Can you ‘train’ your hair to be less oily? We asked some experts.

Having fine, oily hair that needs washing everyday has to be the most annoying part of my beauty routine.

Most mornings I wish I could hit snooze a few more times but addressing my gross, greasy roots takes precedence over extra zzz’s.

I’d heard it’s possible to ‘teach’ your scalp to produce less oil buy washing it less frequently, so I decided to ask a few doctors if that’s true – along with some other oily hair questions.

Is it bad to shampoo everyday?

First thing first – people had told me that washing my hair everyday was ‘bad’, so I wanted to clear that up.

“It’s fine to wash and condition your hair every day, as long as you are using a gentle daily use shampoo,” Tricologist Kate Dawes told Mamamia.

“Be aware that by removing the natural oils (known as sebum), your sebaceous glands will naturally produce more. Always look for shampoos that are SLS and paraben free, as well as pH balanced.”

David Salinger, Director at the International Association of Trichologists, agrees.

“No, it’s not bad. We wash our faces everyday and, likewise, should shampoo our scalp daily. But use a shampoo with a pH of about 5.5.”

In fact, not washing hair often enough can actually breed bacteria.

“Infrequent shampooing will lead to scalp scaling, itching or inflammation. As sebum accumulates on the scalp, yeast infections develop,” Salinger said.

“Conditioning is mainly necessary for those who chemically treat their hair. For the who don’t do anything to their hair, a conditioner once a week is sufficient.”

Feel like this when you've gotta wash your hair? Same. Image via Getty.

What is a pH balancing shampoo?

So if it’s not about how often we use shampoo but about the type, what the hell is a pH balanced shampoo? Both Salinger and Dawes suggest using one if an oily scalp is your issue.

“Using a pH balanced shampoo will help to control the sebum production. Your scalp and hair have a slightly acidic pH of 5.5. The closer the pH value of shampoo to the scalp's natural pH the better,” Dawes said.


“Alkaline or higher pH value shampoos, such as some anti-dandruff and no-tears shampoos will remove more sebum from the scalp, encouraging the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum.”

“The main benefit of a shampoo and conditioner at a pH of about 5.5 is they will close up the cuticle of the hair, making the hair look shinier, and the hair will be at its strongest,” adds Salinger.

The good news is that with the introduction of a pH balanced shampoo, you should be able to stretch to washing every second day.

Brands such as Dermalogica, Kevin Murphy, Wella and Avalon Organics all make balancing shampoos.

“If you would like to start shampooing every second day you may go through a period of extra oiliness while the glands adjust to the change in habits. Within time the sebaceous glands will adjust and produce less sebum,” Dawes said.

“In the case of excessive oiliness, a visit to a dermatologist maybe required.”

Zoe Foster Blake’s beauty advice for busy women. Post continues after audio.

Can hormones affect our hair’s oiliness?

You bet. Hormone-related issues such as PCOS or a hyperthyroid condition can cause your scalp, and skin, to produce more oil than what is considered normal.

“If you have excessive sebum production, have your hormones checked, as they they may be out of balance. Sebum production is genetic and controlled by your androgen hormones,” Dawes said.


Other lifestyle changes

In addition to switching to a pH balanced shampoo and having your hormones checked, there’s a few other lifestyle (and styling) changes that might help.

“To reduce oiliness, a Zinc supplement can be of benefit, and with women, some oral contraceptives reduce oiliness by reducing the influence of androgens on the sebaceous glands,” Salinger said.

Dawes is also a fan of Zinc, as well as some other nutrients.

“Eat healthy, reduce sugar intake and increase your intake of good quality protein, complex carbohydrates and vegetables,” Dawes said.

“Include supplements of Omega 3, 6and 9 , Vitamin D and Zinc. Also include Prebiotics and probiotics in your diet, as a healthy gut microbiome will create healthier skin and hair.”

When it comes to washing, tweak your routine slightly to see if that reduces the feeling of dirty, greasy roots.

“Wash your hair in the morning with lukewarm water and apply conditioner on mid-lengths and ends only. If you have fine hair you may want to use a spray leave-in conditioner instead,” Dawes said.

“Do not use styling products containing silicon and keep any styling products away from the scalp. If possible, use a cool setting on your hair dryer. Use cornstarch as a dry shampoo on your no shampoo day.”

Got a trick to stretching out your hairstyle? Tell us in the comments.