Natural Ways To Combat An Oily Scalp & Find Relief

Like your skin, your scalp also needs natural oils for adequate hydration and lustrous hair. However, too much of anything is not good. When the sebaceous glands on your scalp overproduce sebum, your scalp becomes an easy target for inflammation, itchiness, and dandruff. Having excess oil buildup on your scalp can weigh your hair down, making it look shiny and feel greasy, even right after a hair wash.  


When it comes to an oily scalp, various factors are at play. According to WebMD, an oily scalp can be a result of humid weather, stress, genetics, and hormonal fluctuations. Your daily habits — over-shampooing and over-brushing, for instance — and the hair products you use can also aggravate your hair follicles and affect the oil-producing function in your scalp. 

If you're battling an oily scalp, you may simply need to put a little extra effort into your scalp care. Aside from speaking to a dermatologist to pinpoint the root cause, you can also make adjustments to your lifestyle to improve your scalp health.

Shampoo less

When our scalp secretes lots of sweat and oil, we tend to shampoo more often to cleanse it and refresh the hair strands. While this makes sense, it can be counterproductive. More often than not, over-shampooing can cause our scalp to be overloaded with oil. 


A majority of shampoos are designed to eliminate lipids and soil from the hair's surface to keep the hair cleaner for longer. However, over-washing your hair with shampoo can deprive your scalp of its natural oils, causing it to overcompensate for the loss by secreting more oil, dermatologist Dr. Iris Rubin tells TZR. As a result, the scalp gets even oilier. If you shampoo less, say two to three times per week, your scalp won't have to overproduce oil to lubricate itself.

When choosing shampoos, do not select those that claim to add moisture or hydration to your hair. These shampoos are better suited for dry hair. Instead, search for sulfate-free or pH-balanced shampoos that do not strip the scalp of natural oils, as well as those that are designed to break down grease. Avoid aggressive or excessive scalp massage when washing your hair because it can trigger the oil glands to generate more oil. When applying conditioner, focus on the ends of your hair instead of the roots to avoid greasing the scalp. Also, make sure to fully rinse off all of the product, since product residue can suffocate the scalp and potentially hamper hair growth. 


Use dry shampoo when your hair is clean

If your hair is always lacking body and weight from grease, you can find relief in a lightweight dry shampoo between washes. Dry shampoo is especially helpful in absorbing excess sebum and impurities to instantly freshen your tresses and stretch the life of your fancy blowout.


However, you should not wait until your hair gets oily and dirty to start using dry shampoo. As its name suggests, dry shampoo is intended to be used on dry hair. This product cannot remove extra oil and product buildup as effectively as an exhaustive wash cycle with a regular shampoo so it would not be of much help if used on sweat-drenched, dirty hair. For instance, you should use dry shampoo before a workout,not after it, to give the product ample time to absorb the sweat to be released later on. When you know your hair's about to get sweaty, spritz a small amount of dry shampoo at least six inches away from your scalp and massage the formula evenly to prevent product accumulation at the roots.


Although dry shampoo can de-grease your scalp, avoid overusing it. Otherwise, it could cause a buildup of product on your scalp, making it even more greasy and irritated.

Wash your pillowcases frequently

Your pillowcase may be a lesser-known cause of your greasy scalp. If you've been noticing grease in your hair and scalp, ask yourself when was the last time you washed your pillowcase. Dirty pillowcases are a hotbed of germs, makeup, and hair product buildup. Your head presses against the pillowcase when you're sleeping, causing your hair to pick up filthy oils, germs, and dead skin cells on the surface. To prevent your pillowcase and your bedsheet from re-depositing oils and dirt onto your scalp as well as your skin, try to wash them at least once every two weeks. 


If you have oily skin in addition to an oily scalp, pull your hair back as you sleep to keep it from straying into your face and absorbing oil. Also, avoid leaving any product in your hair overnight. While leave-in treatments may be effective for some hair types, sleeping with gel or oil in your hair might clog your hair follicles and cause irritation if you have an oily scalp. Before going to bed, wash out any hair products you may have used during the day.  

Protect your hair from heat

Heat from the sun and heat-styling equipment can melt the natural oils on your scalp, causing them to disseminate across the hair strands and make them greasy, per Head & Shoulders. If possible, avoid styling with heat instruments and always cover your head with a scarf during sun exposure. 


When blow-drying your hair, always use the lowest heat setting to avoid heat damage and use the tool — and curling irons and hair straighteners — in moderation. Additionally, before using any heat styling instruments on your hair, always apply a small amount of lightweight heat protectant to protect your hair from moisture loss and tame frizz. 

If you continue to struggle with an oily scalp, a boar bristle brush can help evenly distribute excess oils sitting on your scalp towards the ends of your hair. Be sure to clean your hairbrush after every use, if you use this method.

Rinse your hair with apple cider vinegar

Rinsing your hair with apple cider vinegar several times per week can help promote a healthy scalp, especially if you're struggling with oil and dirt buildup. "When properly diluted, an apple cider vinegar hair rinse may help balance the pH of the scalp, prevent hair product buildup, and maintain proper oil balance," dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum tells Prevention. You can buy a hair product containing apple cider vinegar, or you can DIY the mixture for your hair rinse to use after shampoo and before conditioner.  


One easy way to do it, according to Coconuts & Kettlebells, is to mix one and three-quarters cups of water with three or four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a spray bottle. The quantity of apple cider vinegar depends on your hair length and hair type but should not exceed five tablespoons. You can also add some drops of essential oil into the mixture to mask the acidic smell. Then, spritz the formula onto your head and massage the product all over your scalp. After leaving the mixture in your hair for one to two minutes, rinse it out thoroughly with cool water and follow with a lightweight conditioner as needed.

Avoid products with silicone

If your scalp is on the oily side, avoid using hair products containing silicone, an ingredient that's responsible for lubricating cuticles, making hair feel velvety smooth while taming frizz. While silicones are generally safe and helpful for certain hair types, they are bad news for those with oily scalps.  


Silicones give the hair an instant boost of shine by coating the hair fibers with a barrier that shields them from external aggressors and limits moisture loss. However, these ingredients can also clog pores and cause build-up at the roots, causing the scalp to get oily and weighing down hair strands, according to dermatologist Marisa Garshick (via Allure). You can also expect itching and flaking as a result. "Because they form a 'film' around the hair follicle, silicones can also prevent other beneficial ingredients from reaching your hair, which can actually make your other products worthless over time if not washed out properly," cosmetic chemist Vince Spinnato tells Allure.