Having an oily scalp and dry ends seems like a contradiction. After all, most hair products are targeted for one specific issue like making hair less oily or adding moisture to dry hair, but rarely do products fix both.
And yet, having an oily scalp and dry ends is actually pretty common. I struggled with these issues for years before finding the right routine that would leave my ends soft and shiny but keep oil production under control.
This routine is my tried and true for hair that looks healthy for days!
Why Hair Can Be Oily at the Scalp But Dry at the Ends
An oily scalp and dry hair are generally different issues that have different causes, but it can be common to experience them both together.
Oily scalps are typically genetic, but buildup from hair products can also increase how oily your scalp can get.
Dry hair can be caused by heat damage, over-washing, or by not giving your hair enough moisture on a regular basis. While it’s very common to have dry hair, it’s not inevitable.
How to Choose a Shampoo and Conditioner
Choosing a shampoo and conditioner for an oily scalp and dry ends is difficult because it’s rare for a set to be targeted at solving these two different problems. Typically a shampoo will be aimed at an oily scalp with a lightweight conditioner to go with it, but you will often need a more moisturizing conditioner to nourish your dry hair.
I love the Virtue Purifying Shampoo and the Recovery Conditioner. Perfect for an cleansing an oily scalp but still moisturizing dry hair!
Mixing and matching your shampoo and conditioner is actually a great way to target both of these issues. When looking for a shampoo, ingredients like aloe vera, charcoal, apple cider vinegar, peppermint, and tea tree oil are popular for oil control.
For dry hair, nourishing oils like jojoba oil and argan oil as well moisturizing ingredients like panthenol and shea revive mid-lengths and ends that are struggling with dryness.
My Haircare Routine for Oily Scalp and Dry Ends
1. Wash every 2-3 days
Over-washing is a big contributor to hair that is overly dry, but it is easy to see why those with an oily scalp may be washing everyday. If your hair gets greasy within 24 hours it can be tempting to cleanse your scalp again, but you could be drying out your ends with all of that shampooing.
Washing your hair every 2-3 days is a good schedule to give your hair the cleanse it needs without making your hair drier. Using dry shampoo can help keep your hair from looking greasy, but washing your hair thoroughly (using the tips below) will help to extend the time that your hair can last without greasiness.
Beyond a few days, there is no benefit to stretching your wash times. Waiting a week to wash your hair will not “train” an oily scalp to get less greasy. So keep to a good middle road to avoid drying out your hair further.
2. Shampoo twice
Shampooing twice is an underrated way to deep clean your scalp. After your shampoo your hair, scrubbing your scalp all around your head, rinse and then repeat. This gives the shampoo a second chance to get out all of that oil and product buildup that is leaving your hair not as clean as it could be.
3. Mix and match shampoo and conditioners
Mixing and matching shampoos and conditioners seems like it’s breaking some sort of unwritten rule, but there is no need to buy the conditioner that “matches” the shampoo you are using. You can use a conditioner from a different line or different brand, and in this case I’d encourage it!
Use a purifying, volumizing, or oil-control shampoo and pair it with a moisturizing conditioner that is aimed at dry ends. This combination will target both problems at once.
Clarifying shampoo is great for all hair types, but it is especially necessary for those with oily scalps. Clarifying shampoos give hair an even deeper cleanse than a normal shampoo, so deep you only want to use it once a week or so.
If your hair is very oily, you can start by using it twice a week and then peel back your use as the problem starts to get better.
5. Use an oily scalp treatment
Just like dry hair has hair masks and oils to give extra TLC, so different rinses and serums can solve for extra oiliness.
There are scalp serums aimed at balancing excess scalp sebum (oil) and I’ve written about my favorite ones here.
Apple cider vinegar rinses are an easy way to treat your scalp regular for excessive oiliness. By using apple cider vinegar that you can find in your house and combining it with water, you can create an easy treatment that balances your scalp and reduces oiliness over time. I use to use these religiously and they can be used every time you wash your hair since they are fairly gentle on your scalp. Here’s how I make an apple cider vinegar rinse with the right ratio of apple cider vinegar to water.
Scalp scrubs can also help to balance oily scalps and can also help to soothe an itchy scalp. These are nice to use on occasion, especially if your scalp has become itchy and needs a reset.
While not necessary, these treatments can help to make your scalp less oily.
6. Don’t skimp on conditioner…but keep it away from your scalp
If you have an oily scalp, it’s possible you have been told not to use conditioner (at least I have) but nothing could be further from the truth! Conditioner is an important way to detangle and soften hair, especially if your hair is dry.
Use a good, moisturizing conditioner on your mid-lengths and ends, but be careful not to get conditioner on your scalp. Conditioners have moisturizing ingredients which will increase the oiliness of your scalp, but only if used directly on your scalp.
7. Weekly Hair Masks Are Your Friend
Hair masks add moisture to your hair that penetrates even deeper than a normal conditioner. This way the moisture lasts longer and the strands become moisturized from inside out.
Deep conditioning masks work well to bring dry hair back o life and restore softness and shine. Use them once a week to give your hair an extra dose of hydration.
8. Detangle With Leave-in Conditioner
Leave-in conditioner is an essential for anyone with dry, frizzy, or tangled hair. Leave-in conditioners are often water-based and give hair lightweight moisture that helps to easily detangle hair. Making hair easier to detangle reduces the amount of breakage your hair will experience, which dry hair is especially prone to.
Use leave-in conditioner right out of the shower and experiment with the right amount for your hair. Fine hair types will need less than thick hair types for example.
9. Oil Ends When They’re Wet
When your hair is still damp, adding hair oil to the ends can protect and add softness. Your ends are the oldest part of your hair and a a result they are often the most damaged and dry. They can use the extra TLC to come alive again.
If your ends are very damaged and suffering from endless split ends and a lot of dryness, your best bet is to cut them off. Dry hair ends can become damaged beyond repair, so it’s best to cut off the damage and take care of your hair ends from that point forward so your hair can grow long and healthy.
10. Lay Off The Heat…But If You Don’t, Use Heat Protectant!
Heat is a major contributor to hair damage. Over time, with regular use, heat can cause hair to become extremely dry, losing its shine and luster and eventually its softness as well.
When using heat, there are ways to protect your hair to limit the damage it can cause. Of course, not using hot tools at all will give your hair the greatest break and stop damage in its tracks, but we don;’t all want to give up our curling iron or blow dryer forever.
If you’re using hot tools, try to limit your use of hot tools to a couple of times a week. When using your hot tools, use a lower temperature setting. Curling irons and flat irons tends to get the hottest (more than say, a blow dryer) so turning those down to a lower heat setting is possible will keep your hair from too much damage.
And if you are using hot tools, always use a heat protectant! Heat protectants can be found in many styling products like hair primers, styling creams, and straightening sprays.
My Haircare Routine for Oily Scalp and Dry Ends Conclusion
Solving an oily scalp and dry ends can be done with the right routine. Not too many products are required for solving this issue, and in fact understanding what NOT to do is as important as understanding what you should be doing.
Understanding the roots (ha!) of an oily scalp and dry ends goes a long way towards helping to solve the problem, and with the right steps taking repeatedly over time your hair will become a lot more balanced.
Scalp sebum can’t be controlled entirely and you may never be able to go for a week without washing your hair, but it is possible to reduce it and bring softness back to dry, frizzy hair.