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Why Does My Hair Look Stringy? | Sebum Is Key

Stringy hair is so difficult to manage. From tangles and knots to generally looking unkempt or unwashed, most people with hair that occasionally looks stringy want it gone.

If you find yourself wondering, “why does my hair look stringy,” we are here to give you answers. We will discuss why hair sometimes looks stringy and what to do about it. Read on to learn more about stringy hair causes and solutions!

What Is Stringy Hair?

Stringy hair is limp hair that clumps together near its ends, causing it to look oily, unwashed, or disheveled. Stringy hair may be long or short, although those with longer hair tend to have more issues with stringiness.

Those with fine hair are also more prone to stringy hair issues because it is easier for excess oils and products to build up in fine hair, causing the end clumping so characteristic of stringiness.

However, even those with thicker or curly hair are not immune to stringy hair. While limpness is characteristic of most fine hair, stringy hair appears flaccid and lifeless, without the body and bounce most people want in their hair.

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Why You Have Stringy Hair

We wish there were just one, easy-to-fix cause for stringy hair issues, but the reality is that stringy hair can have many origins.

Stringy hair is generally the result of excess sebum built up throughout roots and ends, although there are exceptions that we will discuss. The causes for excess sebum build-up are many.

What Is Hair Sebum?

Hair sebum is a natural oil that occurs throughout the scalp. Your sebaceous glands, located just under the skin across your entire body, produce sebum. Sebaceous glands are larger and more numerous on your face and scalp than on other areas of your body.

Your sebaceous glands produce sebum to protect your hair and skin. This protection extends to safeguards from elements like wind and water and oxidization which is the root cause of hair aging.

Sebum forms a protective barrier around your hair and skin. With this oily barrier, hair is less prone to damage, breakage, and tangles. The same oily barrier protects your skin from infection, decreasing the risk of illness and disease.

The downside of sebum is that your scalp can produce too much. When your scalp produces excess sebum, your hair can look oily, dirty, and yes, stringy. What then causes excess sebum, and what can you do about it?

What Creates Excess Sebum?

Many things can cause excess sebum build-up in your hair and scalp. For some people, excess sebum is natural; their hair produces too much of this protective oil.

For most, however, excess sebum results from things they do in their haircare routine that cause the oil to overproduce and hang around in their strands. One of the major culprits of excess sebum is over-conditioning.

This causation may seem counterintuitive; most of us turn to conditioner to correct our hair problems. The problem however is that conditioner adds oil to your hair which, when combined with your natural oils, can cause stringiness.

On the flip side, another contributor to excess sebum is overwashing. While you may turn to shampoo to get all that extra oil out of your hair, cleaning too much can have the opposite of your desired effect.

When you wash your sebaceous glands too frequently, they can overcorrect and produce more oil than you need or want on your hair. The result can be stringy-looking, limp, and oily hair. In addition to over and under-washing, excess sebum can also build up along with too many other products left in your hair.

When your hair receives too much product, your sebaceous glands can go into overdrive, producing extra oil to protect your hair from foreign substances. One final cause of excess sebum is an often neglected culprit — your pillowcase.

That’s right, pillowcases can collect and redeposit sebum into your already oily hair. This problem is especially the case if you use a cotton pillowcase. When hair absorbs this natural oil again, you may end up with undesired stringiness.

Read Next: Why Does My Hair Get Greasy Overnight?

Other Causes of Stringiness in Hair

There are two additional causes of stringiness that are not related to sebum production. The first cause occurs at the end of your hair opposite from the roots where sebum accumulates — your ends.

Split or damaged ends can make the hair appear stringy and unkempt. When you have split or damaged ends, they can tangle together, causing clumping at your ends that make them look stringy.

Finally, combing immediately after a bath or shower can also cause hair to appear stringy. Hair appears this way because combs can clump your hair together into smaller sections.

If you do not use a blow dryer to blow out your hair and further separate those clumps into strands, they can remain adhered together once your hair dries. This clumpiness leaves your hair looking sloppy, tangled, and ultimately stringy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Woman pulling either side of her hair for a piece titled why does my hair look stringy

John Blanton/Shutterstock

The causes of stringy hair can be hard to diagnose, and figuring out how to correct them can be even harder. We’re here to answer all your questions about stringy hair causes and cures.

What is the best way to remove excess sebum from hair?

If excess sebum is causing your stringiness, the best way to remove it is to wash your hair with a high-quality shampoo. If your regular shampoo doesn’t seem to cut it, consider a product designed specifically for oily hair.

How do I fix split ends?

The best cure for the split ends that may cause your hair to look stringy is a good trim. Split ends cannot correct themselves on their own, and no product will cause your split ends to come back together. If you don’t want to lose a lot of length, ask your stylist for a minimal trim just to remove split ends.

What kind of pillow case should I use?

Since pillowcases can store oil and redeposit it onto hair, causing it to look stringy, you should choose a pillowcase material with minimum absorption potential. The best materials for a pillowcase that will store the least oil from your hair are satin and silk. You can also opt to sleep in a satin or silk hair cap to keep your hair from coming into contact with your pillowcase.

Will dry shampoo fix stringy hair?

Dry shampoo may make your hair appear less stringy because it absorbs the moisture that may cause your hair to clump together and look oily and stringy. Dry shampoo is also a great alternative to over-shampooing, which will only increase the stringy look of your hair.

When should I comb my hair?

As we’ve discussed, combing directly after a show can make your hair look even stringier than it otherwise would. The best time to comb your hair is once each morning and once each night. Combing at this frequency keeps tangles away and redistributes oil, leading to an overall less stringy appearance.

So, Why Does Your Hair Look Stringy?

If you’re dealing with stringy hair, it helps to figure out what is causing the stringiness. Whether it’s over or under washing, leaving in too much product, or combing at the wrong time, the causes for stringiness are many.

By diagnosing what makes your hair stringy, you are well on your way to correcting it. And while you’re here, check out our other hair care, styling, and product review guides! Trust us — your hair will thank you.