Best Shampoo for Oily Hair: Our Top 5 in 2023

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Woman in a yellow dress standing on the shores of a river with a bridge in the background after washing her hair with the best shampoo for oily hair.

The thing I always found with my oily hair as I was growing up was it took planning to manage.

People with dry hair might not like the condition of their hair very much, but my friends with dry hair could always get away with washing their hair less frequently, or getting an extra day out of their new hairstyle after leaving the hairdresser.

I never could. My hair was so greasy that it had to be washed every day. Otherwise on day two I’d look like I’d been used upside down to mop up an oil slick…ok, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s not far off!

When it comes to oily hair, it’s important to understand what causes hair to become oily, and how best to manage it. An important part of any management program is a good-quality shampoo that’s up to the job.

Let’s get greased up and dive in to the subject of oily hair and see what causes it, and what can be done to take control…

Why Does the Scalp Produce Oil?

We need a certain amount of oil to keep our hair and scalp healthy. In fact, oil is something that’s secreted by all of our skin—it’s what helps make our skin water resistant. Sebum also helps to make our skin more resistant to bacteria and fungi.

Oil is produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin which surround hair follicles. The substance they produce is called sebum which is rich in vitamin E, an important antioxidant that helps protect our skin from damage, cancer and helps decrease the signs of aging.

Sebum coats the hair in oil as it grows from the root to keep the hair healthy and smooth. Another function of sebum is to prevent the hair from becoming excessively dry, which can cause hair breakage.

What Causes Oily Hair?

In some circumstances, the sebaceous glands are stimulated in such a way that they produce too much oil. This can be linked with a variety of different factors. Here are some of the most common causes:

Oily Skin

The sebaceous glands on our scalp are no different to the sebaceous glands on the skin of other parts of our bodies. This means that if you have skin that’s generally oily, the chances are you’re more likely to have greasy hair.

Hair Type

Hair type is another factor that can be linked to oily hair. Curly hair can be a problem because the curls can prevent the sebum from being evenly distributed in the hair. This can result in oily roots and dry ends.

That being said, when straight hair is oily, is can be much more visible. This is because the straight strands of hair lie flat against the scalp and absorb more oil, whereas curly hairs stand away from the scalp, making the amount of oil in the hair—and the roots—less visible.


Hormone production can be another factor which affects the oiliness of our hair. During puberty, many adolescents suffer with oily hair due to the increased levels of hormones produced at this time.

However, hormones can fluctuate during different periods in our lives. This applies to both men and women, and can be a cause of oily hair. External factors linked with excessively oily hair can be things like thyroid problems, taking birth control pills, injections or rods.

Many women notice their hair becomes very oily during pregnancy, when hormones levels are drastically different from normal.

Personal Grooming Routine

The first thing to mention is that oily hair is not generally a result of poor personal care, although if you don’t wash your hair very often, the sebaceous glands have time to produce lots of oil, and you’re more likely to have oily hair.

What I really want to highlight here is that if you really scrub your head when washing, it can irritate the scalp.

The sebaceous glands then start to make more sebum to soothe and lubricate your scalp to reduce the irritation. So giving your hair and head a gentle scrub is a much better idea than going at it like a bull in a china shop.

Excessive oil production can often be caused by washing hair too frequently. Brushing your hair several times a day can also make hair oily, as it distributes the oil from the scalp. In turn, this can lead to the sebaceous glands producing more oil.

Using products with artificial fragrances, and using lotions and creams on your hair can all irritate the scalp and cause excessive oil production, so it might be a good idea to check the ingredients list of products you use on your hair and scalp. Leave-in products can also introduce excessive oil into the hair and scalp.

Does Diet Have Anything to Do With Oily Hair?

What we put into our bodies has a huge impact on the way they work and what substances can be produced.

Research indicates that there’s a direct relationship between the fats we consume in our diet and the sebum produced by the sebaceous glands. So it’s probable that a diet which includes a high intake of fats can be responsible, at least in part, for excessively oily hair.

In addition, diets which are high in refined carbohydrates and processed foods like white sugar, white flour and other manufactured food, including fast food may contribute to oily hair.

These kinds of foods have generally been modified by the manufacturing process so much, and stripped of many of their nutrients that they’re largely unrecognizable when compared to the original, natural ingredients.

According to experts at Harvard Medical School, the body functions at optimum levels when provided with good-quality nutrients. Consuming poor-quality food increases inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, and can be harmful to the brain.

Increased inflammation and oxidative stress means the body’s systems aren’t working as they normally should. Although research to date hasn’t specifically identified a link to a diet high in refined foods and excessively oily hair, it makes sense that the better-quality ingredients you put into your body, the better it can function.

