Updated: Oct 24, 2020
Your scalp might be oily, but most curly hair is naturally quite dry. The skin on your scalp produces an oil called sebum, and this helps to moisturize your hair and protect the roots, but you can have too much of a good thing. So, we have to find a way not to stop or get rid of sebum, we have to find a way to manage it for the best curl health and effects.
Sebum starts at the roots and works its way down the strands of hair over time. But, sebum takes longer to travel down curly hairs all the way to the ends, which is why your ends might be dry while your scalp is oily.
If you think your scalp is producing too much oil, especially if your ends are dry, I’ve got some ideas about why that might be and what you can do about it.
You might be shampooing too much. Over-washing dries out your skin and makes it over-produce sebum to moisturize your poor, stripped scalp. You can even train your scalp to over-produce sebum this way. If you suspect that you’re shampooing too much, try reducing that by one time a week and see how you do. You might even swear off shampoo altogether in favor of a different kind of wash.
Try just rinsing your curls sometimes instead of washing, or wet and condition them to help spread sebum over the hair down from the scalp. Use a wide-toothed comb or your fingers to gently detangle and distribute hair oils from roots to ends.
Is there other gunk up in there too? Is your hair looking dull near the roots? It could be product buildup. First, put less product on your roots if you can and apply product from the ends upward. When you shampoo, use a clarifying shampoo and give yourself a nice scalp massage while you use it. No scratching or big movements—use your fingertips in gentle circular motions.
Rinse with a diluted natural acid like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. This is a great way to remove a little of the sebum and distribute it through the hair. Make sure to dilute it well, at about 1/3 of a cup of vinegar or lemon juice to a quart of lukewarm water.
If your curls have been looking good but your scalp is getting oily, try a dry shampoo to buy yourself another day or two. Use a dry shampoo that matches your hair color or stays clear—you don’t want that nasty look of product buildup. Work it in with a gentle, upward pushing motion.
Other, more incidental causes for oily scalp include hormones, hot and/or humid weather, and wearing a lot of tight styles like ponytails. But, as I often say, every head of curls, and their wearer, is different. Come on in and I’ll get to know your curls and the best way to make them happy.
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