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What Causes Oily Scalp And How To Treat It?

What Causes Oily Scalp And How To Treat It

You are going out with friends and getting ready, when you start brushing your hair you realize it is all oily and greasy again. Making it look like you haven’t washed your hair for weeks when you just washed it yesterday.

Greasy hair may not look like a problem but ask those who are experiencing it. But what causes this oily hair? The answer is an oily scalp. 

Oily scalp is one of the most common reasons that causes oily hair. In this blog, we will take a closer look at what might be causing your oily scalp and how to get rid of it.

Understanding Oily Scalp And Oily Hair?

Sebaceous glands are naturally present on our skin, they are responsible for producing an oily substance ‘sebum’. Sebum keeps the scalp moisturized. But sometimes due to environmental or genetic factors, the sebaceous glands start producing excess sebum. 

This excess sebum makes your scalp and hair oily and greasy. An oily scalp makes your scalp prone to developing skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.

Why Is My Scalp So Oily?

As we have discussed before, an oily scalp is mostly caused due to the overproduction of sebum by sebaceous glands on the scalp. But what causes these sebaceous glands to start producing excess oil? Here are some common factors that trigger the glands. 

1. Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis also known as cradle cap in babies causes thick, greasy scaly patches on the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis is a severe form of dandruff and is sometimes called oily dandruff because it causes an oily scalp.

Seborrheic dermatitis is caused due to the overproduction of sebum on the scalp. When the excess sebum combines with a yeast naturally present on the skin, Malassezia yeast, it produces a byproduct that leads to scaling and flaking.

2. Genetics

Genetics plays an important role in developing an oily scalp. Genes can cause your sebaceous glands to overproduce sebum. Your hair type and how it holds scalp oil is also dependent on your genes. So you can easily blame your oily scalp and greasy hair on your genes.

3. Hormones

Changes in the hormones of the body can lead to oil on the scalp. A change in hormones triggers the production of excess sebum. Several reasons can cause hormonal changes such as

  • Puberty
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Stress

Change in hormones is a common factor that causes the appearance of cradle cap in babies. And hormones are the reason why most teenagers experience acne in puberty.

4. Medical Conditions

There are certain medical conditions that can trigger excess production of oil on the scalp. This phenomenon is also known as hyperseborrhea. Some of these conditions are:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Disorder of adrenal glands
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Digestive problems

If you suspect that a certain medical condition might be the reason behind your oily scalp then consult a doctor who will accurately diagnose your condition and provide you with a proper treatment plan.

5. Stress

Stress has a deep connection to our physical well-being. Even though we may not pay much attention to its relation to our physical health, it can trigger the appearance of certain skin conditions like eczema, atopic dermatitis, rosacea, and psoriasis. It can also trigger your greasy scalp.

When you are experiencing stress, your body releases large amounts of stress hormones also known as cortisol into your body. These hormones signal the sebaceous glands to start producing more sebum which ultimately leads to an oily scalp.

6. Overwashing

Overwashing your hair can be harmful for them. The frequency of overwashing is different for everyone but mostly if you wash your hair every day or twice in one day can lead to complications like oily scalp, frizzy hair, and hair loss.  

When you overwash your scalp, the natural oil is stripped away from the scalp making it dry. This provokes the sebaceous glands to start producing sebum to hydrate the scalp and protect your hair. Confused, the glands start producing too much oil which causes the scalp to become greasy.

7. Weather Conditions

Extreme weather conditions are not only dangerous for your skin but also for your scalp. During those cold, dry winter days, your scalp becomes dry more often which causes the sebaceous glands to start producing more oil. Sometimes this production of sebum can cause your oily scalp. 

During the hot, humid summer days your seat glands on the scalp start producing more sweat which pushes the sebum down to the hair shafts making your hair look oily. The mixture of sweat and sebum on the scalp leads to an itchy, oily scalp.

8. Medications

Certain medications can create hormonal imbalances in the body and trigger sebaceous glands to produce more oil. One of the most common medications is contraceptive pills. These pills contain androgenic progestins that activate androgen receptors in your body. These receptors can put your sebaceous glands into overdrive leading to excess oil on the scalp. 

