Yearning roots that aren’t greasy a day after washing your hair? You’re not alone. Here’s your ultimate guide to balancing your scalp
Though greasy hair may not be the sexiest of topics, we’re nonetheless tackling it head on - pun intended - so we drafted in trichologist Vanessa Bailey, author of The Good Hair Guide: All your Questions Answered, for some pro-guidance in the quest for fresher roots.
“There are ways of reducing the buildup of oil, but there are more myths and bad advice around this subject than any other hair woe,” says Bailey. For example, did you know that some oil is actually good for your hair; “the oil is a material called sebum and this is secreted from glands attached to our hair follicles called the sebaceous glands. It is a waxy substance that contains fatty acids, triglycerides and cholesterol,” she explains. The purpose of that oil? To protect the scalp thanks to its antiseptic qualities and to moisturise strands of hair, thus improving its elasticity and shine. Here, Bailey blasts the myths and delivers all the facts:
Keep your hormones in check.If oil production is increasing or getting out of hand, have your hormone levels tested. Sebaceous glands (oil-producing glands in the skin) are controlled by our hormones and in particular male hormones, which are present in women and active at birth but don’t become fully functioning until puberty when they stimulate the sebaceous glands. These glands are attached to hair follicles, so the oil they produce is secreted onto the scalp and hair. Women with hormone imbalances such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome usually find they have oilier scalps. Age can also be a determining factor, with women seeing a decline in oil production after the menopause.
Inspect for hair loss.Oiliness may seem worse if you are suffering from hair thinning as though the scalp could be producing oil at an average steady rate, the finer hair growth the oil will look heavier as there is less hair for it to disperse through.
Don’t sweat it.Exercise doesn’t increase oil production, although it may appear so by the end of a workout hair but this is purely down to the production of sweat, which is a different skin secretion altogether. Dry Shampoo blasted through the roots will sort this out fast.
Watch what you eat.Dietary factors don’t increase oil production but some food types may change the properties of the oil. Sebum/oil acts as a natural antiseptic for our scalps, but an abundance of spicy, fatty or sugary foods reduce these antiseptic effects and allow bacteria and fungi to take hold on the scalp. This then leads to scalp problems such as dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. To preserve the healthy anti-septic properties of oil and prevent further problems limit these food groups in your diet as much as possible.
Get the facts straight.The texture of hair doesn’t play a part in how oily your scalp and hair becomes, though it can effect the way it looks - straight hair, for example, will allow the oil or sebum to travel along the lengths during the day, while oil will take longer to make it down the curves of curly hair.
Show long hair the love.Those with long hair may not wish to shampoo that frequently and therefore the natural scalp covering of oil production may build up and spread through the lengths without reaching the tips, thereby creating the greasy roots/dry ends combination. The answer? A daily wash.
Colouring hair makes no difference.Hair colourants will not reduce oil production - or increase it for that matter - but most hair colourants enhance the antiseptic effects of oil or sebum production so could help with bacteria on the scalp and fungi. If unsure of a scalp condition, it is best to get it examined by a registered trichologist before using hair colourants to be sure it will be safe.
Wash and go.Washing every day prevents an unnecessary build up and is a perfectly safe thing to do so ignore the myths about it dehydrating the scalp or damaging your hair, but do always apply conditioner to the lengths and avoid the scalp as it can make the roots of hair look greasier even if you have just shampooed.
Vanessa Bailey, Consultant Trichologist based at The Hair Clinic, John Bell and Croyden Pharmacy, 50-54 Wigmore Street, London, W1U 2AU Tel No: 020 7224 4640
Trichologist Vanessa Bailey MIT FRSPH