Greasy hair, don't care? Yeah, right. If you have an oily scalp, you know frustrating it can be to have hair that feels clean one minute and dirty the next.
So what exactly causes all that oil? "The reason hair gets oily is because sebaceous glands in your scalp produce excess sebum, which travels down the hair shaft," says celebrity hairstylist and hair thinning expert Angelo David Pisacreta. Causes of excess sebum (the natural oil produced by your scalp) can include genes, hormonal imbalances, humidity, your diet, or something as specific as a disease called seborrheic dermatitis, which also causes scaly patches and will need to be managed with the help of your dermatologist. (And keep in mind that you may also need to visit your derm if the problem persists after you've tried at-home solutions.)
To treat oiliness at home, Pisacreta suggests shampooing less. That may sound counterintuitive, but it works. That's because shampoo strips your hair of oil, and the more you use it, the more sebum your scalp produces in response.
Although it may be tough at first to break the daily habit, Pisacreta recommends washing every other day. "Washing every day can irritate your scalp, dehydrate your hair and fade your colour," he says.
And when you do wash, shampoo and rinse twice, says Pisacreta, because that will reduce any product build up. "Also, avoid highly moisturising hair products or leave-in conditioners and oils," he says. All of the above not only make hair greasier, but they attract particles in the air, which weigh strands down and make them appear dirtier.
Dermatologist Dr Natasha Cook agrees over washing is a common thread among us with oily roots, but says checking the ingredients list of your shampoo is key.
“Daily washing if you are using a product that’s insensitive to your scalp can cause the natural oils to be overly stripped which weakens the barrier function and creates a process called reactive oiliness, where more oil gets made to make up for the over stripping, leaving your hair feeling even oilier.”
The key is to use a shampoo and conditioner that contains ingredients that deposit onto the scalp and are also designed to lock in moisture. “Look for ZPT, an anti-dandruff agent that improves the moisture barrier and reduces inflammation. It is designed to be quickly deposited and essentially it starts working instantly and continuous working up to 72 hours after a single wash,” says Cook. Try head & shoulders 3Action Formula Shampoo, $12.49.
That being said, when you first skip shampoos, your hair will look greasy for those initial few washes as it adapts to producing less oil. Your not-so-secret weapon until your scalp adjusts: dry shampoo. If dry shampoo hasn't worked for you in the past, you're probably not using it correctly, says Pisacreta. The best way to do it is by first brushing your hair, then shaking the can of dry shampoo and misting it just on the roots, keeping the bottle a few inches away from your scalp. Then distribute the product evenly by brushing out your hair again, says Pisacreta. If you skip brushing post-spritz, the product can clog pores and result in overproduction of sebum.
For days your oily scalp needs more help, Pisacreta recommends two simple styles—a messy ponytail or flirty curls.
To make the ponytail, mist Redken Pillow Proof Blow Dry Two Day Extender & Oil Absorbing Dry Shampoo ($32.95, redken.com.au) onto your scalp evenly, says Pisacreta. Next, use your fingertips to brush your hair back and create natural texture, securing the ponytail with a hair tie.
Curls work by making greasy hair look less flat. "When your hair gets greasy, it tends to get flatter,” says Pisacreta. So to fluff it up, section off your hair, and wrap sections around a curling iron to create loose curls. Brush out with your fingertips, and finish with texturising or sea salt spray.