Treating & Rebalancing Greasy Scalp: Causes and Remedies

Everyone's scalp secretes oils, so naturally, the overproduction of oil can happen. Some oil (or sebum) is natural and healthy and protects and supports healthy hair but an overproduction of oil can be problematic, especially if your hair feels greasy, dirty and weighed down all the time. In some cases, overly greasy hair can, along with other symptoms, also indicate a skin disorder. 

Let's explore what causes an oily scalp, how to treat it, and tips on how to reduce an overproduction of oil. 

What causes an oily scalp?

It’s completely natural for your hair to get oily after a few days without washing it. However, if you find that your hair is limp and greasy especially soon after washing your hair, you may have an underlying problem.

Four common causes of an oily scalp may be seborrheic dermatitis, skin conditions, forehead acne, or genetics.

  1. Seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff’s most common cause): This condition irritates and inflames the skin, developing pink, scaly patches over skin with oil glands, including the scalp. The main result of seborrheic dermatitis is good old-fashioned dandruff. Doctors don't fully know what causes dandruff other than being an irregular immune reaction and/or a yeast fungus called Malassezia that lives in the skin's oil secretions. Dandruff isn't serious but it can be embarrassing and unsightly for those sufferers. The good news is that Abyssinian oil is naturally antifungal and dandruff can be remedied with that and/or with multiple home remedies.
  2. Skin conditions: Red, scaly patches on the scalp may be caused by skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, which are both conditions related to immune dysfunction.
  3. Forehead acne: When oil and skin cells make their way into your pores and get trapped, you may get acne. Some acne can get infected and bacteria can build up, leading to acne bumps. Excess oil production often causes acne and that can impact the scalp.
  4. Genetics: How much oil your glands produce and your hair thickness is often determined by your genes.

Did you know how important UV protection is to limit oiliness of the scalp?

UV radiation promotes inflammation in the skin. Inflammation can stimulate sebaceous glands and increase oil production. This is another potential reason for oily scalp after sun exposure, and one more reason to consider UV protection to improve your hair and scalp health.

A 2003 study found that hair follicle exposure to UV radiation significantly increased sebum production by 120-140% in just 4 days (in comparison to hair not exposed to UV radiation). This  suggested that consistent exposure to UV could damage the barrier functions of the skin and scalp over time.

An oily scalp is usually the consequence of imbalances and an overreaction of your scalp to external factors. On top of inflammation, UV exposure also causes imbalances in your scalp microbiome which can make oily scalp a recurring issue. Thus, protection is more important than you think, even when the sun is not shining as bright as it seems, UV still affects your scalp’s health. Sunburns on the contrary disrupt your skin and scalp cells ability to regenerate.

UVB and UVA damage

UVB damage can increase hair loss, damage the hair shaft, and make the hair brittle, while UVA affects the colour and lead to discolouration. By using hair care products that also provide UV protection can help reverse the damage done while protecting your hair from further harm.

What products can I use to protect my hair against UV radiation?

You can curate your hair care routine according to your hair type and concerns and still live a worry-free life in the city or the great outdoors – from shampoos to conditions to serums and rinsing mists, all with UV protection, we offer a complete range for the neediest of hair. 

Our Superfood Recovery Shampoo and our Daily Shield Superfood Conditioner contain our speciality formulated Polluclear™, which are our sugar-based extracts that protect the hair from pollution and UV.

Our Hydrating Volumizing Shampoo, our Hydrating Volumizing Conditioner, and our Revitalizing Rinsing Mist contain fermented rice water which along with vitamin B8 (essential for hair growth) and amino acids also protect the hair from the sun’s damaging radiation, which can create dull, ageing hair. Finally, our Super Gloss Hair Serum contains vitamin E, which is a natural UV-blocker as well as essential fatty acids to boost hair health.

What if I have an oily scalp and dry hair?

If you don't have any of the above, you may have an oily scalp with straw-like dry hair and that can be caused by overwashing your hair. Yep! There can be too much of a good thing when it comes to getting clean. You may also be using shampoo with strong surfactants (SLS, SLES) and your natural oils are being stripped from your hair. When this happens, your ends get dry and your body triggers an overproduction of oil in the scalp.

What if I have an oily and itchy scalp?

Oily plus itchy is generally caused by dandruff. You know our good old friend, seborrheic dermatitis.

But if you just have an itchy scalp without the grease it may be eczema and psoriasis or an allergic reaction to chemicals in your hair products.

What if I have an oily scalp and hair loss?

Hair loss and an oily scalp is often a result of genetics and ageing; however, it can also be a pointer for damaged hair follicles and result in clogged pores, which isn’t great for healthy hair growth.

So, how do I fix these problems naturally?

Try natural supplements

Some natural ingredients can work from the inside out to restore your hair and body health.

Fish oil: There's some evidence to suggest a fish oil supplement can help manage dandruff flare-ups, which can contribute to an oily scalp. Plus, fish oil is known for its benefits for the immune system and heart health too.

Aloe vera: Aloe is another remedy used to treat dandruff naturally. It controls the inflammation that leads to flare-ups.

