Greasy hair can feel like a curse, especially since it seems like some of us just have greasier hair overall than others. Fine hair is particularly prone to getting greasy, although even the coarsest strands sometimes suffer from too much oil.
Not only does greasy hair feel weighted down and grimy, but the extra grease can also make your hair look darker and shiny. In other words, it’s really easy to spot greasy hair, and it’s not a good look.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to manage your greasy hair so that it still looks and feels good. With a little time and practice, you can even reduce the amount of grease your scalp produces, eliminating the problem altogether.
In this article we’ll talk about why hair gets greasy in the first place, some tips and tricks for reducing greasiness day-to-day, and what routines and products will help you reduce greasiness overall.
- Why Does Your Hair Get Greasy?
- Greasy Hair Care 101
- What Products Work Best for Stopping Hair from Getting Greasy?
Why Does Your Hair Get Greasy?
Grease is a fact of nature. If your scalp didn’t produce some oils to protect your skin and hair, your scalp would always be dry and flakey, and your hair would constantly break and fall out.
The natural oils produced by your skin, sebum, provide a protective layer over both skin and hair that keep those cells in better condition. So you need some of the oil there, but overproduction doesn’t do anything to help with hair health. If you find yourself constantly fighting against the grease on your head, it’s worth taking the time to take care of it.
Some of us naturally produce more oil than others, but if you have particularly greasy hair there’s a good chance, you’re doing something that makes the situation worse. Everything from touching your hair, to using too many harsh or oily products, to simply washing your hair too often can make the problem worse.
So, what can you do to stop your hair from getting greasy?
Greasy Hair Care 101
Let’s start with the basics, the simple things you can do to minimize the grease in your hair right away.
Don’t Wash Your Hair Every Day
Okay, I get it, if your hair is greasy you want to take care of the grease every day. It seems like the natural thing to do.
The problem is that most shampoo strips way too much of the oil from your hair. One way you can tell if your shampoo is doing this is if your hair feels great the first few days, you’re using a new shampoo, and then it starts gradually getting greasier and greasier again.
A lot of people attribute that greasy feeling to shampoo build-up and switch products for a while to handle it.
While it’s true that shampoo can build up, and it’s a good idea to reach for a clarifying shampoo occasionally, most of the time the issue isn’t build-up, but that your scalp is reacting to over-washing by producing more oil.
Instead of washing your hair every day, try going 2-3 days between washing. At first, your scalp will still overproduce those protective oils, so we’ll talk about managing that a little further down. However, as your scalp adjusts to your new routine it won’t produce as much oil, leaving your hair looking fresh that much longer.
Use Dry Shampoo Between Washes
Dry shampoos are a great option for controlling grease between showers. They work by absorbing some of the oils from around the roots (you only need to apply dry shampoo to your roots. Don’t worry about the rest of your hair, even if it’s long), leaving you looking fresh for longer.
Plus, most dry shampoo will add some light scent and texture to your hair. It’ll look and smell freshly washed and styled without stripping out all the moisture.
Dry shampoo is best applied at least 2 hours before you go out to make sure it has some time to absorb the oil. One way to get around that wait time is to apply it at night so that you wake up with a fresh head.
Change Your Pillow Case More Often
Speaking of overnight care for your scalp, changing your pillow cover more often will also work to reduce the oil on your skin and hair.
Your pillow absorbs the oils from your skin every night. It also re-deposits some of that oil back into your hair and skin every night. The longer you use the same pillowcase the more oil has built up in the fabric, and the more oil your hair and skin pick up while you sleep.
A good rule of thumb is to change your pillowcase every week. Some people can get away with changing it once every 2 weeks, but if you already have greasy hair it will help to be more proactive. Once your hair is less greasy you can experiment with using the same pillowcase longer.
When you’re changing your pillowcase often enough, you’ll also notice that the skin on your face and neck isn’t as greasy either.
It’s also a good idea to upgrade pillowcases if you’re using a cotton or polyester case. Satin and silk are both gentler on your hair in general and will reduce oil transfer.
Brushing Your Hair
Brushing your hair is an important part of caring for your hair and can help you stop your hair from getting greasy.
Even very short hair benefits from being brushed because the brush carries some of the oil from your scalp and coats the shaft. That may not sound like a good thing, but re-distributing the oil does two things that benefit your hair.
The first, and main reason brushing helps with the appearance of greasy hair right away, is that your hair will have more volume if the oil isn’t weighting down your hair in any one place.
Since the oil starts at your scalp it’s hard to get good shape and volume from your hair if that oil just sits there because it will plaster each strand to your scalp.
The other benefit is that, over time, your scalp will produce less oil if you move the oil through your hair. The point of the oil is to protect your hair and skin. If your hair is receiving the benefit of the oil your scalp won’t need to produce as much.
