Here's Why Your Hair Is Greasy After Washing It

Experts explain.

by Sienna Fantozzi
Originally Published: 
Here's why your hair is greasy after washing it.
Donenko Oleksii/Shutterstock

There's no feeling more frustrating than having dirty hair, showering, and emerging with your hair greasy after washing it. It negates everything you just did. While grease is normal after a couple of days, you shouldn’t have oily hair when it’s freshly washed, so something is likely off. The causes can vary, but if this is something you've experienced, it's probably a good idea to figure out what's happening and correct it before you waste anymore of your time.

If you find washing and drying your hair to be a seriously arduous process (guilty), then you want to make sure that when you carve out time to do it, you're doing it right, and it's a wash that's going to last you. Whether you go a day, a few days, or a week between washes, you want to be able to go your standard duration and not have your hair grease up too quickly. Like, freshly out of the shower. What gives?!

There are several mistakes or oversights you could be making that are causing your hair to feel oily before your it has even dried yet, so check out some of these more common ones to make sure your clean hair is actually clean.

1. You Over-Conditioned Your Hair

This mistake is made with the best intentions. You think you're taking care of your hair, so you slather conditioner all over it, but you actually don't need to. Your ends need it more than your roots do, and you might be putting too much conditioner on your roots, causing them to feel greasy.

Dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, explains that this can happen due to the hydrating ingredients in the conditioner. Using too much can lead to “deposition of these ingredients on the scalp, trapping oil and leading to greasiness.”

Taylor Portanova and Kasey Bertucci, co-owners and master stylists at Salon 120 West, explain the best way to use conditioner is to only apply from the base of your ears downward to avoid making your scalp appear greasy.

The botanical formula of this Moroccan argan oil shampoo and conditioner helps reduce the sebum building up on the surface of your scalp. While this might go without saying, often the reason your hair appears greasy is because it's oily. Even if you've properly showered, excess oils can build up on the surface of your scalp causing your hair to appear as if it hasn't been washed in a while. Even better, this organic shampoo and conditioner combination is made without parabens, GMOs, or harsh chemicals.

2. You Didn’t Rinse All The Conditioner Out

In a rush? You might not have gotten all of your shampoo and conditioner out. As Zeichner mentioned, the ingredients in conditioners can get trapped and additional oils will develop, which contributes to that greasy look you’re trying to avoid.

To rinse, you'll want to stick with warm water when you shower. The warm water helps open up your cuticles so your shampoo can penetrate your hair. Continue to rinse your shampoo and conditioner thoroughly to prevent product build-up.

3. Your Conditioner Is Too Strong

If you're only conditioning the ends and you made sure all the conditioner has rinsed out, you could be using a conditioner that's too strong for your hair. If you have fine, thin, or naturally oily hair, you may not need to use something as heavy as someone with thick hair, textured hair, damaged, or dry hair. Instead, switch to a lightweight conditioner, or even a conditioner spray.

Briogeo’s Roscaro Milk Leave-In Conditioning Spray is a lightweight conditioning spray, anti-frizz product, and detangler all in one, and it’s suitable for all hair types. Use on wet or dry to seal in moisture and add shine. With a non-greasy formula, it won’t leave behind product build-up either.

4. You Have Product Buildup

The more product you use on your hair (think serums, heat protectants, hair sprays, etc.), the more buildup they create. This is a source of a potentially greasy appearance. Zeichner tells Bustle that shampoos and conditioners are meant to be applied and removed from the hair and scalp. Allowing them to sit leads to a buildup, which will alter the feel and texture of the hair.

If this has happened to you, a clarifying shampoo is the way to go. This anti-residue shampoo from Neutrogena is designed to reduce the build up of oils and residue caused by a lot of popular hair products. How it works: Continue using your regular hair products as you have been, but use this clarifying shampoo once a week. You'll see less build up, and a less greasy overall look to your hair. One fan writes, "I love this clarifying shampoo. I have naturally oily hair and this stuff really cleans my hair/scalp - I have also found it to be gentle enough to use daily. My hair does not feel brittle after shampooing which I was afraid of - really leaves it pretty soft..though I do follow up with conditioner still."

5. You're Rinsing With Super Hot Water

If you love a super hot shower, it could be contributing to potential greasiness. While you may be focused on your hair, your scalp is still skin. It’s affected by hot water the same way as your body, which means that hot water can lead to dehydration. When the skin becomes dehydrated, oil production can increase to compensate leading to that greasy feeling.

While yes, a scalding hot shower may feel nice, rinse your hair with lukewarm or cool water instead.

6. You Put Too Much Serum Or Product On

If the first thing you do after you wash your hair is put on your frizz fighter, shine serum, or heat protectant, just make sure you're only applying a small, pea-sized amount. Just like your conditioner, your products should really only be going on the bottom half of your hair, according to Portanova and Bertucci. “Typically, only volume products need to be applied to the root,” they say. “Using too much product at your root will weigh down your hair.”

Made with coconut oil and egg, this anti-breakage serum helps promote stronger and healthier hair. It's lightweight, yet provides maximum hydration to your hair without leaving behind any grease. It's also blended with silk and keratin to help your hair shine. Apply a small pump to your hair while wet, and it'll dry soft, shiny, and grease-free.

7. You're Washing Too Often

You might think you need to wash more because your hair is oily, but the more you wash, the more oily it's going to get. Zeichner explains, “Washing too frequently can lead to dryness of the hair and the scalp. Ultimately this may translate to inflammation.”

As for how often you should be washing, Portanova and Bertucci recommend avoiding a daily shampoo as it can strip natural oil from your hair and cause overproduction. Not sure if you're over-washing your hair? Here's a hair stylist's take on how often you should wash your hair if it tends to feel oily or greasy.

Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments.

This post was originally published on January 12th, 2016. It was updated on June 18th, 2019. Additional reporting by Amy Biggart.

This article was originally published on Jan. 12, 2016

Studies referenced:

D’Souza, P, Rathi, S. (2015). Shampoo and Conditioners: What a Dermatologist Should Know? Indian Journal of Dermatology.

Duplan, H, Nocera, T. (2018). Skin hydration and hydrating products. Annales de Dermatologie et de Venereologie.

Lee, Y, Kim, Y, Hyn, H, Pi, L, Jin, X, Lee, W. (2011). Hair Shaft Damage from Heat and Drying Time of Hair Dryer. Annals of Dermatology.

Tanaka, Y, Saitoh, Y, Miwa, N. (2018). Electrolytically generated hydrogen warm water cleanses the keratin-plug-clogged hair-pores and promotes the capillary blood-streams, more markedly than normal warm water does. Medical Gas Research.


Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, board-certified dermatologist

Taylor Portanova and Kasey Bertucci, co-owners and master stylists at Salon 120 West

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