A Family Savvy reader submitted the following question to Dr. Herzog on how to deal with oily hair.
QUESTION: Dr. Jo, my teenager has suddenly started having oily hair. Her skin is clear and pimple free, but her hair always has a slightly greasy look no matter how much she washes. Can you tell me why this is happening and how I can help her? Thanks in advance…a concerned mom.
ANSWER: Dear concerned mom, I understand your wanting to help your teenager. As a mother of five, I know how self-conscious teenagers can be, especially about their appearance. Oily hair is a common problem, and that is why it is associated with all kinds of hair care myths and remedies . Let’s have a look at this problem and some of the simple ways to deal with it.
Anyone can have oily hair, but it seems to be more common in those with fine hair. Although people with fine hair have thinner strands, they likely have more hair follicles – and thus more sebaceous (oil producing) glands, which results in more oil production.
Several things can contribute to one’s having oily hair. Hormonal changes, genetic make-up, and factors such as a hot environment also seem to contribute to the amount of oil an individual produces. To address the problem, we can try to decrease the amount of oil produced as well as remove the oil that is already present on hair. Hopefully, this will result in soft, clean, shiny hair.
You may have heard that washing hair often makes one produce more oil. Actually, it is massaging the scalp that stimulates oil production. Washing the hair is a good thing; it keeps hair clean and can eliminate greasiness. Just make sure that when washing hair, you avoid vigorously massaging the scalp.
You can wash hair daily, but avoid using hot water. I suggest using a clear shampoo. Shampoos that say “clarifying” are usually good for oily hair, as are shampoos with salicylic acid (T-Sal), selenium sulfide, zinc (Head and Shoulders), coal tar (T-Gel), and ketoconazole (Nizoral). When using these shampoos, it might help to leave on hair for 3-5 minutes for best results. You might lather up and leave on while shaving legs or washing your body. Rotating shampoos might also be helpful.
If the above methods fail and your hair continues to be greasy, occasionally add a bit of dishwashing liquid, like Dawn, to your hair washing routine. It gets the grease out of your hair like it does for your pots and pans. Do not use this on color- treated hair, as it can fade color.
Another readily available at-home product, white vinegar, might also help. I recommend a vinegar rinse (4 tablespoons white vinegar to a pint of water) to remove oil and a greasy appearance.
Brushing and combing will stimulate oil glands, so do not over brush if you have oily hair. Try to keep your hands out of your hair and off of your scalp as much as you can.
On busy days when you do not have time to wash your hair, there are several ways to get a quick fix. I use baby powder, but this is not good if gotten into lungs. You can also use use a talc-free cornstarch powder or a dry shampoo. Sprinkle or spray these onto hair, fluffing to disperse throughout hair while avoiding touching or massaging the scalp. Gently brush or comb through hair, and hopefully you will have fresh looking hair without the greasy look.
Hope this helps,