Some other medications are

  • Nandrolone
  • Steroid 

9. Using The Wrong Products

It is essential to choose the right products for your scalp. Choosing the wrong products can lead to issues like an oily scalp, Dry scalp, and hair loss. Shampoo and conditioners that contain harsh chemicals can lead to a greasy scalp. 

Other hair styling products like mousse, hair sprays, and hair gels are also culprits of an oily scalp. These products can leave behind residue on your scalp that is difficult to wash and make your hair look greasy. The harsh chemicals in these products can also irritate your scalp and cause skin conditions like itchy scalp, irritant contact dermatitis, and acne.

Is Oily Scalp Good Or Bad?

The sebum or oil produced by sebaceous glands is good for your scalp health. It keeps your scalp moisturized and protects your hair. But too much of something is always bad. 

Excess sebum can lead to dirt and dead skin skin cells buildup on the scalp. This excess oil also presents a breeding ground for Malassezia yeast. 

Excess oil can cause the overproduction of Malassezia yeast. Which can lead to scalp issues like seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. 

Relation Between Oily Scalp And Dandruff

Many people think that dandruff can only be caused by dry scalp which is not true. A dry scalp can cause dry dandruff, however, an oily scalp can cause oily dandruff. To learn more about the differences between oily dandruff vs dry dandruff read our blog.

Dandruff is mostly caused due to the excessive production of Malassezia yeast on the scalp. As we have discussed before sebum on the scalp provides fertile land for Malassezia yeast to grow. When oil and yeast combine they break down into byproducts that can cause irritation and inflammation on the scalp. This clearly shows that oily scalp and dandruff go hand in hand. 

Does Oily Scalp Cause Hair Loss?

If you are wondering if an oily scalp causes hair loss then the answer is yes. Even though an oily scalp is not the sole cause of hair loss. However, the buildup of dirt, oil, and residue from hair products can clog the pores. This hinders the growth of new hair and can lead to weakening and thinning of the hair. Which can lead to hair loss.

8 Ways To Get Rid Of Oily Scalp?

You can easily manage your oily scalp at home by taking proper care of the scalp. Here are a few things you can do to get rid of oily scalp.

1. Choose The Right Products

It is essential to choose the right products for your scalp and skin whether you are experiencing any scalp issues or not. Shampoo that contains harsh chemicals like sulfates, parabens, and fragrances can strip away natural oil, causing irritation, and inflammation, and making the scalp prone to developing seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. 

  • It is important that your choose a shampoo that is free from these harsh chemicals. Products like Happy Cappy Daily Eczema Shampoo And Body Wash are a good option to choose from. It is a mild shampoo that is free from skin irritants. It is infused with natural ingredients that gently cleanse your scalp without irritating it and moisturize it making your hair look smooth and healthy. 

2. Bathtime Care

To manage and prevent an oily scalp you must take care of your scalp even during bathtime.

  • Avoid using hot water to wash your hair as it can strip away natural oils.
  • While shampooing do not vigorously massage or scrub your hair.
  • After shampooing make sure that you rinse your hair properly, so no product residue is left behind on the scalp.
  • After taking a bath do not rub your hair with a towel to dry them.

3. The Right Way To Conditioner Your Hair

Conditioners can help make your hair look silky and smooth. But using it the wrong way can cause your oily scalp. 

  • Put conditioner only on the ends and lengths of your hair. 
  • Never put conditioner on your scalp or in the hair roots.
  • Choose a conditioner that is free from harsh chemicals.
  • Gently apply the conditioner to the hair and thoroughly rinse it after leaving it on for a few minutes.

4. Adjusting Your Hair Wash Routine

The right hair wash routine might be different for everyone. However, it is believed by researchers that washing your hair 2 to 3 times a week is best for your scalp’s health. If you are washing your hair daily or more than once daily then try washing them every other day to see if that makes your oily scalp better. 

5. Brushing

Brushing can be very healthy for the scalp. It promotes blood flow in the scalp and distributes the sebum evenly. But do not overbrush your hair, it can push sebum and dirt down to the lengths making your hair look greasy.

