If you’re no stranger to dealing with an oily scalp, you may be used to loading up on one too many dry shampoos as a solution. While these powder cleansers are a suitable temporary solution for sopping up excess oil and avoiding daily hair washing — you don’t want to solely rely on them.
“When dry shampoo particles build up on the scalp over time, they can clog hair follicles, trap oil, and prevent normal skin cell turnover,” Nancy Samolitis, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles previously shared with Allure. It creates something of a domino effect since Samolitis explained that “this can lead to overgrowth of bacteria and yeast that normally live on the scalp and cause folliculitis, or the inflammation of hair follicles, and dandruff.” Folliculitis can, in turn, lead to red pimples and pustules — sort of like acne on the scalp.
All that being said, it’s best to moderate your dry shampoo usage with a traditional liquid shampoo for oily hair, which will essentially work the same way a powder does: absorbing oil, without leaving any residue. When seeking out the best shampoo for oily hair, cosmetic chemist Ginger King advises against buying formulas formulated with silicones. Some silicones may accumulate on the scalp over time, similarly to the way powder particles do, King explains.
This advice was a common thread among the experts we spoke to. Chicago-based hairstylist Nick Stenson also recommends steering clear of silicones. “Silicone tends to coat the hair, making it heavy, which counteracts the benefits of the volumizing,” he explains.
What’s more, “continued used of silicones over time can weigh down the hair,” board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, who is based in New York City, previously told Allure.
The best shampoos for oily hair are those that are formulated with clarifying and exfoliating ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids, which reduce residue, oil, and build-up on the scalp, says King. New York City board-certified dermatologist Charlotte Birnbaum agrees, who previously told Allure to look for a clarifying shampoo for a deep hair cleanse, preferably one with salicylic acid.
Now that you know which ingredients to look out for — and which to avoid — the next step is to adjust your washing frequency. “For an oily scalp, I recommend more frequent shampooing, up to once a day,” Birnbaum previously told Allure.
All of this really depends on your hair type and texture, though. For example, Birnbaum explained that those with curly hair might be able to get away with less frequent shampooing — once per week — while folks with finer hair may need to shampoo more often. Everyone is different, so do a test run for a few weeks to see how your hair responds to a new regimen.
Before jumping into a fresh washday routine, get your shampoo options in order. We tapped several experts to find the best shampoos for oily hair that are available across a range of price points.