It’s hard to find an effective shampoo for oily hair. You need a shampoo that gently cleanses oil away while leaving the hair soft and nourished. Read on to learn what shampoo for oily hair should contain and which options are the best.
- Why Oily Hair Shampoo Matters
- Choosing a Shampoo for Oily Hair
- Key Ingredients to Look For
- Ingredients to Avoid
- Best Shampoo for Oily Hair
Wait, There’s Shampoo for Oily Hair?
Oily hair can be so frustrating. If you wash it every day, experts say you’re training your scalp to produce more oil. But if you try to go a day or two without shampooing, your hair turns into an oil slick. Where’s the happy medium?
Fellow oily-haired woman here.
I’ve learned that overwashing and under washing both have disastrous results on hair that tends to get greasy fast. The real solution is using a mild shampoo that targets oil without stripping your scalp bare of the natural sebum it needs to keep hair healthy.
Shampoo options for oily hair are, unfortunately, pretty limited. Take a quick peek at the shampoos on your local beauty store’s shelves – most of them promise more moisture, increased shine, sleek locks, and soft, manageable hair.
That’s all fine and well, but what we’re looking for is shampoo that is formulated to:
- Cleanse oil from the hair and scalp gently
- Replenish nourishing vitamins and proteins to the hair
- Target harmful scalp bacteria, fungus, and microorganisms
- Help decrease oil production overall
It’s taken some digging and a lot of trial and error, but I’ve learned a lot about keeping my oily hair clean and looking its best. If you’ve been battling greasy hair, this guide will help you learn what to look for in a shampoo for oily hair and which shampoos to use for the best results.
How to Choose a Good Shampoo for Oily Hair
You know the frustration: You find a great shampoo that smells amazing and leaves your hair so soft, shiny, and voluminous. But a few hours later, you notice the hair around your face beginning to get greasy.
By the next day, you’re relying on dry shampoo to avoid being mistaken for a drowned rat. I’m exaggerating a bit, but you know the woes of having oily hair all too well. You wouldn’t wear a shoe that doesn’t fit you.
Why would you use a shampoo that isn’t giving you the results you want? Because it’s hard to find shampoos for oily hair!
Choosing a shampoo that is effective on oily hair isn’t what’s hard – most shampoos do a great job cleaning the hair and scalp. It’s the aftermath that’s the problem.
The post-shampoo clean, shiny, full-of-body look just doesn’t last long when you have oily hair. The same moisturizing ingredients that initially make hair look and feel so good just seem to speed up your trip to Greaseville.
No, what we need is a shampoo that isn’t just effective on oily hair. We need a shampoo that is designed and formulated specifically for oily hair. The problem is, it seems like everyone else is struggling with the opposite problem: Dry hair that is in desperate need of moisture.
And shampoo companies really show up to solve that problem. There are hundreds of shampoos for dry hair in any store you walk into.
But those luxe, creamy shampoos infused with a wide assortment of oils are not for us oily gals. When it comes to finding a shampoo labeled “for oily hair,” you can almost hear the crickets. There’s just not much out there.
The solution? Finding existing shampoos that have the right ingredients to clean and manage an oily scalp. Learning the terminology that shampoo companies use to “secretly” label their products that target oily hair helps, too. Let’s take a look.
Ingredients to Look for in Shampoo for Oily Hair
These are the good guys. Look for these ingredients to find a shampoo that will fight excess oil production.
Clay in skincare is nothing new, but it’s relatively new to the hair care scene. Shampoos that contain clays are effective at not only cleansing the scalp of dirt, buildup, and oil.
But they also helping to slow down oil production. Kaolin, bentonite, and French pink clay are all ingredients to look for in shampoos that will cut oil production.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is probably the best-known ingredient to look for in shampoos suitable for oily hair. Tea tree oil:
- Is antibacterial
- Improves scalp blood circulation
- Gives your scalp a tingly, clean sensation
- Reduces oil production
Keep your eye out for shampoos that contain tea tree oil to get a longer-lasting clean.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Your scalp’s pH level has a lot to do with oil production, and getting it back on track keeps oil production to a minimum. Apple cider vinegar helps balance the pH of your scalp and hair to “train” your scalp to produce less sebum. It’s also great for removing product and dirt buildup, plus leaves hair super shiny.
While it’s great for seasoning food, salt in shampoo packs many benefits for grease-prone hair. You’ll often see it in the ingredients list by its chemical name, sodium chloride. It acts as a natural exfoliator that scrubs away dead skin cells, dirt, and oil.
It can also help absorb excess oil on the scalp to prevent hair from looking greasy. If you’d prefer, you can try adding a tablespoon of salt – table salt or sea salt – directly to your shampoo.