Use a soft-bristled brush for oily scalp; it will gently distribute the hair oils. For massaging yours or your baby’s scalp you can use a cradle cap brush. A Cradle Cap Brush is not only developed to remove excess scales from the scalp but also to promote healthy blood flow.

6. Avoid Styling Products And Heat Tools

Avoid using strong styling products on your hair. If it’s essential to style your hair with those products, use ones that are not too strong and less harsh on your scalp.

If you use heat tools like hair dryers, straighteners, and curlers on your hair quite often, quit doing it. Use the heat tools only when it is very important and make sure you clean the tools properly after using them. These tools will not only cause your oily scalp but also damage your hair. 

7. Cleaning The Hair Tools

Sebum and dirt from your scalp get trapped in the hair tools like hair brushes and combs that you use on a daily basis. It is important to keep them clean. By removing oil and dirt from the tools, they will not be redistributed back to your scalp again. 

8. Healthy Diet

The food you eat can also be a culprit for your oily scalp. So make sure you eat a healthy balanced diet. Avoid taking too much sugar, dairy products, alcohol, refined carbs, and fried food. Try adding the following to your diet:

  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B
  • Biotin
  • Essential fats
  • Vitamin E

Managing Seborrheic Dermatitis And Dandruff

Seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap) and dandruff can easily be managed by anti dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis shampoo. One of the best shampoos for managing seborrheic dermatitis is the one that contains pyrithione zinc.

Pyrithione zinc is effective in managing the production of Malassezia yeast on the scalp and controlling the scaling and flaking associated with seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. 

Dr Eddie has formulated a shampoo to eliminate flaking, scaling, and irritation associated with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo contains the FDA-approved active ingredient pyrithione zinc. It is dermatologist-tested, fragrance-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free, and BPA-free. It contains 95% natural ingredients and is specially made for children of all ages and adults. 

What To Look For In Shampoo For Oily Scalp?

Some of the key ingredients that make the best shampoo for oily scalp are:

  • Ketoconazole
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Salicylic Acid

Some ingredients that you should avoid in your shampoo are:

  • Parabens
  • Silicone
  • Sulfates
  • Fragrances
  • Phthalates


Oily scalp can be caused due to several reasons such as seborrheic dermatitis, weather conditions, stress, genetics, hormonal changes, and overwashing the scalp. Oily scalp can be very bothersome as it makes your hair look greasy and oily.

Even though there is no permanent cure for an oily scalp it can be easily managed by taking proper care of your scalp and hair. And one of the most important steps in taking care of your scalp is keeping it clean with a gentle, irritant-free shampoo.

If you or your baby is suffering from seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap, or dandruff use a cradle cap shampoo that contains pyrithione zinc to reduce the scaling, flaking, and redness associated with these conditions.


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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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Can I Have An Oily Scalp And Dry Hair?

Yes, you can experience an oily scalp with dry hair at the same time. This condition can be caused by several reasons like seborrheic dermatitis, genetics, and over washing the hair. When your scalp becomes dry the sebaceous glands will start producing more sebum. But if this sebum is not reaching the hair ends you may experience dry hair with oily scalp.

Why is my scalp oily?

There are several reasons that can cause an oily scalp; one of the most common causes is seborrheic dermatitis. Other reasons are:
Chemicals in hair products
Over washing the hair
Medications and medical conditions
Hormonal changes

How to remove oil from an oily scalp?

The best way to remove oil from an oily scalp is by washing your hair and scalp at least 2 to 3 times a week with a mild, daily shampoo. Choose a shampoo that is fragrance-free, dye-free, and paraben-free so it does not further exacerbate the condition.

Is an oily scalp bad for hair growth?

Yes, oily scalp can be bad for your hair growth. Too much oil or sebum on the scalp promotes the overgrowth of Malassezia yeast which causes scalp issues like seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. The dirt and dead skin cells can also get trapped in an oily scalp and clog the pores making it difficult for new hair to grow.

Can I wash my hair everyday if I have an oily scalp?

Yes you can wash your hair everyday with a gentle daily shampoo if you have an oily scalp. However, if you notice that your scalp and hair are getting dry by washing them everyday then shampoo your hair 2 to 3 times a week.

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