November 07, 2019 at 03:00PM by CWC
I’ve always wanted the kind of shiny hair you see in Pantene Pro V commercials, but sadly the only shimmer to my strands seems to comes from grease—which doesn’t have quite the same aesthetic as whatever magic fairy dust is sprinkled onto the heads of supermodels, starlets, and the popular girls in high school. This big, life-long bummer, is one that New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, tells me I should at least partially blame on my parents. “The amount of oil that is made in your scalp is determined by your genetics,” he says. Thanks a lot, mom and dad!
All is not lost for me, my siblings, or anyone else who similarly suffers, however, as not all grease is inherited. “The hair becomes greasy when oil from the scalp accumulates over time,” Dr. Zeichner explains. He notes that other common sense contributing factors include include heavy exercise (read: lots of sweat) and extended exposure to hot, humid environments. Los Angeles-based stylist Juli Phillips adds that hormones can play a role, too.
While it’s not always possible to avoid the above, you can control your product choices, which can have a significant impact on your hair’s grease quotient, too. Celebrity hairstylist Kristen Shaw says the oil-heavy products on the market today are problematic when it comes to buildup on the scalp. “I see client after client having clogged pores from shampoos with too much oil,” she tells me. Instead, it’s important to mix and match your product so that if your shampoo heavies up on the conditioning agents, your actual conditioner shouldn’t. “You can’t have both a heavy shampoo and a heavy conditioner—that will just suffocate your scalp, clog the pores, and trap the grease,” she explains. “Instead, think about balancing your products.” This advice holds for everyone, but if you’re especially prone to greasiness, Dr. Zeichner recommends specifically trying a salicylic acid-spiked shampoo, which should help remove excess oil from the skin. His favorite is a budget-friendly drugstore buy. “Neutrogena T-Sal Shampoo ($10) helps remove excess oil and any associated flakes from the scalp,” he says. You’ll probably only want to suds up with this once a week or so as an add-on to your usual routine.
One thing you counterintuitively shouldn’t do if your hair is a grease bucket is think you should shampoo tons more. “One of the main reasons that our hair gets greasy on the fly is because we’re over washing it,” says Adara Forletta, a stylist at LA-based Mare Salon. “The scalp will overproduce oil when it’s dry to make up for the lack of natural oil.” Instead of needing to be washed, she says, it needs to be essentially detoxed. “What I like to tell clients is that you need to do somewhat of a ‘purge’ and let your scalp get to a healthy state by not washing it for a week or so,” she says. “After that use a clarifying shampoo once a week or so to maintain.” FWIW: she likes Davines Natural Tech ($32) or Naturia by Rene Furterer ($10).
While it may be tough for you to skip the shower after an intense sweat sesh, Shaw prescribes a second method for nixing grease sans a proper full-on shampoo: Get the grease moving down the strand. “There’s a reason why our scalps are sensitive to touch—we need to [get the blood circulating on them],” she says. If you’re in the shower, even if you’re not shampooing, she advises giving yourself a scalp massage to amp up blood flow and help the oil move from your root down through your ends, which will naturally help to condition it. “If you love to air dry and amplify your natural texture, comb through your hair with your fingers, and the more you repeat this process with every time you wet your hair, the closer to natural, sexy, [grease-free] beach hair you’ll be,” she says.
I wash my hair every single day to keep grease at bay, but as a work-from-home introvert who leaves the house a lot less often than I’d like to admit, I’m definitely down to try this grease redistribution, shower-shunning strategy instead. Whether it turns me into Pig Pen or the most popular girl at Churchill High School, Class of “f**k, I’m old* remains to be seen, but if it’s the former, well, at least I’ll keep my therapist flush dealing an ever-expanding list of issues for which I blame my parents.