If your hair feels greasy soon after washing, you need to look for a special shampoo for oily hair. Find out all you need to know about treating oily hair with the right shampoo (plus see our top shampoo picks!) in this guide.
What’s the Best Oily Hair Shampoo?
Flat, limp locks that lack volume, an oily appearance, even unpleasant odor – oily hair is no fun. Thankfully, there are ways to manage your scalp’s oil production and give your hair that clean, airy look and feel.
One of the best is to start using a shampoo specifically formulated for oily hair.
Our Top Picks:
- Biolage Cooling Mint Scalpsync Shampoo
- OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp + Tea Tree Mint Shampoo
- Aveeno Clarify and Shine Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo
- L’Oreal Elvive Extraordinary Clay Rebalancing Shampoo
- Nexxus Hydra-Light Weightless Moisture Shampoo
If you’re dealing with an oily scalp, you need a different type of shampoo to tackle the issue. This simple change alone can balance your scalp’s oil production and help you achieve cleaner-looking hair that doesn’t need to be washed once or twice a day. Hallelujah, right?
As a greasy girl myself (there’s gotta be a better name for this), I’ll explain how a shampoo formulated for oily scalps can help you wage war on oily hair. I’ll also show you how to choose the right shampoo to fix it – and give you my top 5 favorites – in this guide.
My Battle With Oily Hair
A little backstory on me: Oily hair has been the bane of my existence since I was 12. Blame it on hormones, genetics, the wrong hair care products, or incomplete rinsing. I’m not sure. But regardless of the cause, I’ve been struggling with the effects of an oily scalp for years.
Lamenting my greasy grievances to my hairstylist mom only resulted in well-meaning but ill-advised directions to wash my hair more often.
Keep in mind that I was already washing my hair daily just to keep it looking remotely clean (or just my bangs – my fellow oilies will understand the struggle).
Daily shampooing (and a little baby powder in my roots when I couldn’t), training myself not to touch my hair throughout the day. And concentrating conditioner only on my ends is how I survived my oily teenage years. During all this time, it somehow never occurred to me to Do. Something. Different.
When I finally decided to start experimenting with shampoos for oily hair, everything changed. I realized that washing my hair with daily clarifying shampoo all those years was stripping all my natural oil away, leaving my scalp confused and off-balance.
The result was an overproduction of oil to make up for what I washed away.
Now that I know better, I do better. And since I’ve been using shampoo specifically designed for oily scalps (and following a few more oil-reducing tips), my hair has been so much more manageable and remarkably less oily. I can now go 2-3 days between washes, and if you have oily hair, you know what a big deal that is!
So let’s take a look at what shampoo for oily hair is, how it can help, and why your scalp may be oily in the first place.
What Is Shampoo for Oily Hair?
Shampoo for oily hair is just how we refer to lightweight shampoos that reduce the scalp’s natural oil (sebum) production with gentle cleansing. These airy shampoos deliver gentle cleansing ingredients without stripping the good natural oils away.
But don’t worry – they don’t leave your hair greasy.
Why bother switching shampoos if you have oily hair? Easy – it’s because your current shampoo is making your oily scalp problem so much worse. Here’s how your current shampoo is actually a traitor and secretly worsening your struggles with sebum.
- Too-harsh shampoos strip your scalp’s natural oils away and program your scalp to produce even more oil in response.
- Heavy moisturizing and hydrating shampoos coat the hair in slip-enhancing silicones, increasing oil production and making hair look greasy.
- The wrong shampoo creates a feast-famine cycle with your scalp’s oil production, going from stripped bare to saturated in oil in as little as a few hours.
It physically pained me to learn that many of my oily hair struggles were due to something as simple and fixable as using the wrong shampoo, but I’m glad I know now.
The key is switching to a lightweight shampoo formulated for oily hair. These will gently cleanse the scalp without triggering excess oil production. Learn what causes oily hair next.
Why Is Your Hair Oily?
If you experience excessive scalp oil production, you’re definitely not alone. The condition is called hyperseborrhea, and it’s a problem that affects more women and men than you’d think. This condition is caused by a variety of factors:
- Improper Hair Care Practices: Using hair products containing alcohol, excessive brushing, using high pH (alkaline) products often, not fully rinsing products out, and daily clarifying shampoos can all cause or exacerbate oily scalp issues.