Probiotics: Probiotics are another supplement that are used to decrease the body's inflammation, which can control dandruff flare-ups. There is only some scientific evidence to back up probiotics as a source of treating an oily scalp but it's worth a try! Probiotics can also be found in many fermented foods, like greek yoghurt, kimchi and kefir.

Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic that can control fungal and bacterial buildups that lead to acne and skin conditions. If you dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil like coconut, olive oil, or your classic Abyssinian oil and mix in a few drops on the affected area it may help cure a dry scalp (but won't necessarily help with excess oil).

Apple cider vinegar: Natural vinegar is well-loved in homoeopathic circles and some say that it's an effective anti-inflammatory remedy to help reduce oil production and control skin flare-ups. However, some say that if you have eczema, not to use this natural acid as it can further irritate your skin. If you want to try apple cider vinegar, add a few drops onto your scalp after washing your hair, leave for a few minutes, and rinse well.

Use a specialty shampoo

If you want to opt for a more conventional treatment option, you can choose a shampoo that is effective against an oily scalp.

We recommend our Sunday Detox Exfoliating Shampoo.

This shampoo is specially formulated to remove flakes gently whilst cleansing any excess buildup on the scalp as well as chemical residue. It's perfect for oily and dandruff prone hair.

This product restores the scalp's natural pH balance whilst combining the benefits of dead sea salt minerals, microbiome-balancing essential oils, and our super wonder APIBIOME™ celery seed oil-based active ingredient. The extracts from the celery seed oil is the first sulfate-free salt scrub on the market.

In our plant-derived formula, there are no parabens, SLSs, or phosphates. Our Apibiome technology reduces scalp irritation, yeast, and fungal buildup and restores scalp health – making an oily, flaky scalp a thing of the past.

In a study by Sederma, a world leader in the field of active ingredients in the cosmetic industry – a panel of volunteers with scalp issues washed their hair with our APIBIOME™ technology at least three times per week. After 21 days, up to 93% of the volunteers had visibly less or no more dandruff.

With APIBIOME™, the scalp itching sensation is reduced on both oily scalp and dry scalp. The scalp recovers its optimal hydration while sebum production is reduced on an oily scalp. It's a miracle product you should try if you suffer from an oily, itchy scalp.

Wash your hair more often

If you have super oily hair, as much as it's counterintuitive, you may need to wash your hair more often. We are often told only to lather up 3-4 times per week but if your scalp is producing too much oil and the balance isn't restored, you may need to gently remove the excess oil and debris daily.

Wash your hair less often

Or, if you already wash daily and your hair is greasy by the end of the day, then you might be overwashing, stripping your scalp's natural oils and not giving your scalp a chance to restore itself.

If you have dry skin and an itchy scalp and oily hair, then you might be washing too often and you need to restore the natural oil balance which may mean a few unsightly and greasy days before your scalp restores itself.

Shampoo your hair correctly

Although shampooing your hair seems like a no-brainer because you'll have washed your hair hundreds of times, shampooing incorrectly can damage your hair and lead to an oily scalp.

To wash correctly, gently work a small amount of shampoo into the roots only. Don't use your nails to create friction or breakage. Too much aggressive scrubbing can irritate the scalp and cause overproduction of oil.

Focus on your scalp and not the ends. Wash your scalp and don't apply shampoo to the ends and let the shampoo flow through the ends of the hair during the rinsing process.

Condition the ends

Just like  improperly shampooing can lead to greasy hair, over conditioning can too. If you have greasy hair, you don't need to add heavy conditioner to the roots. Instead, condition your ends and rinse your hair thoroughly.

We recommend our Daily Shield Superfood Conditioner.

Our plant sugar-based anti-pollution formula uses the antioxidants spirulina and pomegranate to provide a weightless, softening conditioner without silicone and with 97% plant-based ingredients. These superfood ingredients mean you get natural conditioning without the heavy buildup which means it can also be used on the scalp.

Skip heavy styling

Flat irons and blow dryers do give a sleek finish but they can make your hair look greasy faster since you spend more time depositing oil from your fingertips.

Try air drying with our self-care hair towel to see if that makes a difference to over oil production.

If you really must use heat tools, use a heat protectant serum or spray such as  our Supergloss Hair Serum or  Silk Milk on the ends. It’s important to use a product that doesn't have unnatural ingredients that may  cause buildup.

Clean your hairbrush regularly

If you don't think any of the above really applies to you, you may just be brushing your clean, freshly washed hair with a dirty hairbrush. Your brush can get a buildup of oil, styling products, dust, and just general yuckiness. Be sure to clean your brush and styling tools with a gentle soap or a bit of shampoo and clean out loose hair after brushing.

Be kind to your hair

When washing, brushing, and/or styling, be gentle with your hair and scalp so you don't overstimulate it and cause it to secrete excess oil.

 You can benefit from using a wooden comb or brush that gently distributes oil from the scalp to the tips of your hair, allowing you to go longer without washing your hair and in turn, overwashing it.

The takeaways

Some oil is natural and healthy for your hair, but an excess of it can leave you feeling insecure and uncomfortable. Try some of these supplements, hair care tips, products, and general hair health tips to treat your oily and/or itchy scalp.

Don't forget that each product you buy, helps us plant trees and stay sustainable. #AbyssianEveryday

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