As someone with super fine hair (albeit a lot of it), I’m well accustomed to just how quickly an oily scalp can make for a bad hair day. While I’ve spent years training my color-treated hair to be washed less frequently, it’s still a work in progress. Thankfully, shampoos for oily scalps do help prolong the time I can go between wash days. Of course, some are better than others at getting (and keeping) my scalp squeaky; for my fellow greasy folks, keep reading to learn which shampoos are *actually* worth a place in your shower.
Experts In This Article
- Helen Reavey, certified trichologist and founder of Act+Acre
Best shampoos for oily scalps, at a glance:
- Best overall: Bumble and Bumble, Sunday Clarifying Shampoo, $30
- Best drugstore: L’Oréal Paris, Elvive Extraordinary Clay Rebalancing Shampoo, $10
- Best budget: Kristin Ess, Deep Clean Clarifying Shampoo, $11
- Best splurge: Oribe, Serene Scalp Oil Control Shampoo, $52
- Most universal: Paul Mitchell, Tea Tree Special Shampoo, $18
- Best sulfate-free: Act+Acre, Cold Processed Balancing Shampoo, $32
- Best balancing: Briogeo, Superfoods Mango + Cherry Oil Control & Balancing Shampoo, $30
- Best for long-term scalp health: Hair by Sam McKnight, Light Cleanse Hair & Scalp Shampoo, $37
- Best volumizing: Kérastase Specifique Bain Divalent Shampoo for Oily Scalp & Hair, $40
- Best for sensitive skin: Dr. Barbara Sturm, Balancing Shampoo, $60
What is the difference between an oily scalp and oily hair?
First things first: do you have an oily scalp or oily strands? The two tend to go hand-in-hand, however, there is a difference between them.
“An oily scalp occurs when there is an excessive amount of sebum build-up within the sebaceous glands of the scalp, causing the hair to appear greasy and often causing itchiness or discomfort,” explains Helen Reavey, trichologist and founder of the scalp-care brand Act+Acre. “Similarly, oily hair occurs when the hair strands appear greasy and sticky, often due to build-up on the hair shaft.” So where your scalp could be innately oily, oily hair is likely due to product build-up, touching your strands excessively, or oil from your scalp seeping from your roots to your mids and ends.
How do I stop my scalp from being oily?
Remember: An oily scalp is caused by sebum build-up within the sebaceous glands. When this happens, the glands can become clogged and go into overdrive to try to remedy the situation, resulting in an oilier scalp. Because of this, Reavey says that the first step when struggling with an oily scalp is to incorporate a weekly scalp treatment into your routine.
“A gentle chemical exfoliant, such as our Scalp Renew ($48), will work to remove the buildup of sebum within the follicle while balancing oil levels and calming irritation,” she says. Beyond a weekly scalp treatment, Reavey says to wash your hair regularly. “It’s a myth that you shouldn’t wash your hair too often,” she exclaims. “As long as you are making sure to wash with lukewarm water, and removing the buildup on your scalp routinely, your hair should remain healthy, regardless of how many times you wash it.” (Of course, if you have color-treated hair, washing too often could cause your color to fade faster.)
How often should you wash your hair if you have an oily scalp?
According to Reavey, shampooing daily is not only safe for your strands, but it’s also recommended for banishing scalp grease and preventing oily hair. “I’d recommend cleansing daily and using a scalp treatment every three days until the scalp feels more balanced and then you can cleanse less frequently,” she says. You can also try a “double-cleanse approach”, which removes the oil and product build-up in the first wash and cleanses the scalp in the second. Additionally, Reavey says to be mindful of the hair-care products you use in and out of the shower. “Avoid using products with silicones, as they easily build up on the hair, weighing it down and causing it to look oily and greasy,” she says.
What to look for in shampoos for oily scalps
As with styling treatments, Reavey says to steer clear of sulfates and silicones when possible and to look for balancing ingredients (like amino acids and glycerin), hydrating and soothing ingredients (such as baobab oil), and gentle exfoliants (like salicylic acid). Together, these ingredients will clarify strands without stripping them of moisture, all while alleviating an itchy scalp, which is often a side effect of oil build-up.
10 best shampoos for oily scalps
Bumble and Bumble, Sunday Clarifying Shampoo — $31.00
Formulated with stimulating rosemary leaf extract, cleansing ginseng root, and clarifying sage leaf extract, Bumble and Bumble’s Sunday Clarifying Shampoo is ah-mazing for a squeaky clean. It gently and effectively clarifies the scalp for a less greasy appearance and a more comfortable feel, while sloughing away built-up oil and hair product in the strands. Albeit pricey, it’s a worthy investment for those with oily hair and does not disappoint.