Experiment with how much you brush your hair. Some people only need to brush their hair once a day, especially with short hair. Others benefit quite a bit from brushing twice a day.
The amount you need to brush is very individual. Too little and your scalp with producing more oil in an attempt to get enough to coat the shaft of your hair. But brushing too much can stimulate oil production as the friction irritates your scalp and hair follicles.
To figure out how much you need to brush we recommend sticking to a new routine for at least 1 week before you change it again. That gives your scalp some time to adjust and to start seeing benefits if you’ve found the right routine.
In addition to experimenting with how often you brush your hair, think about how thoroughly you brush it.
Short hair may only need a few strokes at a time and may benefit from using a comb instead of a proper brush.
Longer hair (longer than about 2-3 inches) probably wants a brush, and you should experiment with how long and how thoroughly you brush it each time.
Wear a Sweat Band at the Gym
Working out is great for your overall health, and that will show up in your hair as well, but it can be hard to avoid some extra greasiness if you’re constantly getting sweaty at the gym.
Rather than avoiding a good workout, and the resulting sweat, try controlling how much sweat and oil get into your hair by wearing a sweatband or a dew rag over your hair. The cloth will absorb a lot of the extra moisture and oil and prevent it from getting into your hair.
This is another good time for dry shampoo. Applying a little dry shampoo after you work out will also absorb the extra oil and keep your hair looking fresh. Just don’t overdo it, you should only apply dry shampoo once between washes, twice at most.
If you work out more often and need other solutions for grease, look for the alternative hair care section at the end of this article for more ways to control grease between washes.
Avoid Touching Your Hair
This last tip is especially important with greasy hair. You might not be adding a ton of grease by touching your hair, but if your hair is already greasy every little bit makes a difference.
By touching we mean any contact between skin and hair. This can be your hand, your face, or even the back of your neck.
For most men with shorter hair, the biggest thing you want to avoid is running your fingers through your hair. Every time you do, you’ll add a little grease to your hair. Plus, all that extra stimulation is likely to make your scalp produce even more oil.
If you have longer hair you should think about more than just running your hands through your hair. Hair touching your face will make both your face and your hair greasier. The same goes for your neck and back.
If your hair is long enough to put up in a low tail, braid, or even a bun, you should be putting it up at least part of the time. Putting it up reduces the contact between your skin and hair, plus it almost always looks more professional than leaving your hair loose.
Just remember that putting your hair up does cause a small amount of damage, so you want to let it down sometimes too.
What Products Work Best for Stopping Hair from Getting Greasy?
Reducing grease isn’t all about routine changes, although that’s a big part of it, you should also be thinking about what products you use in your hair.
Everything from your shampoo and conditioner to the mouse, gel, and hair spray you use make a difference in your hair texture and oil production.
Making some simple changes to what products you use can make a huge difference, so here’s a guide to what you should or shouldn’t be buying, as well as some alternative hair care options that make it easier to keep your hair looking fresh.
Shampoo is one of the single most important aspects of hair care. While you shouldn’t be using shampoo more than 2-3 times a week, it will still have a major impact on how your hair looks and feels every day.
Rather than recommending a product we want to give you a guide for things to look for and things to avoid in a good shampoo. That way you can find a good option for you without breaking the bank or putting up with a scent you hate.
Sulfates are harsh stripping chemicals that take all the oil out of your hair. That may seem like a good idea at first but remember that you need some oil in your hair to keep it healthy.
Stripping out all the oil not only damages your hair over time, but it also causes your scalp to produce more oil to compensate. Especially if your hair is fine or more delicate the combination of the chemical action and the extra grease from your scalp can leave it looking and feeling rough and unhealthy.
You should also try to avoid shampoos with cetyl alcohol or stearyl alcohol, since they also tend to dry your hair out, leaving it more brittle and prone to damage.
Adding Moisture is Better
A lot of shampoos that are designed for greasy hair is designed to more aggressively strip the oil from your hair. We’ve already talked about how stripping the oil makes the problem worse over time, and that still holds true here.
While stripping out the oil can make your hair look and feel better in the short term, you must keep washing your hair too often to maintain those results.
Instead of stripping your hair, opt for gentler shampoos that add moisture. These formulations still remove most of the oil from your hair when you wash, but they leave some oil behind and usually also deposit protective minerals that will make your hair stronger.
Between stripping less of the oil and stripping it less often your scalp will be able to relax and produce less troublesome grease altogether.
Good moisture-adding shampoos will typically contain some natural oils. Look for a shampoo with argon, jojoba, coconut, or shea oil. All of these options mimic the properties and action of your natural oil, further reducing your scalp’s need to produce more.
Even if you don’t want to use a clarifying shampoo every day it is a good idea to have one on hand to use occasionally.