- Hormones: Imbalanced hormone production can lead to the overproduction of oil in the scalp. Scientists believe the same endocrine glands (like the thyroid and pituitary gland) that secrete hormones also influence oil secretion from sebaceous glands. So hormonal imbalances, puberty, and menopause hormone fluctuations can all increase oil production.
- Diet and Nutrition: High-fat diets (like the ketogenic diet) can cause the body to rid itself of excess fat through the sebaceous glands. The result is excess oil production all over, including on the scalp.
- Stress and Anxiety: Over-stimulation of the vagal nervous system (responsible for mood, digestion, heart rate, and immunity) through stress and anxiety results in more blood circulation and oil production.
- Demodex Mite Infestation: Demodex mites are microorganisms invisible to the eye that live harmlessly on most people. Infestation of demodex mites can lead to hyperseborrhea.
- Genetics: It’s possible that your oily scalp could be due to inherited or genetic factors. If your mother or father also deals with hyperseborrhea, genes could be the cause.
Of all the potential causes of an oily scalp, the easiest to fix is improper hair care practices. We’ll show you how below.
In any case, you should definitely speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about hyperseborrhea if you believe you have this condition. We’re here to provide info and product recommendations only – not medical advice.
Signs of Excess Oil Production
Is your scalp actually oily, or are you just experiencing normal oil production? Here are the most common signs and symptoms you’ll notice if your scalp is overproducing oil.
Your Hair Appears Oily or Greasy Soon After Shampooing
Ever envied the women who say they can go a week without shampooing? If your hair only looks clean for a few hours or a day after shampooing, you’re likely overproducing oil. You shouldn’t need to wash your hair daily for it to look clean.
Most people with “normal” oil production can go about two days without washing or using dry shampoo. If 24 hours is your limit (or less), you’re likely producing too much sebum.
Certain Shampoos Make Your Hair Oily Faster
If you struggle with oily hair, you’ve probably noticed that certain shampoos seem to make your hair appear greasy a lot faster than others – sometimes within just a few hours of shampooing. This can be a problem for any hair texture, but fine-haired folks may notice it more.
Heavy shampoos that leave silicones, proteins, or moisturizers on the hair and scalp may trigger excessive oil production. I have oily hair and noticed my beloved Renpure Biotin & Collagen shampoo was leaving too much buildup on my hair. It was limp and getting oily just hours after washing it.
Once I switched shampoos, my scalp started producing a lot less oil and became a lot more manageable. If you’re experiencing this, stop using the shampoo in question and switch to one of the picks we’ve listed below.
You Get Bumps On Your Scalp
Scalp acne is a real concern when you have oily hair. These small, painful bumps on the scalp can be due to clogged oil glands or follicles. People with oily hair tend to get scalp acne more often.
When your scalp produces too much oil, it can physically clog the opening of oil glands or block the follicle pore. Buildup from heavy shampoos, excess dry shampoo, or products like hairspray can also contribute to scalp acne.
People with oily scalps may also develop pilar cysts. These larger bumps are generally painless and form in hair follicles when they’re blocked. If you’re noticing any bumps on your scalp, it may have something to do with excessive oil production.
Your Scalp Gets Itchy and Flaky
You may notice that your scalp is flaky and feels itchy at times, especially when your hair is greasy. Scalps contain a lot of oil glands. If they are overactive or inflamed, it can lead to seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff), which causes itchiness, sore areas on the scalp, and flakes.
Anywhere from 1% to 10% of the adult population deals with dandruff at any given time, so it’s not uncommon. There are effective dandruff shampoos available that are also perfect for oily scalps. We’ll share those in just a bit.
Best Shampoos for Oily Hair
Now that we know some of the main causes of an oily scalp and signs that you’re producing excess oil, let’s talk about the solution. For many people, simply switching shampoos is enough to make a noticeable difference.
But you’ve got to pick the right shampoo for oily hair to see results. I’ve rounded up the best shampoo options for oily hair below. Each one has its own strengths, so be sure to read about each before making your decision!
1. Biolage Cooling Mint Scalpsync Shampoo
The undefeated champ when it comes to managing oily hair is Biolage Cooling Mint Scalpsync Shampoo. This aromatic shampoo will balance your scalp to help train it to produce less oil. Using this shampoo allows me to go 2-3 days between washes when 24 hours used to be my limit.
