Why Is My Hair So Oily And Greasy?

Medically reviewed by Vd. Naveen Sharma, Ayurveda Physician
by Arshiya Syeda

We often hear women complaining about having dry hair. Drugstore aisles are full of products designed especially for dry hair. But, very few people talk about the other end of the spectrum, the diametrical opposite of dry hair – oily hair. Yes, having oily hair is just as big a problem as having dry hair because it makes your locks look flat, limp, lifeless, and just all around yucky. So, let’s start off by answering the question…

Why Is My Hair So Oily And Greasy?

The skin on your scalp, just like the skin on the rest of your body, is full of pores that are connected to sebaceous glands. These sebaceous glands secrete the natural oil called sebum. This sebum is essential for keeping your hair soft, smooth, and manageable. However, sometimes they can start producing sebum in excess amounts that result in your hair becoming oily and greasy. What causes this to happen? Well, let’s find out…

What Causes Oily Hair?

There are so many and such varied factors that can cause oily hair that we will need to take this one by one. So, let’s get started!

1. Your natural hair type: Your natural hair type can determine how oily your hair will be. Confused? Let me break it down for you:

a. If you have fine hair, it means there is too much oil being secreted by your scalp and not enough hair to absorb it.

b. Straight hair tends to be oilier because the sebum travels evenly from the roots to tips without any curls or kinks to act as an obstruction.

c. Curly and coily hair tends to be very oily at the roots as the oil builds up there and does not have the chance to travel down the hair shaft (1).

2. Genetic factors: If either of your parents has oily hair, then there’s a high chance that they’ve passed on that particular gene to you (2).

3. Humidity: If you live in a place that has high humidity, you will invariably have not only hair but also oily skin because humid climate sends your sebaceous glands into overdrive (a).

4. Hormonal disturbance: Your hormonal levels may get disturbed due to certain medications (including birth control pills), pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and stress, which could lead to a spike in the production of sebum on your scalp (2).

5. Skin conditions: Oily scalp causes skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis causes oily hair and scalp dandruff (3).

6. Playing with your hair: Do you, consciously or unconsciously, run your hands through your hair too much? Then here’s a harsh truth – not only are you transferring the oil secreted by your hands to your hair but you are also distributing the oil from your scalp throughout the length of your hair, making it greasy. Who knew, huh?

7. Brushing your hair too much: This, again, follows the same logic as the previous point. When you brush your hair repeatedly, you keep re-distributing the oil from your scalp through the length of your hair. This gets even more aggravated when you already have naturally oily hair.

8. Using too much product: Using too much of any hair product – conditioner, serum, hair gel, hair wax, mousse, and the like – can cause it to build upon your scalp and wreak havoc on the functioning of the sebaceous glands (1). This can prove to be an even bigger problem if these products are alcohol-based. These products, mixed with sebum, can majorly weigh your hair down and make it look greasy.

9. Shampooing your hair too much: While you may feel like shampooing your hair every day is the only way to reduce the oiliness on your hair, you could not be further from the truth. Washing your hair too often will only encourage your scalp to produce more sebum to compensate for the oils that have been stripped away by the shampoo. So, you would be aggravating – not solving – your oily hair problem by shampooing your hair every day.

10. Using hot water to wash your hair: Hot water stimulates sebaceous glands and encourages them to produce more sebum.

11. Conditioning your hair too much: Applying too much conditioner to your hair and applying it right from the roots only weighs your hair down and makes it look greasy (1).

12. Using the wrong products: Using products that are meant to moisturize your hair – like moisturizing shampoos, deep fortifying shampoos, and deep conditioners – can make your already oily hair even oilier.

13. Tying your hair up too much: Keeping your hair tied up in a tight ponytail can cause oil and sebum to build up only on that one section of scalp and give you unevenly oily hair.

14. Heat styling your hair too much: Applying too much heat to your hair through regular use of blow dryers, straightening irons, and curling wands dry it out. This encourages your sebaceous glands to work in overdrive and produce more and more sebum, thus making your hair oily.

15. Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D plays an active role in the production and regulation of sebum levels. Not having enough of this nutrient could lead to your sebum levels going haywire and making your hair too oily (4).

So now that you’ve managed to pinpoint exactly why your hair is oily and greasy, it’s time you took matters into your own hands and took some steps to subvert this problem. So, here’s what you need to do!

How To Prevent Oily Hair

  1. Don’t brush your hair more than 2-3 times a day and use a boar bristle brush while doing so.
  2. Rinse your hair for at least 30 seconds after shampooing and conditioning it to ensure you’ve removed all products.
  3. Rinse your hair with cold water as it closes your hair cuticles and prevents sebaceous glands from going into overdrive.
  4. Use a clear, sulfate-free shampoo and a lightweight conditioner to wash your hair.
  5. Write this down and memorize it – don’t ever apply conditioner to your scalp. This will only cause it to build upon your scalp, act as an adhesive to dirt and grime, and block your pores. Instead, apply it from the mid-section to the ends of your hair that actually need the extra moisturization.
  6. Avoid using hair products that contain silicones as they coat your hair and attract oil and dirt to cling to it.
  7. Avoid using hair gels, mousses, and dry shampoos that only cause more buildup and make your hair look greasier.
  8. Opt for lightweight finishing mists and sprays to add shine to your hair.
  9. Every two weeks, add a bit of baking soda to your shampoo to remove all the oil and product buildup from your hair and scalp.
  10. If you must blow-dry your hair, do so on the cool setting to avoid over-stimulating your sebaceous glands.

And that’s that, ladies! That’s all you need to do to prevent your hair from becoming too oily and greasy! Pretty easy, huh? So comment below to let us know if you have any tips that help you manage your oily hair.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Is it good for your hair to be greasy?

No, it is not good for your hair to be greasy as it makes dust and dirt cling to your hair and compromises its hygiene.

Can sebum cause hair loss?

No, sebum cannot cause hair loss but it can affect your hair growth cycle.

What is the best shampoo for oily hair?

Pantene Pro-V Total Damage Care Shampoo For Oily Hair is the best shampoo for oily hair.

Can you damage your hair by washing it every day?

Yes, you can damage your hair by washing it every day as it strips your hair of its natural oils.

Can you have dry scalp and oily hair?

Yes, you can have a dry scalp and oily hair but this is a sign of seborrheic dermatitis and you should get it looked at by a dermatologist.

4 sources

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Arshiya Syeda

Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).