Switching what products, you use prevents any one chemical or ingredient from building up on your scalp, clogging pores and forcing higher oil production.
While it’s not necessary to constantly switch shampoos for good results, if you start noticing that you aren’t getting the same quality results, you’re used to from a particular shampoo you can try using a clarifying shampoo for a couple of washes and then go back to your other shampoo.
Still, try to avoid sulfates and cetyl and stearyl alcohol though, you don’t want to undo the progress you’ve made with your regular shampoo.
In general, you should follow the same rules for conditioner that you follow for shampoo. Fortunately, most shampoos have a paired conditioner, so once you’ve found a good shampoo, you’ll be well served by getting the matching conditioner.
As important as having the right conditioner, however, is how you apply it. Avoid putting conditioner directly on your roots.
Now that you have a shampoo that doesn’t dry your hair out so much you shouldn’t need the extra moisture at your roots, for one thing. Conditioner has the same problem your natural oils do when it concentrates near your scalp, the extra weight will prevent your hair from lifting from your scalp.
Hair that’s flattened near your scalp doesn’t have nearly the same volume or body as hair that lifts free from your scalp.
Concentrate on getting the conditioner to the ends of your hair, where it’s likely to be driest and need the most extra protection, and through the shaft up to ½-1 inch above your scalp.
Styling products, in general, will make your hair greasier over time. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them, but rather than you should use them with care and minimize how often you reach for the mouse or gel.
Ingredient-wise, the rules are the same as shampoo and conditioner. It can be harder to find products without sulfates and alcohols, but you can at least minimize how much of those ingredients are in the products you buy.
Avoid products that are meant to make your hair shinier. Gels, in particular, will add intentional shine to your hair, and while that is great for some people it will work to make your hair look and feel greasier if you already tend toward greasy hair. Look for matte options.
Minimize how often you use hair products and aim to use them only the same day you’re going to wash your hair or the day before. You want to wash the product out as soon as possible because almost all hair styling products will clog your pores if you leave them on your head too long.
Especially if you’re already using dry shampoo between washes you may be able to get away without any product at all. The combination od dry shampoo and your natural oil will give your hair a lot of body and shape. Chances are you’ll be able to get a great style with nothing more than a brush.
Alternative Hair Care Options
If you have particularly sensitive skin and hair (like me) sometimes you need to experiment with alternative hair care options to prevent your hair from getting greasy. Fortunately, there are lots of options, they’re almost all cheap, and you probably have some of them in your kitchen already.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is great for your hair, internally and externally. Some people like to add it to their water like lemon juice (in VERY small quantities, this stuff is potent!), but I prefer applying it topically for immediate results.
Apple cider vinegar helps move oil through your hair and remove some of the excess, making it a good option to freshen up your hair between washes. I tend to put mine in a spray bottle to make it easier to apply.
You can spray some on before going to bed and comb it through your hair to get a conditioning effect. I prefer putting it on for about five minutes before a shower and then washing it out. Either option will reduce the amount of oil in your hair and prevent it from weighing your hair down.
You can add orange peel, essential oils, fresh herbs, or even tea bags to the vinegar if you don’t like the scent.
Don’t worry, the vinegar scent will go away as soon as your hair is dry even if you don’t add another scent to it.
Egg and Oil Masks
Another option to control greasy hair is to add healthy oil so your scalp doesn’t have to produce so much on its own.
You want to do masks, regardless of what they’re made from, right before a shower. Plan on leaving the mask in your hair for 10 minutes up to 1 hour, and then wash and condition as normal.
Beaten egg whites are a great option since they contain a lot of the nutrients your hair needs to stay lush and healthy, in addition to adding moisture. Be careful with them though, this is a short duration mask. Dried egg whites are hard to get out, so when your hair starts to dry it’s time to wash.
Olive oil, coconut oil, and jojoba oil are great mask options, all of these add nutrients and mimic your natural oil. Mashed avocado is another good alternative, on its own or mixed with a small amount of these oils or vinegar.
Oil, vinegar, and avocado are all suitable to leave in your hair up an hour, and you’ll get more benefit from at least 20 minutes in your hair.
If you choose to use one of these masks to add moisture and reduce grease you should plan on using it no more than once a week and no less than once a month.
No one routine is perfect for everyone. Experiment with each of these techniques and options until you find a consistent routine that works well for you and your hair.
Changing your shower habits and shampoo may be enough for some, but don’t be afraid to add more to your routine if you need to.
Most importantly, make changes that feel good and that you can stick to. Nothing will eliminate greasy hair in one attempt. Plan on these changes being permanent additions to your routine and you’ll be rewarded for your consistency.
- Why Does Your Hair Get Greasy?
- Greasy Hair Care 101
- What Products Work Best for Stopping Hair from Getting Greasy?