When I say I have oily hair, I don’t mean your run-of-the-mill grease when you work out or after not washing for a few days. After about 12 hours, you could fry a $20 Fill-Up from KFC on my scalp—that’s the kind of oil I’m talking about. I’ve lived with it since I was a kid and pretty much accepted that I’d never be the type of person who could skip washing their hair every time they showered. That whole “train your hair to be less greasy” thing? A myth made by women who produced half the level of sebum my scalp produces on a daily basis.
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After years of trying and failing to get my roots to cooperate with my ends (oily roots, dry ends—the name of my hair autobiography), I used my slight bit of Internet clout here at The Everygirl for personal gain and asked an expert: can you really train your hair to be less greasy?
Celebrity hairstylist Irinel de León answered all of my questions and then some. Her clients include Hailey Bieber, Chrissy Teigen, Cara Santana, and Desi Perkins—just to name a few. If you’re also dealing with the same hair predicament, want to extend your color a little further, or just love reading about hair health (I don’t blame you), she’s got us covered.
So, can you train your hair to be less greasy?
De León said yes! “The trick is to space out your washes correctly to avoid your scalp going into overdrive,” de León said. We typically wash our hair to make it feel clean and get rid of the oils, but de León explained that over-washing causes your hair to be even more oily. “Essentially, the less often you wash, the less your scalp will feel the need to produce oil, it’s all about training it.” If you feel like you can’t go a day without washing your hair, de León said to start by skipping one day, and then increase to two when your hair feels like it can stand it.
Since we’re all staying at home, she said now would be the best time to try! “It’s quite the regimen and might take a couple of weeks for your hair to get used to, but eventually what will happen is your scalp will begin to recognize that it doesn’t need to continuously produce oils,” de León said.
What products to use, and what to avoid
Just like with any hair type, certain products are best for oily hair, and some should be avoided. De León said to avoid any products that say “shine-enhancing” or “anti-frizz,” as those are typically made for dry hair and could weigh oily hair down with too much moisture.
On the other hand, de León recommends OUAI’s Super Dry Shampoo. “ … It’s a pretty potent dry shampoo that will suck up the oils instantly.”
It’s also a good idea to do use a scalp clarifying product to get rid of all that dry shampoo and product build-up in your scalp. de León’s favorite products are the Ouidad Heavy Lifting Bubbling Scalp Mask, for detoxifying your scalp, and Ouidad’s Ready, Set, Clean! Scalp and Hair Rinse to “help rebalance the PH of your scalp without harshly stripping the hair strands.”
If you want to go the DIY route, de León recommended apple cider vinegar because it “helps kill off bacteria and fungus.” She said to mix 2 tbsp of ACV with water in a spray bottle and spray directly onto your scalp, rinsing it out after 2-3 minutes. She also recommended tea tree oil because it can control sebum production (just like it does for acne on your face!). “Dilute a few drops in water and spray into your hair, or apply a couple of drops directly into fingertips and massage into your scalp for a few minutes.”
But say you have oily roots with dry ends—the ultimate hair conundrum. What’s a girl to do? “Using a boar bristle brush (or faux boar brush, the vegan alternative) can help absorb and distribute the oils on your scalp through the rest of the hair,” de León said. “Try brushing every morning, midday, and evening to start. If that’s too much, then try brushing 2x a day (morning and evening).” Over-brushing can lead to even more oil production, so it takes a little trial and error to figure out how much is too much for your hair.
There are a few ways you can help your oily scalp without having to purchase anything. First of all, de León said to avoid touching your hair as much as possible. “ … Our face and fingertips produce natural oils, which could be easily transferred directly to both your strands and scalp when over touching, even it’s its mindless twirling!” So while we’re trying not to touch our faces as much as possible, train yourself to stop touching your hair too (even if it’s just so soft from all those hair masks you’re doing).
Along the same lines, lay off the flat iron while you don’t need pin-straight hair. “Using the flat iron or blow drying it straight not only causes some excess damage (which is probably unnecessary damage during [social distancing]), but it gives the oil on your scalp a straight path to travel downward into your strands,” de León said. This, she explained, gives the appearance of even greasy hair.
Instead, de León suggested a low loose chignon or messy bun to keep your hair out of your face (AKA no touching!) and prolong your oily roots a little before washing. Her go-to style for oily hair is a sleek, middle-part low-bun style—the oil on your roots just gives the hair a sleek shine when pulled back!