Learn some dermatologist-approved tips.
June 10, 2020 — 4 p.m. EST
If you struggle with overly oily hair and skin, you’ve probably wondered what it is that you’re doing to cause this slippery situation. Whether you face these issues some or all of the time, it can get annoying fast. Though the oil production in your body is hormonal, there are a few easy ways to treat oily hair and skin, so your days are a little more comfortable.
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To find out more, DoctorOz.com spoke with Dr. Marie Hayag, a board certified dermatologist and founder of Fifth Avenue Cosmetics, to find out what causes oil production, how to treat it, and what ingredients to look for in products. Before providing solutions, Hayag notes that if you do have naturally oily hair and skin — there’s a bright side. “Research has shown that wrinkles are shorter and shallower in areas of sebaceous glands that produce oil,” says Hayag. “Also, skin is usually smoother, thicker, and requires smaller amounts of skin care products as well as less moisturizer and makeup.”
Now, with that silver lining in tow, let’s get to the solutions.
First up, what causes it?
Hayag explains that sebum is the culprit behind your skin’s oiliness, and it’s produced by the sebaceous glands. “For people with oily hair and/or skin, sebaceous glands are working overtime and/or are in greater numbers, producing an excess of sebum,” explains Hayag.
If you’re wondering what’s causing your glands to work overtime, there are a few answers. First off, it can be hormonal. "Male hormones called androgens, which are present in men and women, manage the production of sebum,” says Hayag. “The higher the amount of androgens present, such as when people hit puberty, the more sebum is produced and secreted through our pores.”
If you’re well past puberty and wondering when your sebaceous glands are going to let up, you’re not alone. Hayag explains that overactive sebaceous glands can also be a result of genetics, heat, humidity, unhealthy eating habits, using the wrong skincare products, and even some medications. Oh, and also stress.
“Stress causes an increase in cortisol levels, which signal the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum on the scalp and skin,” says Hayag. “Also, stress tends to make people touch their hair more which can contribute to greasiness.”
Prevention & treatment go hand-in-hand
While there are a lot of solutions out there to treat oil production, Hayag encourages her patients to focus on prevention as well. “While it is important to consider the ingredients used to combat oily skin and hair, it is equally important to take measures to control oil production as well as reduce it,” she says.
Hayag explains that some of those measures are simple, like refraining from constantly touching your hair and face, and avoiding sugary and fatty foods. Instead, opt for foods that contain omega fatty acids and vitamin B6, like fish and nuts. Next, if you’re prone to oily skin, make sure you’re washing your face in the morning when you wake up, at night before bed, and immediately after exercising.
How to treat oily hair:
First up, let’s talk about hair washing: It’s necessary, but don’t overdo it. “If someone who has oily hair washes their hair every day and is still experiencing oily hair, it may be that they’re over-washing. Over-washing can strip the scalp of its natural oil and cause an overproduction of oil in order to rehydrate the scalp.”
Instead, aim to wash every other day. From there, Hayag recommends focusing the shampoo on the scalp, and the conditioner at the ends of the hair shaft. “It may also be helpful to condition first and then follow with shampoo in order to ensure there are no product residuals following a shower,” says Hayag.
One thing that most people don’t think about is cleaning the hair brush, which Hayag says can harbor lots of products and dead skin. You should also make sure that you’re blow drying your hair. “The heat plumps up the hair cuticle allowing it better absorb scalp oil,” says Hayag.
If you’re looking for a natural solution at home, Hayag recommends applying apple cider vinegar to the scalp and letting it sit for a few minutes before washing in order to get rid of buildup and balance out the scalp’s pH. She also loves aloe vera, and suggests mixing one tablespoon of it, along with three tablespoons of lemon juice into a cup of shampoo. Use the solution for your next few washes.
If you’d rather just buy shampoo at the store, Hayag suggests looking for shampoos that contain detergents, like ammonium or sulfates, because these can dry out the scalp. You can also find products that already contain apple cider vinegar.
Just because your hair is oily doesn’t mean you don’t need to add in some moisture. “Although it may seem counterintuitive to add more moisture to oily hair, it is actually important — this is because oily hair is likely caused by stripping away too many natural oils from the scalp, which then causes the body to overproduce oil,” says Hayag. To combat dryness, Hayag suggests jojoba oil, which she says is super gentle.
Finally, if you’re also concerned about finding a shampoo that won’t clog your pores, Hayag suggests peppermint oils, mint oils, and tea tree oils. “They are all natural ingredients that are calming for the scalp and help strip and dissolve oily hair,” says Hayag.
How to treat oily skin:
For oily skin, Hayag breaks skincare down into three steps: using products with acids, cleansing, and moisturizing.
“It is important to incorporate acids that can combat oily skin and control the production of oils,” says Hayag. “Some acids to look for include salicylic acid, glycolic acid, beta-hydroxy acids and benzoyl peroxide.”
For cleansers, Hayag recommends looking for cleansers with sodium laureth carboxylate and alkyl carboxylates. She notes that these are great for tackling moderate acne and oil control. For a natural solution, witch hazel, which is an astringent that Hayag loves due to its high tannin levels, is good for removing excess oil without drying out the skin.
Finally, don’t forget to moisturize.
“Managing oily skin and hydrating the skin are not mutually exclusive,” says Hayag. “It is important to incorporate ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which helps balance the oil and water production in skin. In addition, look for products that claim to be ‘oil-free’ and ‘non-comedogenic.’"