The mint scent gives me spa vibes, and there’s an awesome cooling sensation when you use it. It does contain sulfates – sodium lauryl sulfate is the second ingredient listed – but if that doesn’t bother you, look no further. This will be your jam.
2. OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp + Tea Tree Mint Shampoo
Grease-prone gals reach for OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp + Tea Tree Mint Shampoo because it works (and because it tingles!). Tea tree oil is a mainstay in products for oily hair because it’s antifungal, antimicrobial, and antibacterial.
So it gently cleanses the baddies away while ensuring your scalp isn’t stripped bare and triggered to overproduce oil. Thanks to the menthol and peppermint, you get this addictive tingly sensation on your scalp when you use it. To me, the sensation feels like you’re getting this incredibly deep and satisfying clean.
There are no sulfates or parabens in the formula, so you can feel good about what you’re putting on your hair. This shampoo has a strong tea tree and mint fragrance, so if you’re sensitive to the smell, skip this one. It gets 4.6 stars on average with more than 8,700 reviews!
3. Aveeno Clarify and Shine Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo
Have you heard of people doing an apple cider vinegar rinse to cleanse and pH balance their hair? It really does work, and Aveeno Clarify and Shine Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo is a less-messy, better-smelling option.
The pH of apple cider vinegar (ACV) is close to that of human hair and the scalp, while many commercial shampoos have a much higher pH. Low pH shampoos like this one add volume and lift to limp, greasy hair.
Studies have shown that using pH-balanced products on your scalp and hair can reduce issues like excess oil production, tangles, and frizz.
4. L’Oreal Elvive Extraordinary Clay Rebalancing Shampoo
Looking for a great, affordable shampoo option for oily scalps? You’ll love L’Oreal Elvive Extraordinary Clay Rebalancing Shampoo. This unique formula contains three different types of natural clays to help absorb oil and purify the scalp.
It leaves hair feeling deliciously soft and clean without stripping it of all moisture.
I’ve used this shampoo and the matching conditioner several times with great results. While the packaging promises “purified roots and hydrated ends” with “up to 48H fresh roots,” my results weren’t quite that awesome. I did get about two days of non-oily hair, but my ends seemed drier than usual.
So make sure to use a good conditioner with this or a weekly hair mask to keep ends hydrated! Users love this affordable shampoo, giving it 4.5 stars overall with nearly 10,000 ratings. Grab it if you’re on the fence about switching to a shampoo just for oily hair!
5. Nexxus Hydra-Light Weightless Moisture Shampoo
Nexxus makes a great salon-quality shampoo that works nicely for oily hair: Nexxus Hydra-Light Weightless Moisture Shampoo. This lightweight formula works even on baby-fine hair. It will boost your hair’s volume and movement without weighing it down like a heavy shampoo.
If you struggle with dry ends and oily roots, this shampoo is the perfect solution. Nexxus combines deep-sea minerals and concentrated proteins in a silicone-free formula. The lack of silicones makes all the difference for an oily scalp.
You’ll notice that your strands don’t get weighed down right out of the shower, and it takes longer for oil to travel down your strands. Reviewers rate it 4.5 stars with almost 4,000 ratings, so you know it’s good. Give this shampoo a try if you want to ditch silicones for lighter, bouncier hair with lots of movement.
Should You Use Shampoo for Oily Hair?
If your hair gets greasy fast, you should absolutely switch to a shampoo formulated to treat oily hair. There’s no reason not to! These shampoos can be extremely affordable (as low as $3-$5 on our list) and make a huge difference in how your hair looks and feels.
Switching to a shampoo designed for oily hair means no more oily roots in combination with dry ends. Goodbye to scalp acne, itching, and flaking. No more desperate searches for dry shampoo to save my hair before an event.
Once you choose the oil-diminishing shampoo that makes the most sense for your hair, you’ll notice your hair takes a day or two longer to get oily. And if you work in a few other changes, like switching to a boar bristle brush, not touching your hair throughout the day, and rinsing with cold water in the shower, you’ll see even better results.
From one greasy girl to another, we’re all in this together. A simple shampoo swap could be just what you need to rebalance your scalp and get your oiliness under control. And if all else fails, you can always buy stock in Batiste dry shampoo.