What It Means If You Have Oily Hair & 7 Ways To Prevent It

Oily hair is easy to treat and prevent.

Last updated on Sep 10, 2022

women playing with hair Anetlanda / Shutterstock

You’ve just recently washed your hair. You’re supposed to feel clean and your hair is meant to be bouncy and voluminous; instead, your hair is sticking to your scalp and looks almost damp in a ponytail.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Why is my hair so oily?”

Greasy hair can be undesirable at the best of times, but when it’s happening immediately after washing your hair, it can be extremely inconvenient and frustrating.


All healthy heads produce certain levels of oil in order to protect the hair and keep the scalp hydrated, but sometimes, our lifestyles, habits or hair types can cause hair to produce more oil than is necessary.

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If you’re struggling with greasy hair, don’t be embarrassed! It’s natural and can be easily treated.

Keep reading to find out what is causing your oily hair, what lifestyle changes can get rid of it, and what quick fixes will help keep grease at bay.

What causes oily hair?

Just like the skin on your face, your scalp produces sebum, or oil, as part of your body’s natural defense system against external factors like humidity or pollution.

We actually need these oils to keep our hair looking shiny. But there are a few things that could be contributing to the amount of sebum your scalp is producing.

Intense exercise

Since our bodies, scalp included, produce sweat when we exercise, your intense cardio or weight training could be contributing to your greasy hair problem. When sweat mixes with hair’s natural oils, a greasy coating is created on the scalp.


Hair type

Straight-haired people might be frustrated to learn that their hair can be particularly prone to collecting grease. Hair with more waves, curls or texture tends to avoid collecting oil easily, since the oils can’t just slide straight down the hair shaft.


When hair gets greasy, we tend to think of washing as the only solution. But it is possible that you’re washing your hair too much.

The reality is, our scalp wants to produce a little bit of oil, and washing your hair to strip these oils will only signal your scalp to produce more sebum.

Skin issues

For individuals who have skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema or even acne on the forehead, these are all contributing factors to oily hair. When you have flaky skin, the oil on your scalp becomes trapped, causing hair to appear greasy.



If you are pregnant, starting a new birth control, or are experiencing hormonal changes, these can all lead to an oily scalp. During menstruation, women also might experience more sebum build-up, as studies have shown.

How to Get Rid of Oily Hair

Once you’ve identified what could be causing your hair to become greasy so often, picking a helpful treatment is easy. Here are a few lifestyle changes that could treat your oily hair.

1. Reassess your hair-washing schedule.

Since oily hair can be caused by both overwashing and underwashing, it’s possible you need to increase or decrease your hair-washing.

Shampooing your hair every 2 or 3 days will clear out sebum, dirt and sweat, without overstimulating oil production. On days when you’re not washing your hair, avoid getting your hair wet, as rinsing hair without shampooing can cause oil build-up.


You may also want to coordinate your hair-washing schedule with your sweat sessions in order to treat sweaty scalp. Consider saving your most intense workouts for a day where you intended to wash your hair anyway.

2. Try reverse washing.

When it comes to mysteries of the world, second only to the unanswered question of “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” is, “Do I use shampoo or conditioner first?”

While most popular wisdom suggests shampooing, then conditioning, doing the reverse can actually be great for oily hair. And hey, we’re desperate to get rid of our greasy hair, so what’s the harm in trying it?

So far, science hasn’t given us any data to prove this works, but using conditioner as a primer can help evenly distribute shampoo which may lead to a more thorough wash. It also means your hair gets the benefit of conditioner without contributing to excess oil in the scalp.


To reverse-wash, coat your hair in conditioner and let it sit for a minute or two. Then, without rinsing, add shampoo to your hair and lather. Rinse the two out together. It should be noted that reverse-washing should be done only once a week.

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3. Use the right amount of shampoo.

Part of knowing how to properly wash greasy hair is using the proper amount of shampoo.

This, of course, varies depending on the length, density and texture of your hair, but two tablespoons is a good starting measure. And really, you shouldn’t use any less than this unless your hair is very thin or short.


Your shampoo should create a rich lather on damp hair that coats your entire scalp and length, meaning lots of suds. Then, be sure to rinse thoroughly, parting hair if necessary to clear out those oils.

4. Keep conditioner off the roots.

Unless you’re doing reverse-washing, there’s no need to apply conditioner to the roots.

Since your scalp makes its own oils, the conditioner will only add excess moisture that will look greasy. Instead, use conditioner to add shine to your ends, or just skip this step entirely.

5. Brush your hair less often.

Bristles from hair brushes can lift dead skin cells from your scalp and release oil from underneath. Therefore, it can help to avoid brushing your hair or to just brush the ends.


Instead, brush your scalp just before you wash your hair to loosen dead skin cells and allow for a more thorough cleansing in the shower.

6. Wash your hair with lukewarm water.

Super-steamy showers or baths might be great for relaxing, but they can dry out the scalp and cause your hair to produce more oils.

Try sticking to medium heat when your scalp is under the water. It may also help to use a blast of cold water on your hair at the end of your shower to close the hair follicle and protect your hair’s shine.

7. Clean your styling tools.

You wouldn’t use the same towel or makeup brushes over and over without washing them, so the same goes for your hair tools.


Brushes, straighteners, and curlers could add more dirt and grease to your hair. Washing or wiping them down after use can stop oily hair in its tracks. The same goes for pillowcases, so be sure to switch out your pillowcases between hair washes to keep dirt away.

Home Remedies For Oily Hair

Instead of, or in addition to, the tips above, you might want to test out these home remedies for greasy hair. These use natural products straight from the earth to your scalp.

Aloe vera

The gel from aloe vera strips away excess sebum and is used in the treatment of many oil-related skin issues. Using aloe as a leave-in conditioner the night before washing or cleansing with it in the shower after shampooing may treat oily scalp and hair.


Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a cure-all for skin, hair, and digestion. As a hair rinse, it can break down oil and change your scalp’s pH temporarily, which delays sebum production.

Add one part apple cider vinegar to two parts water in a spray bottle or empty shampoo bottle. Cover your scalp and hair with this rinse after shampooing, leave it to sit for 5-10 minutes, and rinse. Try this no more than once a week as it can be drying for hair.

Essential oils

Tea tree oil and peppermint oil are known to have many benefits for the scalp and hair. Adding a few diluted drops to the hair after washing or mixing them into a mask, shampoo or conditioner can help to treat sebum and dead skin cells.

How often should you wash oily hair?

Simply, it all depends on your hair type, as well as your skin type and the way you style your hair. The texture of your hair can especially determine how often to wash it.


For example, if you have fine hair, it's recommended to wash twice per week, sometimes more. For people with curly hair that doesn't get too oily, shampooing once a week, sometimes more, is recommended.

Overall, it's important to listen to what your hair is telling you!

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Alice Kelly is YourTango’s Deputy News and Entertainment Editor. Based in Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her Twitter for more.