Whether it’s straight and fine, coarse and curly or, in this case, slick and oily, every hair type requires its own routine.
To help cease the grease, Shop TODAY consulted dermatologists, trichologists and hair stylists to learn what causes an oily scalp and get their tips for managing it. We also asked the experts about the tried-and-true shampoos they recommend to their clients. So let your hair down — and while you’re at it, put the dry shampoo down, too — because you’re about to be the mane attraction.
What causes an oily scalp and how common is it?
“Oily scalps are common and often coincide with an oily skin type,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Yoram Harth. “Hormonal changes, diet and stress can all be contributing factors.”
Your very own hair care products may even be the culprit. “If you have fine hair and are using a shampoo that contains a lot of moisturizing actives (such as avocado, argan, sunflower and coconut oil), this will likely weigh your hair down and make it look and feel oily,” adds certified trichologist Anabel Kingsley. She suggests choosing a shampoo based on your hair texture, not its condition.
The health of your scalp is also directly linked to how frequently and efficiently you suds up. “Your scalp is a very oily tissue, containing thousands of sebaceous glands,” Kingsley notes. “If you aren’t cleansing your scalp regularly, sweat, oil and dead skin cells will build up throughout your roots.”
Tips for managing oily hair
Already through your second can of dry shampoo this month? Certified trichologist Taylor Rose has the ultimate hair-wash routine for you. “Use a clarifying shampoo once a week to remove any buildup, wash your hair once a day with a gentle daily cleanser and avoid applying conditioner on your roots — only apply on the mid-lengths to ends."
For the best results, you’ll also want to pay extra attention to the ingredient labels when shopping in the shampoo aisle. Rose suggests looking for products with salicylic acid to help exfoliate the scalp, tea tree oil to help kill bacteria, and both aloe vera and chamomile to help soothe the skin.
Harth notes that “foods high in grease and fat can contribute to an oily scalp.” He recommends opting for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean protein.
Celebrity hairstylist Claude Baruk also shares his rapid-fire to-do (and not to-do) list for achieving healthy, red carpet-ready hair:
- “Gently massage your scalp while shampooing to help evenly distribute oil.”
- “Avoid hot water, as it can stimulate oil production.”
- “Consider blotting sheets designed for the scalp to absorb excess oil between washes.”
- “Avoid excessive touching or brushing of your hair throughout the day, as this can transfer oils from your hands to your hair.”
Your hair is as unique as you are — and getting to the root of your oily scalp issues will call for some trial and error. But don't fret too much, better hair days are ahead thanks to these expert-approved shampoos.
Best shampoos for oily scalps, according to experts
Size: 10 fl oz | Key ingredients: Lavender essential oils, chamomile extract, aloe, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil
“If you have an extra oily scalp and must wash hair daily, I recommend this gentle 2-in-1 shampoo, which won’t dry out your hair,” suggests Rose. It’s also hypoallergenic, making it a great choice for sensitive skin.
Size: 13 fl oz | Key ingredients: Natural fragrance, hydrolyzed rice protein, amaranthus caudatus (velvet flower) extract
Rose raves about this clarifying sulfate-free shampoo, and says she recommends it to all her clients with naturally oily scalps. Use it once a week to remove dirt, oil and product buildup, according to the brand.
Size: 8.4 fl oz | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, aloe leaf juice, avocado oil, glycerin
Nécessaire's formulas are created sans sulfates, parabens or synthetic fragrances, and Harth is a fan of this shampoo. “It’s fortified with essential oils and vitamins that control oil production and nourish the scalp, making it ideal for those with oily hair,” he says.
Size: 10 fl oz | Key ingredients: Apple cider vinegar, hydrolyzed keratin
If you feel like you’re seeing Ouai everywhere, you aren’t wrong. Jen Atkin’s cult-fave beauty line has every hair type in mind — including those with oily scalps. “The Ouai Detox Shampoo effectively removes excess oil and buildup,” says Harth. “Its natural ingredients, like apple cider vinegar, also help to balance the scalp’s pH levels, leading to healthier hair overall.”
Size: 5.4 fl oz | Key ingredients: Activated charcoal, anionic polymer (to remove buildup)
When your scalp needs a serious detox, try this shampoo that Harth calls a “powerful triple-action formula.”
“Its charcoal-based composition gives you a refreshed and balanced feeling after every wash,” he says.
Size: 8.5 fl oz | Key ingredients: Amino acid, vitamin B6
This balancing shampoo is a game changer for greasy scalps. According to Baruk, the formula does a great job of treating oily roots while targeting dry ends at the same time.
Size: 8.5 fl oz | Key ingredients: Rosebay extract, green marine algae, biomimetic amino acid
If your hair wash schedule has taken over your life, this might just be the shampoo for you. “This line will help extend some time between washes for people with oily hair,” says hair colorist Raul Daviid. “I love to pair this with the Serene Scalp Oil Control Mist.”
Size: 13.4 fl oz | Key ingredients: Yuzu citrus, glycerin, hydrogenated castor oil
Having a luxe self-care moment can be a daily occurrence with this oil-balancing shampoo. “This is a great shampoo for daily use that won’t over-exfoliate or irritate the skin,” says Daviid. “It’s formulated with clean ingredients that are safe to use on sensitive scalps.”
Meet the hair experts
- Claude Baruk is an award-winning celebrity hairstylist.
- Raul Daviid is a hair colorist at the Butterfly Studio Salon in New York City.
- Dr. Yoram Harth is a board-certified dermatologist and the medical director of MDhair. He is a former research fellow at the Department of Dermatology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and has authored dozens of scientific publications.
- Anabel Kingsley is a certified trichologist, consultant and brand president of the Philip Kingsley Clinics.
- Taylor Rose is a Los Angeles-based, IAT-certified trichologist specializing in women’s hair regrowth.
- William Gaunitz is a certified trichologist and hair loss expert based in Laguna Beach, California.