Does dry shampoo have a special spot on your desk, on your vanity and in your gym bag? Do you have to wash every day to keep oil at bay? Instead of living with oily hair, it’s time to get to the root of the problem — literally. We spoke to the experts — a dermatologist and a hair scientist — to find out how to stop those oily strands dead in their tracks.
What Causes Oily Hair?
Overproduction of sebum — a natural oil produced by the body — can lead to greasy strands, especially at the scalp. Extra sebum is caused by “a genetic predisposition, hormonal influences, diet, hot/humid weather, diseases such as seborrehic dermatitis or even medications such as oral contraceptives or steroids,” says Eric Spengler, Chief Commercialization Officer and SVP R&D at haircare brand Living Proof. “Normally sebum is a solid at room temperature and melts at about the body’s temperature. Thus hair is likely to feel most greasy around the scalp – where the warmth of the scalp may keep sebum liquid – and greasy.”
Your Hair Products
“These days so many of us have treated hair,” says dermatologist Dr. Erin Gilbert. “We respond by applying masks and heavy hydrating products that do wonders for softness and texture, but can make your scalp oily and your hair flat.”
Spengler agrees. “Silicone is one of the most common ingredients used in hair care, and unfortunately many silicones and oils are heavy and greasy,” he says. “These silicones and oils will attract particles in the air, making hair feel dirty much faster than otherwise.” The more you wash your hair, the more you’re stripping hair of its natural oils. The scalp reacts by producing more, and you’re stuck in a never ending cycle.
What You Can Do About It
Change Your Shampoo
Aside from over-styling, you may be using the wrong shampoo. Spengler suggests a gentle cleansing shampoo, such as Living Proof Full Shampoo ($24, living proof.com). Over washing with aggressive shampoos actually irritates the hair follicle and increases oil production.
Dr. Gilbert recommends rotating different shampoos to prevent buildup. “I suggest using a shampoo with salicylic acid, selenium sulfide or ketoconazole,” she advises. Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo – Scalp Build-Up Control ($4.99, Neutrogena.com) contains 3% salicylic acid, the maximum strength, to reduce oil at the scalp.
Cleanse Your Scalp
Surprise — dandruff or an itchy scalp are also symptoms of sebum overproduction. A dermatologist can prescribe a steroid solution to treat flaking and redness, says Dr. Gilbert. If you want a quick fix before meeting your derm, try Aveeno Nourish + Dandruff Control ($6.99, aveeno.com). The formula is infused with pyrithione zinc and the brand’s signature oat peptide. The line’s conditioner adds just enough moisture without leaving hair greasy. And unlike many dandruff shampoos and conditioners, the smell is amazing.
No matter what shampoo you use, it won’t work if you’re not using the right technique. “To cleanse, apply a small amount of shampoo to your scalp and massage vigorously with your fingertips, then gently pull the lather through your hair and rinse,” Spengler suggests. “Don’t pile your hair on your head when washing, as this technique is less effective.”
Add Supplements To Your Diet
Vitamin A & D supplements “have been shown to help reduce the production of sebum – but be very careful with the amount,” Spengler says. Remember to check with your dermatologist or physician before adding new supplements to your daily diet.
Styling Products For Oil-Prone Hair
A dry shampoo will eliminate grease at the scalp as well as add volume. Oscar Blandi Pronto Invisible Dry Shampoo Spray ($25, oscarblandi.com) is one of the best out there. Not only does it soak up excess oil and boost strands at the root, its vitamin E and wheat proteins help strengthen the hair.
Living Proof Prime Style Extender ($20, livingproof.com) also keeps dirt and oil at bay. This product works as a primer to extend the life of your hairstyle, which means you can go longer between washes. In a study by the brand, “Among those with oily hair, 90% indicated their hair felt less greasy after using Prime,” says Spengler. The product “allowed women with oily hair to go at least one day longer between shampoos, a very important step towards normalizing the scalp.” And that’s not just the root of the problem — it’s the solution.