What's The Real Difference Between An Oily Scalp And A Greasy One?

We've all dealt with greasy hair at one point or another. Luckily, dry shampoo was created for those days when washing your hair is an absolute not-gonna-happen. (Still, you have to make you're using dry shampoo the right way.) In fact, you really should only be washing your hair about one to two times a week, according to CNN. Over-washing your hair strips your scalp of its necessary oils; however, there is the exception if your hair has been bleached or treated with other harsh chemicals. But what about those of us with super oily hair... or is it greasy hair? 


We often use these words interchangeably, but are greasy scalps and oily scalps the same thing? It's probably something you've never thought about, and why would you? It makes total sense to use either term to describe that slick, gross feeling our scalp gets between washes. So, what's the real difference between an oily scalp and a greasy scalp? Keep reading to find out.

There isn't one

As it turns out, there isn't a difference between the two. When you say your scalp is oily, it means you have too many sebaceous glands or too much sebum, Switch explains. Your scalp may also be overcompensating to hydrate itself if it's super dry, which can happen from using too many chemicals or having a weak scalp barrier. If the problem goes untreated, you could end up with dandruff or worse — hair loss. Additionally, an oily scalp eventually leads to oily hair, which is definitely not the vibe we want.


When you say your scalp is greasy, you're dealing with the same issue — overactive sebaceous glands and too much sebum production. You may also be using too many hair products, which causes buildup on the scalp, making your hair look greasy or oily, says Head & Shoulders. Believe it or not, your diet can also affect the amount of grease or oil your scalp produces. If you consume a lot of carbs or fats, your scalp is more susceptible to these issues.

What to do about it

It's no secret that having an oily or greasy scalp is super annoying, especially when you don't want to wash your hair more than you normally do. Fortunately, there are tons of ways to cure your greasy scalp that don't involve more frequent washes. According to Healthline, using too much conditioner can contribute to the problem, so it's wise to ease up on your product usage. (Trust us, your hair can still be silky smooth without a palmful of conditioner.) In fact, keeping all hair products to a minimum will do wonders for your scalp. 


You can also train your scalp to be less greasy. By washing it less often, your scalp slowly learns how to produce less oil and return to its proper balance. You can dive right in and skip washes for weeks at a time, or you can take your time and wash it a few times a week. 

If you want to go the more natural route, you have tons of options. For example, fish oil, tea tree oil, and aloe vera have a positive impact on greasy scalps. You could also try probiotics or apply apple cider vinegar to your hair and scalp to help solve the problem.