Greasy hair even after washing it could be due to many factors such as not cleaning it properly, environmental factors, health conditions, and more.
Moreover, if you are not providing your hair with adequate hydration, the sebaceous glands on the scalp will produce more sebum and make your hair look greasy. (1) It works the same way a moisturizer does for the skin; if you don’t replace the lost moisture after washing it with a good moisturizer, the skin will start overproducing its own oils and make you look greasy.
It is essential to take care of your scalp and hair well so that most diseases can be prevented. (2)
The scalp has 100,000 hair follicles that keep delivering sebum to the scalp (≈650 cm² surface area in adults). It’s estimated that the total sebum produced daily is in grams.
Sebum is a natural oil produced by the sebaceous glands on the scalp. (3) It accumulates within the follicular duct and is excreted onto the whole scalp. (4) You get oily hair when sebum production on the scalp increases.
Scroll below to find out why your hair is greasy and what you can do about it.
Reasons Your Hair Looks Greasy After Washing It
Here are the common reasons you get greasy hair even after a hair wash.
1. Hormonal imbalance
Hormonal imbalance can affect your hair and scalp conditions and the amount of oil secreted by the sebaceous glands. When the production of the hormone androgen increases, the sebaceous glands become enlarged and increasingly active. (5)
Menstruation is regulated by sex hormones, and although there is less evidence that links the hair to the menstrual cycle, it is well known that hormones impact your body.
However, evidence also reveals that hormones can affect your appearance and cause dryness or oiliness. Furthermore, research shows that taking birth control pills can affect your hormone levels and the oiliness of your hair. (6)
Seborrhea causes scaly and oily skin due to excessive sebum production from the sebaceous glands. Seborrheic dermatitis can develop in healthy people. (7)
Contrary to common belief, it is a harmless condition, and its exact causes are unknown, although some attribute it to the fungus Malassezia.
Emotional stress can cause the overproduction of the hormone prolactin, which is involved in lactation and reproduction.
When people are stressed, this hormone can be released, and according to research, it can stimulate the sebaceous gland to produce sebum, (8) thus making your hair look greasy.
The sebaceous glands are located in the mid-dermis and develop along with a hair follicle. (9) When you brush your hair too much, it can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more oil, thus making your hair look greasy and your scalp oily.
Washing your hair daily can strip it from its natural oils, so the sebaceous glands must produce more to replace them. Shampoo is formulated with 80% water and has a pH of 5–7 to properly clean your hair and scalp from dirt and buildup.
It also contains surfactants, which are cleaning agents with foaming and detergent properties.
Studies have found that some surfactants, such as sulfates, can cause scalp dryness, which leads to more production of sebum and greasy hair. (10)
6. Environment and pollution
Grease consists of sweat, dirt, dead skin cells, and environmental pollution such as dust and dirt.
Continuous exposure to pollution can result in excessive seborrhea and an oily scalp. Then the hair follicles go through low-grade inflammation that results in fibrosis and hair loss. (11)
7. Wrong products
You should use hair care products according to your hair type and avoid using products with too many chemicals, sulfates, parabens, and mineral oil, to name a few.
Instead, use a natural shampoo and conditioner that contain coconut oil, onion juice, curry leaves, fenugreek powder, and other beneficial ingredients.
Also, try to limit the use of dry shampoos as they initially absorb the oil but later make the hair look even greasier. (12)
8. Poor diet
Having a diet with a low amount of nutrients can also be the cause of greasy hair.
There is strong evidence that the intake of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) can help combat greasy hair by regulating the production of sebum. Moreover, zinc supplementation is effective in controlling sebum production.
Starchy foods have high glycemic index, causing the body to produce more insulin in the blood and can lead to a sharp increase in the hormone androgen in the body, which leads to an increase in sebum production on the skin.
While nonstarchy veggies, legumes, and fruit have a low glycemic index, refined carbs and sugary foods have a high glycemic index. (13)
Tips to Avoid Greasy Hair
- Wash oily hair more frequently: If your scalp is oily and becomes greasy quickly, you may need to wash your hair every day with a mild shampoo.
- Shampoo your scalp well: When washing your hair, focus on the scalp and thoroughly apply the product to it for at least 4–5 minutes to remove all the excess sebum and buildup.
- Apply conditioner after every wash: Skipping out on conditioner can make your hair dry and coarse after a wash, stimulating the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, thus making your hair look greasy. Using a conditioner adds shine to your hair, decreases static electricity, improves the strength of your strands, and protects your hair from the harmful UV rays. Conditioners should not be used on the scalp as they can cause buildup and make your hair look greasy and limp. So, apply it only to the ends of the hair.
- Choose a shampoo and conditioner formulated specifically for your hair type: You should use a shampoo and conditioner according to your hair type. (14) Carefully read the product ingredient label thoroughly when purchasing hair products, opt for those that contain natural ingredients.
- Do not take hot showers: Avoid washing your hair with hot water, as it stimulates your scalp to produce more oil, thus making your hair look greasy. Instead, opt for lukewarm or cold water to rinse your hair. (15)
General Queries Related to Greasy Hair
How can I make my hair look less greasy?
You can make your hair look less greasy by using products without harmful ingredients such as sulfates, parabens, and alcohol. Such ingredients can also be found in hairsprays and dry shampoos.
Moreover, instead of washing your hair every day, wash your hair 3–4 times a week with natural shampoos and conditioners. (16)
Why does my thin hair feel greasy all the time?
When the body’s metabolism slows down, it invests more energy into performing vital functions rather than growing healthy hair, which may cause hair loss. (17)
When the hair is thin, the sebum produced that is meant for the entire scalp and to support average hair growth will cover the thin hair easily, making it look greasy.
How should I condition my hair to avoid greasy hair?
Conditioner is as essential as a shampoo for your hair, so you should apply it after every hair wash. Apply it only to the tips of the hair and avoid the scalp, as it may cause scalp oiliness and product buildup.
Hair that is always greasy can be due to the sebaceous glands producing large amounts of oil. (6) Fortunately, it is a common condition and can be avoided by taking all the precautions and steps mentioned in this article.
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- HealWithFood.org. Diet for preventing greasy hair and oily scalp. How Diet Can Prevent Greasy Hair and Oily Scalp. https://www.healwithfood.org/greasyhair/diet.php.
- Tips for healthy hair. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/hair-scalp-care/hair/healthy-hair-tips.
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