Why Is My Hair So Oily? Greasy Hair Causes & Treatments

Photo: getty
woman with long hair
Self

You’ve just recently washed your hair. You’re supposed to feel clean and your hair is meant to be bouncy and voluminous but, 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. 

RELATED: 7 Tips To Keep Your Hair Styled, Fresh & Healthy While Salons Are Closed

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.

Overwashing

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. 

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. 

RELATED: 21 Best Conditioners For Dry, Damaged Hair

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. 

Best Shampoo For Oily Hair

If your regular washing routine isn’t cutting it anymore, try out one of these professional solutions that are designed to clear out excess sebum. Some of these products even have a matching conditioner for maximum oil treatment.

1. Aveda Scalp Benefits Balancing Shampoo and Conditioner Duo

Ingredients like echinacea and sage clear away dead skin cells, leaving your glands free of obstruction. This prevents an overproduction of oil. 

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

2. Chi Tea Tree Oil Shampoo & Conditioner Duo

Tea tree oil is known to clear out sebum from the scalp and skin. In a shampoo, it breaks down all those nasty oils, dirt, and sweat from your hair, leaving your head refreshed and cleansed. 

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

3. Neutrogena T/Gel Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

If oily dandruff is your problem, you’ll know that most anti-dandruff shampoo add too much oil to your hair, and anti-grease shampoo dries out and aggravates your dandruff. This shampoo does it all by effectively clearing dandruff and excess sebum simultaneously. 

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

RELATED: The Best Tips For Using Dry Shampoo In Between Washes — For All Hair Types​

Best Dry Shampoo For Oily Hair

Dry shampoos are an amazing quick fix when you need to cover up greasy hair but you don’t have time to wash. Just remember these are not meant for replacing regular shampoo!

Overusing any dry shampoo can produce a greasy build-up. These dry shampoos cut through oil in case of a hair emergency and will tide you over until your next wash. 

4. Batiste Volumizing Dry Shampoo

Batiste is affordable and reliable. This one clears grease and gives limp, oily hair a much-needed lift. 

(Target, $7.99)

5. Dove Beauty Refresh + Care Fresh Coconut Dry Shampoo

The coconut component of this spray does an amazing job of hiding oil without drying out the hair completely and causing more sebum production. Plus, it smells like a tropical vacation!

(Target, $4.89)

6. Kristin Ess Style Reviving Dry Shampoo

This cruelty-free powder spray is great for evenly distributing the dry shampoo molecules. Simply tap on the powder to disguise the residue. 

(Target, $14)

Home Remedies For Oily Hair

Instead of, or in addition to, these products, 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.

RELATED: How To Make Your Hair Shiny: 20 Best Products Of All-Time

Before you go,
subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

Alice Kelly is a writer and storyteller with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics. When she’s not creating content for YourTango, you can catch her working on creative fiction and vintage shopping.

YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.