While you’re probably more used to seeing this active ingredient in skincare products, it’s a great thing to find in shampoo for excessively oily hair.
Salicylic acid actually helps “resurface” the scalp by getting rid of dead cells and encouraging the growth of new ones. It shuts down excess oil production and has the added benefit of helping treat dandruff.
Read Next: Best Vitamins for Hair
Ingredients to Avoid if You Have Oily Hair
These are the bad guys. Avoid them if you can because they’re common culprits behind chronically oily hair.
Sulfates cleanse and help most shampoos work up into a sudsy lather. The problem is that sulfates are too harsh for oily hair and only perpetuate the dreaded cycle.
Once you deep clean your scalp with sulfates, it revolts by over-producing oil to make up for all the oils that were just stripped away. By using a sulfate-free shampoo, you can retrain your scalp to produce less oil.
But after using sulfates on your hair for decades, your scalp will enter a bit of a PTSD phase. It’s so used to needing to over-produce oil after a harsh wash that it will keep up the fight briefly once you stop using sulfates.
Transitioning to a sulfate-free shampoo does take time, and your hair might look a little oiler (ugh, I know) for a week or two while your scalp adjusts.
Silicones coat strands to make hair shiny, give it more slip, and act as a protective barrier. The problem is that using silicones in shampoo on oily hair can result in faster oil and dirt buildup. Silicones are hydrophobic, or water-resistant, so they don’t easily wash out.
When silicones build up on the scalp, follicles get the cue to produce even more oil. And the heavy weight of built-up silicones on strands contributes more to that overall greasy, heavy feeling in the hair.
You’ll see many shampoos on the market containing oils that are intended to introduce moisture and seal it into hair strands. Coconut, argan, and olive oils are some of the most common offenders.
Avoid heavy oils like these in any shampoo. They’ll only make your hair get oily faster, especially if you have fine hair. Tea tree, peppermint, and rosemary oil won’t have the same problematic results, so feel free to use shampoo that contains these.
Keep in mind that while using shampoos that contain heavy oils is a no-no, you can still use those oils as a sporadic treatment for hair as long as you thoroughly rinse it out.
Shampoo for Oily Hair: Top 7 Picks
Now that we’ve reviewed some of the best and worst ingredients for oily hair, let’s go over the best shampoo options. You can find all of these shampoos on Amazon, and your local stores might carry them, too.
1. Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo
Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree Special Shampoo is number one not only in my heart, but in the hearts of more than 28,300 reviewers on Amazon. It gets an overall rating of 4.7 stars, which is pretty amazing.
Tea tree oil is the main active ingredient here, but it also contains lightweight peppermint and lavender oils that cleanse and invigorate the scalp with a fresh, tingly feeling. It’s the best shampoo if you want that squeaky clean feeling you get right after washing to last.
The smell is lovely to me, but I know that the scent of tea tree oil isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re serious about cutting your oil production and getting cleaner hair, you should definitely give this shampoo a try.
2. OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp + Teatree Mint Shampoo
This isn’t the first time OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp + Tea Tree Mint shampoo has graced one of our guides. I listed it as the best option for oily hair in our guide Best Shampoo: Top Picks by Hair Type. Here’s what makes it great for us oilies.
OGX Scalp + Tea Tree Mint contains some of the most effective oil-busting ingredients, like tea tree oil, mint extract, and witch hazel (an astringent). It smells like tea tree oil (you’ll either love it or hate it), vanilla, and mint. I love the scent!
It tingles slightly and feels so extra when you’re washing with it. There are no sulfates or parabens in the formula, so you can be sure it won’t result in your scalp over-producing oil after you wash.
It leaves hair feeling fresh and clean and is supposed to help reduce overall oil production over time when you use it. For such an affordable price and wide availability, 7,100+ reviewers agree that it definitely deserves a spot in your shower.
3. L’Oreal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Clay Rebalancing Shampoo
This is the latest oily-hair shampoo I’ve tried (I got the shampoo and conditioner set). I am so impressed with how well it’s working so far. The Extraordinary Clay shampoo has three important active ingredients that all help shut down excess oil production:
- Refined natural clays: Kaolin, kaolinite, and montmorillonite
- Salicylic acid
- Salt (sodium chloride)
It smells great, is easy to lather up (because it does contain sulfates, unfortunately), and keeps my hair feeling clean and fresh for about a day longer than usual.
Unlike some shampoos that target oily hair, this one isn’t drying, and it leaves your hair feeling soft and manageable. I highly recommend it, and so do more than 8,100 reviewers giving it 4.5 stars on Amazon.
