdoing the suds is a key culprit behind oily hair. As Marjan says, “Dry shampoos are a great instant fix.” That said, Graciano notes that can affect how much oil your scalp is producing, so don’t overdo it. too much dry shampoo
This ultra-fine powder from Klorane is paraben- and sulfate-free, and contains corn and rice starch to absorb excess oil along with oat milk extract to soothe the scalp. Just hold 10 inches away from your head and spray your roots, and then brush through after two minutes.
Pros: Floral scent, good for all hair types Cons: Some reviewers note a white residue Review: “I have tried several different dry shampoos — both the aerosol and the powder ones,” one reviewer noted. “Both have a tendency to irritate my scalp and weigh my hair down if I overdo it... but not this product.” Try Body Powder
If you don’t have dry shampoo on hand, you can use body or baby powder to combat greasy hair. Just sprinkle a bit at your roots, let it sit, and then brush it out (but also be careful not to overdo it!). You can expect some white residue, especially if you have dark hair. A tip DIYers will love: Mix a little cocoa powder into the powder before applying it to darken the overall color.
This talc-free powder is technically an organic baby powder — so you know it’s gentle. It boasts ultra-absorbent kaolin clay, arrowroot powder, and cornstarch along with soothing rosemary extract and calendula oil.
Pros: Unscented, natural ingredients Cons: Sprinkle/pour cap Review: One reviewer agrees that this isn’t just for babies’ bums. “I use it on my hair and it works as well as I could hope.” Add Volume To Your Hair
When hair lays flat against your scalp it can more easily pick up oil. Curled strands (natural or not) can help delay the dreaded greasy look. Plus, one of the best ways to “hide” less than squeaky clean hair is to
add a bit of volume.
This curling wand features a 1.25-inch titanium barrel and 20 heat settings for even, frizz-free curls.
Pros: Heats up in 30 seconds, includes a thermal glove Cons: Clampless curlers can be tricky to master Review: For one reviewer, the search for the perfect curl is over. “Man, did I find what I was looking for in this product. It’s so easy to use and gives me the exact curl I was trying to achieve.” Keep Clear Of Your Roots
According to the experts, you’ll want to typically avoid slathering products like serums and masks on your scalp and near your roots. Hair treatments like these are designed for strands that need a little extra TLC, and the hair at your roots is brand new and up close to those protective oils that your scalp naturally produces — so it doesn’t really need product. When something’s applied in the area, it can lead to oily hair — so apply from the mid-shafts to ends (just as you do with conditioner).
With moisturizing superstars
vitamin E, argan oil, and aloe vera, this hair serum helps to hydrate, smooth frizz, and revive damaged strands. Pros: Can be used on dry or damp hair Cons: Contains fragrance which could trigger allergies or irritation Review: “Most products are too heavy for my hair, making it limp and greasy. This product gives me just the right amount of 'sleek' without looking like I need a good hair washing,” one reviewer wrote. Get A Shower Head Filter
The reason for your greasy hair might be traceable to your shower, Ohlmeyer notes. She says the chemicals in tap water and
mineral buildup from your pipes can lead to buildup in your hair, and so she recommends getting a shower head filter.
This “beauty filter” is designed to specifically address the concerns you may have around what your unfiltered hard water is doing to your hair, skin, and nails. It reduces chlorine, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dirt, and odors, and infuses your shower water with beneficial vitamins.
Pros: No-tool install on most shower types Cons: Will need to replace filters roughly every six months Review: “I’ve only had it for a couple of weeks now, but I can already tell a difference in my hair,” one reviewer wrote. “Before it was always so icky after showering and hard to brush, and now it is starting to get silkier.” Use A Co-Wash
While straight and fine hair types tend to experience oiliness more often, it can be a problem for curly hair too — which is why Ohlmeyer suggests
co-washes (or cleansing conditioners). They’re typically marketing toward coily hair types, but they’re gentler than traditional shampoos. “They’re a great alternative to rebalancing your scalp — especially before the summer season hits hard,” says Ohlmeyer.
This cleansing conditioner from Carol’s Daughter features agave nectar, shea butter, and sweet almond oil, all of which help cleanse your hair without stripping it of its natural moisture.
Pros: Sulfate- and paraben-free Cons: Not ideal for all hair types Review: “I have 3C curls, and this is hands-down my favorite co-washing product. It keeps my curls soft and buoyant while giving them needed moisture and shine,” one reviewer wrote. Studies referenced: Leite, G. (2020). Correlations between sebaceous glands activity and porphyrins in the oily skin and hair and immediate effects of dermocosmetic formulations. J Cosmet Dermatol. doi: 10.1111/jocd.13370
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This article was originally published on
June 4, 2022