- Formulated for straight, wavy, curly, and coily hair types
- Gives oil-free shine
- Clean fresh scent
- Is not a color-safe option
L’Oréal Paris, Elvive Extraordinary Clay Rebalancing Shampoo for Dry Hair — $10.00
The L’Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Clay Rebalancing Shampoo for Dry Hair is formulated with three refined clays and salicylic acid to absorb excess oil and gently exfoliate the scalp. In addition to promising fresh-looking roots for up to 48 hours, this drugstore shampoo for oily scalps leaves hair smelling delightful for hours on end.
- Smells great
- Pump bottle is super convenient
- Clay can be drying for some
Kristin Ess, Deep Clean Clarifying Shampoo — $11.00
The Kristin Ess Deep Clean Clarifying Shampoo is another affordable pick, though, it will look much more chic in your shower line-up. In addition to effectively removing build-up, it leaves hair healthy and hydrated, whether it’s air-dried or styled. But that’s not all! This shampoo is also volumizing and offers notable root lift, especially on fine, thin hair.
- Affordable price point
- Smells great
- Pretty packaging
Oribe, Serene Scalp Oil Control Shampoo — $52.00
The Oribe Serene Scalp Oil Control Shampoo smells great, looks luxurious, feels rich, and works well. It’s formulated with amino acids, rosebay extract, and green marine algae to rebalance the scalp and reduce oil overall. One note: Since this pretty purple bottle of shampoo costs a pretty penny, you may want to stretch your time between washes. I personally love using the coordinating Serene Scalp Oil Control Dry Shampoo Powder to do so. Read—and see—why, here.)
- Smells great
- Rebalances scalp oil production
- Makes hair feel super clean
Best for all hair types:
Paul Mitchell, Tea Tree Special Shampoo — $18.00
The Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo is beloved by folks with all hair types. The star ingredient here is tea tree oil, which is antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory. Meanwhile, rosemary, peppermint, and lavender further work to soothe and refresh the scalp, while also energizing the senses—because, as you might have guessed, this shampoo smells fab.
- Refreshing unisex scent
- Scalp-balancing formula
- Fair price point
- Contains sulfates and silicones
Act+Acre, Cold Processed Balancing Shampoo — $32.00
“We formulated this hair cleanse to be clean and free of any sulfates or silicones,” Reavey says. “It utilizes plant-based ingredients such as apple amino acids and baobab oil to thoroughly cleanse hair without stripping it of moisture.” The result? Notably less oily strands and a less weighed-down scalp.
- Clean formula
- Removed hair and scalp buildup
- Free of synthetic fragrances
- Safe for chemically-treated and colored hair
Briogeo, Superfoods Mango + Cherry Oil Control & Balancing Shampoo — $30.00
To balance oil production in the scalp, you can’t go wrong with Briogeo’s Superfoods Mango + Cherry Oil Control & Balancing Shampoo. This orange shampoo is formulated with papaya enzymes to level-out oil production, mango extract to protect against free radical damage and revive shine, and cherry extract to boost overall hair health. And let it be known: It smells good.
- Makes hair feel clean and hydrated
- Silicone- and sulfate-free
- Recycled packaging
- Papaya enzyme balances oil production
- Can feel heavy on some hair types
Best for long-term scalp health:
Hair by Sam McKnight, Light Cleanse Hair & Scalp Shampoo — $37.00
Reavey recommends the Hair by Sam McKnight Light Cleanse Hair & Scalp Shampoo for a few reasons. “It’s a great silicone-free option that gently removes sebum, dirt, and buildup from the scalp, without causing additional irritation,” she says. “It’s formulated with Aquaxyl, a sugar-derived complex, which supports long-term scalp health by preventing water loss.”
- Removes excess oil
- Doesn’t strip moisture
- Supports the scalp’s natural biome
- Recycled packaging
- Smells great
Kérastase, Specifique Bain Divalent Shampoo for Oily Scalp & Hair — $40.00
Want va-va-volume? Kérastase has got you covered. Expect your roots to feel big and voluptuous postt-shower. As for your scalp and strands, they’ll be clean as a whistle, too. “It’s a great, gentle option with amino acids and Vitamin B6,” she says. “This shampoo does a great job of cleansing the scalp while removing excess oil.”
- Smells great
- Leaves hair feeling super clean
- Adds lift and volume to weighed-down hair
- Gives shine and hydrates
Best for sensitive skin:
Dr. Barbara Sturm, Balancing Shampoo — $60.00
Dr. Barbara Sturm is beloved in the beauty community, and Reavey says that her Balancing Shampoo is one for the books. “The Dr. Barbara Sturm Balancing Shampoo is another great choice if you’re looking for a clarifying shampoo that’s good for sensitive skin,” she says. “This shampoo is formulated with a ton of plant-based nutrients that protect the scalp from outside irritants while balancing oil production and reducing the appearance of irritation, redness, and itching.”
- Balances oil production
- Reduces itchy scalp
- Clean, vegan formula
- Can be drying for some hair types
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