What Causes Greasy Hair?

Even though greasy hair is not a serious problem, and as such it’s an issue which can be easily dealt with, it is useful to be aware of all the reasons that cause it to develop.

Main causes of greasy hair 

Several factors cause the hair to become greasy and thus, feel dirty, here is a comprehensive review of the major possible causes: 

Overactive Sebaceous Glands:

Hair follicles present on the scalp deliver Sebum produced by the sebaceous glands, which is then spread throughout the whole scalp progressively. Sebum helps in lubricating the scalp skin to avoid friction-induced damage and also provides an optimum amount of moisture. This helps prevent the hair from getting damaged and breaking too often.

When a person combs their hair they indirectly cause the sebum to evenly spread out, however, due to certain factors, such as stress, medications, hormonal imbalances, etc., the sebaceous glands might start overproducing Sebum, which in turn, causes the scalp to become too oily or greasy.

Scalp Diseases:

Some scalp-related diseases might also be indirectly influencing the greasiness of hair:

  • Seborrheic Dermatitis:
    It is the formation of itchy, scaly, and stubborn patches on the scalp. These patches appear greasy, and when they finally flake off, they leave a greasy texture on the hair, as well as white or yellowish dandruff.

  • Scalp Psoriasis:
    It is the formation of silvery scales on the scalp. These scales are not as stubborn as the ones in Seborrheic Dermatitis and are easily peeled off, leaving a bleeding spot behind. However, these scales often trap oil or sebum under them, and once they have flaked off, the hair becomes greasy due to the trapped oil finally making its way to the hair.

Wrong Shampoo Choice:

What Causes Greasy Hair?Shampoos play an important role in maintaining or damaging the health of the hair. There are thousands of shampoos available on the market, each one claiming to perform a specific job.

Some might be repairing ones, others could be damage control ones, some claim to retain hair protein, while others claim to moisturize hair. In an attempt to perform either of these jobs, these shampoos might deprive your hair of its natural sebum (oil) content.

This results is the overactivity of the sebaceous glands, which cause more and more sebum (oil) to be secreted on the hair surface, thus making the hair greasy.

For this reason, a light, sulfate-free shampoo that is gentle on the hair is often recommended.

Hormonal Imbalances:

Hormones also play an important role in maintaining the texture of the hair. It has been found that in both males and females, the changes in hormone levels might contribute to the increase in activity of the sebaceous glands, which lead to oily hair. This is one of the reasons why some women, during any stage of their menstrual cycle might experience their hair getting oilier or greasier than usual. High testosterone levels in males are also associated with the same problem. This is the reason why men who work out a lot or perform athletic activities might have greasier hair than usual.


Diet play a huge influence on the quality of your hair, with research finding that including too many Omega-6 Fatty Acids in your diet might cause your hair to become greasier and weaker. 

Omega-6 Fatty Acid are contained in food items such as Soybeans, Sunflower Oil, Corn, Nuts, Poultry, and Eggs.

How To Get Rid of Greasy Hair? 

Even though greasy hair might be an uncomfortable problem to have, the good thing is that it is not permanent. In the majority of cases in fact, greasy hair can be washed off easily with a single shampoo.

In cases where causative factors (diet, sebaceous glands overactivity, or hormonal issues) are at the root of the problem a specialist may help keep the situation under control by prescribing medicated shampoo or other medication to resolve the underlying problem.

Overall though, greasy hair may be avoided simply by sticking to a few simple rules such as not eating too many fats and not sticking to just one particular type of nutrient in your diet, avoiding harmful shampoos and avoiding over-conditioning.




  1. Gao, J., Liu, C., Zhang, S., Techer, M. P., Bouabbache, S., Pouradier, F., & Panhard, S. (2019). Revisiting, in vivo, the hair regreasing process by the Sebuprint method. Skin research and technology : official journal of International Society for Bioengineering and the Skin (ISBS) [and] International Society for Digital Imaging of Skin (ISDIS) [and] International Society for Skin Imaging (ISSI), 25(1), 7987. https://doi.org/10.1111/srt.12613
  2. Mirmirani P. (2011). Hormonal changes in menopause: do they contribute to a ‘midlife hair crisis’ in women?. The British journal of dermatology, 165 Suppl 3, 711. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2133.2011.10629.x
  3. Gabarra Almeida Leite, M., & Maia Campos, P. (2020). Correlations between sebaceous glands activity and porphyrins in the oily skin and hair and immediate effects of dermocosmetic formulations. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 19(11), 31003106. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.13370