Why Is My Hair So Oily? How to Manage Oily Hair

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 07, 2022
4 min read

Dealing with oily hair can be frustrating. You wash your hair, dry it, and style it, and within a few hours, it can turn flat and limp. Oily hair can look and feel greasy and may even irritate your scalp. If you’re dealing with an oily scalp and oily hair, there are a few things you can do to try to reduce the amount of oil your scalp produces.

When your hair is oily, it’s not caused by the hair itself. Your hair can’t make oils. Instead, the oil comes from the sebaceous glands on your scalp.

Your skin is covered in tiny pores, also called hair follicles. Your hair follicles surround the root and strand of the hair within. Most of these hair follicles also contain the sebaceous glands, the glands that produce oil. These oil glands keep the skin and hair healthy and moisturized. They also help prevent skin infections.

Sometimes, these glands can produce too much oil, causing oily skin and hair. There are a few different things that can cause excess oil production, including:

  • Changing hormones. Your sebaceous glands are controlled by hormones, and when those hormones change, your glands may produce more oil. This is especially common for people going through puberty or for people taking hormone medications, such as birth control. 
  • Genetics. Some people are just born with glands that produce more oil, just like some people are born with glands that produce less and lead to dry skin and hair.
  • Humidity. Weather can affect the way your hair looks and feels. In humid environments, less moisture evaporates from your skin, which can lead to your hair feeling weighed down.
  • Stress. Like puberty, stress can affect your hormone levels and cause your pores to make more oil.

Oily hair symptoms usually involve the look and feel of your hair. Your hair may look greasy or shiny. It can feel heavy or weighed down and greasy to the touch. Overproductive oil glands on the scalp can also cause the scalp to become itchy and irritated.

Oily hair isn’t healthy or unhealthy by default. People with an oily scalp can have healthy hair or dry, brittle hair. Your hair needs oil to be healthy, but too much oil can lead to buildup on the hair and scalp.

Oily skin may also contribute to a condition called seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition in which your skin becomes inflamed and itchy and causes the skin to flake. Dandruff is a type of seborrheic dermatitis. An oily scalp can lead to dandruff caused by the yeast-like fungus Malassezia. This fungus feeds on the oil on your scalp. Regular dandruff can also happen when the scalp is oily and the excess oil begins to irritate the skin, leading to an itchy scalp, inflammation, and skin flakes.

If you’re battling oily hair, there are several things you can do to help reduce excess oils. Oily hair care involves choosing the right products and using them correctly as well as taking care of your scalp.

Shampooing with oily hair. Proper shampooing is one of the best things you can do for oily hair. Try some of these tips:

  • Increase how often you wash your hair. Oily hair may need to be washed every other day or even every day.
  • Choose the right shampoo. Invest in a good-quality shampoo made for oily hair to help reduce oil on your scalp and strands.
  • Rinse your hair thoroughly to avoid leaving any soap residue. That residue can further irritate your scalp and attract more dirt and oil.
  • Find a good dry shampoo. Dry shampoos absorb oil and grease without you having to wash your hair. Dry shampoo is a good way to keep your hair from looking greasy between washes, after working out, and in humid weather. Because dry shampoo can cause buildup and scalp irritation, don’t use it for several days in a row, and shampoo your hair in the shower every couple of days.

Conditioning with oily hair. Even oily hair needs some moisture. Take care to:

  • Use a mild conditioner on the ends of your hair, not on the scalp.
  • If you use a moisturizing mask on your hair, rinse it out thoroughly.
  • Don’t use an overnight oil treatment on your hair.
  • If your hair is oily, especially if it’s very fine, avoid products that add shine to your hair. This can make the hair look oilier and weighed down.

Scalp care. Because your scalp has oil-producing glands, people with oily hair should take extra care with their scalp. Too much stimulation can excite the hair follicles, causing them to produce more oil. When it comes to scalp care:

  • Don’t brush your hair too much. While you should brush your hair as needed, over-brushing can cause the hair follicles to produce more oil.
  • When you’re towel-drying your hair, avoid vigorously rubbing at your scalp.
  • Use heat carefully. Blow-drying can reduce extra oil, but using a hair dryer that’s too hot can irritate your scalp.
  • Don’t scratch or pick at your scalp.
  • Choose your hair products carefully. Some ingredients may lead to scalp irritation or buildup, which can make oily hair worse.

If you’re still experiencing oily hair, speak to a dermatologist. They may be able to help you determine the root cause of your oily hair and find a treatment that works for you.