How to Find the Best Shampoo for Oily Hair

If your hair becomes flat and greasy soon after you wash it, here's how to upgrade your hair-care routine with the best shampoo for oily hair.

Hair Health Hotline: Shampoo for Oily Hair
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Hair Health Hotline is your direct access to dermatologists, trichologists, hairstylists, and other beauty pros. Each story in this series tackles a common hair or scalp concern and offers science-backed solutions to care for your strands.

Dry shampoo, hats, strategic hairstyles, and the like can hide evidence of oily hair in a pinch. But if you want to avoid dealing with the annoyance in the first place, optimizing how you wash your hair is key.

The internet is full of conflicting info on what type of shampoo to use — and how often to use it — if your goal is to address excess oil production. Here, Taylor Rose, certified trichologist, gets straight to the point about how to choose the best shampoo for oily hair and exactly how to incorporate the product into your hair-washing routine.

Q: My hair immediately gets oily after I wash it. How can I find the best shampoo for oily hair to keep my hair from feeling greasy and looking flat?

A: To keep excess oil production at bay, it's best to use a lightweight shampoo in conjunction with less-frequent use of a clarifying shampoo, says Rose. Equally as important as choosing the right shampoo is figuring out how often you should wash your hair based on your scalp's needs.

You'll know you have oily hair if your hair starts to get greasy within hours of showering, says Rose. "Straight hair is definitely more likely to look more oily [than curlier hair]," she says. "And that's because, with straight hair, the oils from the scalp travel more quickly and more easily down the hair shaft. So it gives [hair] a more greasy appearance."

How to Select the Best Shampoos for Oily Hair

If you have an oily scalp, the oil along with dirt and product residue can lead to build-up, so using a clarifying shampoo once a week is helpful, says Rose. Clarifying shampoos are essentially more powerful versions of regular shampoo, thanks to ingredients such as vinegar or exfoliators, but they are best used less frequently since they can dry hair out, as Shape previously reported.

Each time you wash your hair throughout the remainder of the week, you should use a less intense formula, says Rose. "I typically recommend a gentle daily shampoo for oily hair because they're lightweight, non-irritating to the scalp, and suitable for everyday use," she says.

To choose the best shampoo for oily hair, look for words along the lines of "mild," "gentle," or "daily" on the bottle, says Rose. Ideally, you'll find a formula without silicones, which can weigh down your hair, or sulfates, which are cleansing ingredients that could be too drying when used in conjunction with the clarifying shampoo, she says.

Hair Health Hotline: Shampoo for Oily Hair
Courtesy of Taylor Rose

How to Incorporate the Best Shampoo for Oily Hair In Your Routine

Even the best shampoo for oily hair won't solve all your problems if you haven't nailed down how often you should be washing your hair. "[When it comes to managing oil production,] the shampoo you're using is definitely important, but I would say the frequency of washing is going to be even more important," says Rose.

Over-washing your hair can actually trigger your scalp to produce more oil, which can make figuring out how often to wash your hair tricky, notes Rose. If you have oily hair and currently wash it every day, consider trying to stretch it to every three days for a few weeks. If it starts taking longer for your hair to become oily, you were probably over-washing it and should continue washing it every three days, says Rose. But if your hair continues to get oily soon after you shower, your genetics rather than over-washing are likely the main culprit, meaning you should go back to washing daily or trying every other day, she says.

Along with using the best shampoos for oily hair, it's helpful to use a scalp scrub once a month or to add a scalp massager to your daily routine for added defense against excess build-up, says Rose.

Finally, don't overlook how you wear your hair to sleep. "If you can, wear your hair up either with a clip or a silk scarf at night and just keep it off of your face," says Rose. "People with an oily scalp usually have an oily face too, and that can just make your hair oilier quicker."

To recap, alternating between clarifying shampoos and lightweight, gentle shampoos can mitigate excess oil production. It can also be helpful to figure out how often you should wash your hair, take additional exfoliation measures, and wear your hair up to sleep.

Have a hair health question you want answered? Send your Q to hairhotline@shape.com for a chance to have it featured in a future installment of Hair Health Hotline.

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