While I have to keep my conditioner use minimal and concentrated on my ends only, the Extraordinary Clay conditioner is pretty great stuff, too!
4. Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo
You know a shampoo is good when you only need to use a dime-sized amount. That’s right – a tiny dollop of this Degrease shampoo is all you need. The bottle is small, but it goes a long way because it’s full of active ingredients.
What it’s not full of, however, are harmful ingredients that can contribute to excess oil. It is paraben, sulfate, and phthalate-free. While there are several different oils in it, don’t be put off.
It contains just enough lightweight, pure peach kernel, lemon, rosemary, and basil oils to leave a delicious scent and give your scalp the message that it doesn’t need to produce a ton of oil to make up for the wash sesh.
The Degrease shampoo has 9,300+ reviews and a respectable overall rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. While I haven’t personally used this shampoo yet, it’s on my list, and I can’t wait to give it a try.
5. Aveeno Scalp Soothing Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Shampoo
Aveeno’s Scalp Soothing shampoo is designed for oily hair that needs to be clarified for a deep clean that lasts. The ingredients are gentle, and it doesn’t contain sulfates and silicones.
While apple cider vinegar is one of the clarifying ingredients in this formula, the very first ingredient is nourishing colloidal oatmeal extract!
This shampoo is incredibly effective on oily hair. It’s got a balanced pH (thanks to the ACV) that allows it to work in sync with your hair and scalp rather than against it. It won’t leave your ends dried out like other shampoos can.
And despite the vinegar, it smells gooood. Reviewers agree that this is one of the best, with more than 7,700 saying it deserves at least 4.4 stars. This shampoo is definitely worth a try if you’re sick of battling oily strands.
6. Biolage Cooling Mint Scalpsync Shampoo
Biolage Cooling Mint Scalpsync shampoo uses natural peppermint leaf extract as an antibacterial, oil-reducing ingredient that leaves your hair and scalp smelling minty fresh.
The sensation on the scalp is slightly tingly, similar to tea tree oil shampoos. There’s also a cooling effect that makes showers seem like a therapeutic spa treatment.
It’s not sulfate-free, but it has plenty of oil-fighting ingredients like peppermint, salicylic acid, and citric acid to keep strands from being weighed down by grease. Reviews are excellent, with more than 1,800 reviewers giving it a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.
I recommend using this shampoo no more than twice a week since it does contain sulfates. For a high-end experience and clean, oil-free results, this one’s a winner.
7. Nizoral Psoriasis Shampoo and Conditioner
“But I don’t have psoriasis!” That’s okay. This shampoo might be labeled as a treatment for psoriasis, but the active ingredient is 3% salicylic acid (the maximum strength without a prescription).
That majorly slows down oil production and deep cleans the scalp without stripping it. It also has the added benefit of other helpful ingredients like tea tree oil, green tea extract, vitamins E, B5, and C.
It is sulfate, paraben, and alcohol-free if you’re watching out for harmful ingredients. It has more than 2,900 reviews and an overall rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.
Reviewers who use it to control oil production have wonderful things to say about it:
- “Cleanest hair ever. Helps prevent my hair from getting oily so soon.”
- “Oily hair, yet dry, flaky scalp. This is the only anti-dandruff shampoo I’ve come across that works for me.”
- “It is effective for the oily, itching scalp every several days and does not dry the hair out the way the tea tree preps do.”
If you’ve tried other shampoos for oily hair and haven’t been impressed, this one is worth a try. You might notice that your scalp feels healthier than ever. And if you do have psoriasis, this is something you’ll want to keep around to keep scalp symptoms at bay.
Taming Oily Hair With the Right Shampoo
While it’s not likely that any hair product or shampoo is going to completely cure your sebum woes, any of the options on our list are going to help cut down on excess oil production and give you more time between washes.
Tame the greasy beast with a shampoo that has the right ingredients (clays, tea tree oil, salicylic acid, ACV, and salt) and none of the baddies (sulfates, silicones, or heavy oils).
Make sure you’re not over-washing, and try applying conditioner midway down the hair shaft to keep roots from getting greasy prematurely. You should also consider investing in a good boar bristle brush to help distribute those natural oils when you brush your hair.
The bristles literally pull oil from the roots down the hair shaft so your roots won’t look dirty. Find our top picks in this guide: Best Hair Brush for Every Hair Type.
And I don’t need to tell you that a good dry shampoo can cover a multitude of sins in between washes. Find our top 5 favorites here: How to Use Dry Shampoo.
While your scalp might be a little too gung-ho when it comes to oil production, knowing which shampoos to use can make the difference between needing to wash every day (or multiple times a day!) and washing every 2 or 3 days. And if that’s not #oilyhairgoals, I don’t know what is.