If you are a busy mom, not shampooing your hair every day can be a huge time-saver. Unfortunately, though, if you have an oily scalp and hair, you probably don’t have that luxury; for your hair — and you — to look and feel beautiful, you probably need to wash away the oils daily.
What’s worse, even when you do shampoo every morning, excess oil can build up throughout the day, leaving hair limp and greasy-looking by evening. “Strands can literally drown in their own oil, and your hair goes flat really fast,” explains Edward Tricomi, co-owner of Warren Tricomi salon in New York City.
What Causes Excess Oil
It may not seem like it, but in most cases, an oily scalp is as normal as having oily skin or brown eyes. Sebaceous glands inside hair follicles produce what’s called sebum, an oily, waxy substance. Sebum is then released onto the scalp, in a similar way to the pores on your face releasing oil onto your skin. No one knows why, but your glands simply produce excessive sebum, which migrates more into your hair and gives it that greasy look and feel, says Dr. Heidi Waldorf, a dermatologist and associate clinical director of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
Although you can’t permanently change your scalp’s composition or your hair type, there are a few things you can do to help control oil and get hair that looks fresh and healthy:
1. Consider your hormones.
Hormonal fluctuations can increase sebum production. So, during your menstrual cycle, your scalp can feel greasier. Birth control pills may help normalize the hormones and balance the oil, says Waldorf. Talk to your doctor if this is an option for you.
2. Switch shampoos.
Waldorf suggests using a shampoo that contains zinc pyrithione or salicylic acid, which are found in some dandruff shampoos. These ingredients may help keep the oil on your scalp in check, she says.
3. Lather, wait, rinse, repeat.
Don’t rinse out your shampoo right away. Instead, lightly massage it into your scalp and wait at least 30 seconds before rinsing. This gives the suds more time to break down excess oil. Then lather up again if needed to clear away additional residue. This way, you are sure to start the day with an ultra-clean scalp and hair.
4. Give your roots a boost.
The key to infusing oily hair with more volume is to style right after you towel dry, when there is no or little sebum on hair. Try these tricks:
- Use a volumizing spray or hair spray. Apply to damp hair and aim your application only at the root area.
- Blow-dry hair upside down. This helps train hair to stand up at the roots from the get-go. Use the high heat button to dry, then right before you finish, blast roots with the cold setting to get fullness and lift that lasts.
- Tease roots with a comb. Hold up a section of your hair, place a fine-tooth comb into strands at your roots, and comb up and down with short, quick strokes. Afterward, spritz each section with hair spray. Then stash the comb in your purse for quick touch-ups throughout the day.
5. Try hair powder.
Also called dry shampoo, this powder-based product absorbs oil and can keep hair from falling flat. (In a pinch, you can use baby powder, but sprinkle it sparingly to avoid giving strands a whitish hue.) You can use hair powder when you don’t have time to shampoo or during the day if oil starts to build up. You might also apply it immediately after washing and styling hair as a preventive measure, to keep oil at bay, suggests Tricomi.
To apply, part your hair in different spots and lightly sprinkle it on your scalp. (Always use less than you think you need; too much could clump.) Massage in the powder, then gently run your fingers through the hair at your scalp.
6. Cut hair short.
“Long hair can weigh itself down,” says Tricomi. “A shorter, layered cut will give you more lift at the roots, and hair won’t look as greasy.” You may even consider a gamine pixie cut (think Halle Berry). It’s the ultimate wash-and-go style.
Whatever haircut you decide on, talk to your stylist about how it will work best for your face shape, hair type and personality.