Sebum - it’s not a bad thing. It keeps the scalp moisturised and prevents hair from getting brittle and breaking off . However too much of the stuff can lead to all manner of hair concerns - limp roots, lank lengths and dandruff.
Excessive production can be brought on by a wide variety of factors ranging from hormone fluctuations to lifestyle and styling slip-ups. But the good news is, it can be rectified. If you’ve found that your hair’s become greasier than usual, here’s what could be behind it.
1. You’re stressed
Just like how stress can show on our faces (breakouts, dark circles, y’know, the good stuff), it can also manifest itself on our heads too. This is down to changes in hormone levels which can lead to increased oil production on the scalp. So if your hair’s greasier than usual, it could be a sign that you need to slow down.
2. You’re over-washing it
When hair gets greasy quickly, our first instinct is to wash it more frequently. However, doing so can be counter-productive in the long-run. “Over-shampooing depletes vital moisturising elements from the scalp and hair,” explains hair stylist and Rahua founder Fabian Lliguin. “In response, the scalp’s sebum glands produce more oils, giving rise to a greasy scalp.”
To reduce the risk of fuelling the problem, swap washing it every day to washing it two to three times a week instead.
3. You’re using the wrong shampoo
If you’re finding that your hair gets greasy pretty soon after washing it, the shampoo you're using could also be a reason why. Avoid heavily hydrating and rich formulations and instead opt for gentler, rebalancing alternatives that provide a thorough cleanse without stripping hair of its natural oils. A new one I’ve been trying recently and my greasy roots and dry ends have been particularly receptive to is Tropic’s Nourishing Hair Cleanser , £18, a certified vegan non-foaming sulphate-free shampoo formulated to help regulate sebum production and which you leave in for three to five minutes. It also smells pretty delicious thanks to its blend of coconut extracts and peppermint, bergamot and lime essential oils. If you’re looking for a root-boost though, the GTG team rates Rahua’s Voluminous Shampoo , £32, which uses gentle coconut oil-derived cleansers to lift away impurities. It can take a while for hair to get used to a change in cleansers, so don’t worry if you don’t see a difference straight away. “Be aware that it will take approximately two to three weeks for the scalp to regain its balance and produce the correct amount of oils for the hair to be healthy,” says Fabian.
If you have an greasy scalp teamed with dandruff, (a common occurrence), I can strongly recommend Philip Kingsley’s Flaky/Itchy Shampoo , £24, which effectively mops up excess oil and leaves scalps soothed too thanks to its antibacterial and gentle but hard-working ingredients.
4. You’re using too much conditioner
If you’re greasiness-prone, be wary of conditioners, and only apply them to the bottom sections of your hair (the ends and mid-lengths) and experiment with different textures in order to find the best kind for your hair type. Pantene’s line of Foam Conditioners , £3, or its Micellar Cleanse & Nourish Conditioner , £3, are particularly great in this regard, especially for fine hair types.
5. You’re applying too much serum
The same applies for serums and oils too. Start small (it’s easier to add more than to remove excess) and concentrate on the ends first before moving upwards, avoiding the roots at all costs. A handy tip (thank you Jamie Stevens !) is to spread a drop of your styling product on the fronts and backs of your hands and then apply it, rather than just using your palms to ensure more even distribution.
6. You’re not washing your hairbrush
Admittedly, I don’t clean my makeup brushes all too often and my hairbrush, even less. But sitting here thinking about the amount of hair, oil, dead skin, dust and product it must be harbouring, has made me want to revise my habits. Give it a thorough cleanse twice a month (and clean out the strands with a comb every week) to remove any build-up and prevent it from transferring onto your hair.
7. You’ve got a build-up of product
A build-up of shampoo (due to not washing it out properly) or dry shampoo (a common go-to of the greasiness-prone) can cause hair to become dull and lifeless over time. However, using a clarifying shampoo twice a month can help clear the debris.
Try Tropic’s new Clarifying Hair Wash , £16, if you’re looking for a deeper cleanse that won’t leave lengths feeling stripped - it uses coconut-derived cleansers instead of sulphates and contains aloe vera juice and babassu extract so it’s not drying.
For the next level up, try Avalon’s Clarifying Lemon Shampoo , £5.99, a vegan, synthetic fragrance-free find that uses plant-derived cleansers like lemon essential oil to banish excess oil and product build-up. And for an even deeper clean, try Tresemme’s Cleanse & Renew Deep Cleansing Shampoo , £5.49, a purse-friendly but potent option that steams through the toughest of grease (sorry to sound like a Cillit Bang ad there).
8. You’re touching it too much
When I’m stressed, I twiddle with my hair. Non-stop. However, doing so transfers oil from my hands to my hair and as a result, makes my lengths all the more slick. It might just be better if I bought a stress ball...
9. You’re on your period
Along with cramps and bloating, yes, greasy hair is another thing we have to deal with when we’re on our periods - and hormones are to blame. In the week beforehand, progesterone levels spike which increases sebum production on the scalp and face. And then once we start bleeding, increases in testosterone trigger it again. The good news though is that it should settle down after a few days. If however, you’re looking for a quick slick fix, plan your bi-monthly clarifying hair wash to coincide with your period to make those five to eight days that little bit more bearable.
Read more: The hair care ‘cheat sheets’ to have on standby for those SOS moments.
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