This applies equally to all of the systems in the body, including scalp health and sebum production.

Another interesting point about taking in refined sugars is that they’re very easy to digest, which results in a sharp increase in blood sugar levels. This leads to the pancreas releasing a lot of insulin to reduce blood sugar levels.

Can’t see the link between this and oily hair? Stay with me—we’re almost there.

Excess insulin in the blood triggers a sharp increase in the amount of androgen hormone in the blood. Androgen is directly related to the amount of sebum produced by the sebaceous glands.

Specific Health Conditions

Oily hair can also result from a number of different health conditions, and it’s important to consider these when trying to manage oily hair.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Is one condition that can be the cause of oily hair. It’s a chronic inflammatory skin condition which is characterized by large yellow oily scales on the affected area, and is usually worse in areas of the skin where the most oil is produced.


Is quite a common skin condition which results in patches of red and shiny or silvery-white looking skin accompanied by flaking skin. Research indicates as many as 90 percent of people with psoriasis have symptoms on their scalp.

Psoriasis is caused by an excessive production of skin cells, which can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce too much sebum.


Also known as atopic dermatitis, is another inflammatory skin condition. It affects as many as 20 percent of the population, and can also be linked with oily hair.

While eczema is associated with dry, itchy, flaking skin, the underlying skin can be red, weepy and irritated. This can result in excessive oil production trying to soothe the affected skin in some people.

What Is the Best Route to Oil Control?

a smiling woman with long brunette hair

From all the information about what causes oily hair, one thing is clear; not washing your hair enough, or washing your hair too much, elevated hormone levels and poor diet can all contribute to oily hair, so getting things under control is really all about balance.

There are several different things you can do to help balance oil production. Firstly it’s important to remember what causes excessive oil production. We want to create a situation where the sebaceous glands don’t need to work overtime.

Consider Your Diet

It’s definitely worth having a look at your diet, especially if oily hair is a big problem. There are several areas in which diet can potentially have an impact on oily hair, so let’s look at them one by one:

Processed and Refined Foods

Try to cut out as much processed, manufactured foods as possible. Instead, opt for whole, natural foods so your body can benefit from naturally sourced nutrients.

Fruit and Vegetables

In addition to the vitamins and minerals they provide, fruit and vegetables contain a huge variety of phytonutrients that can have markedly positive effects on our health.

While the health benefits of some phytonutrients have been well researched and documented, scientists have really only just begun to discover many of the properties of others.

Many phytonutrients are found in their largest concentrations just under the skin of fresh produce, so try to include unpeeled produce in your diet wherever possible.

While it’s generally a good idea to base your diet on fresh whole foods for a healthy body and mind, some of the vitamins and minerals need a special mention when it comes to managing oily hair…

B Vitamins

B vitamins in particular have been highlighted in research in association with sebum production. Some studies indicate that an adequate intake of vitamins B2 and B6—also known as riboflavin and pyridoxine respectively—can help to control the production of sebum.

Vitamin B2 is found in large amounts in liver, lamb, milk, natural yoghurt and almonds. Rich sources of vitamin B6 include poultry, grass-fed beef, pistachio nuts, tuna fish, avocado, pinto beans, sunflower and sesame seeds.


Zinc is a trace mineral, meaning we only need it in relatively small amounts compared to other minerals, like sodium and calcium. Zinc helps the body absorb other nutrients, promotes cell growth and repair, and contributes to a healthy immune system and healthy skin.

On average, we need around 10 to 15 milligrams of zinc every day. That’s roughly the amount of zinc found in two medium-sized raw oysters—these are the best food source for zinc.

If you’re not keen on oysters, our daily amount of zinc can also be provided by approximately 9 ounces of good-quality, low fat ground beef after cooking. Other good sources of zinc include foods such as whole grains, eggs, peas, nuts and seeds.


Just as we need some sebum to be produced for optimum skin health, we also need to take in an optimum amount of the right kinds of fats, so when considering fat in the diet in respect of helping to manage oily hair, it’s important not to eliminate fats from the diet completely.

We need essential fatty acids from food sources such as oily fish, nuts, seeds and whole grains, and we also need to take in small amounts of saturated fat regularly. Trans fats—found in many manufactured foods—are bad news for our health in general, and the best thing you can do for your body is eliminate them altogether.

Dairy Products

Some experts believe that the link between dairy foods and overproduction of sebum is more complex than just the amount of fat that can be found in dairy foods.

The whole point of cows producing milk is to provide nutritious food for their offspring to help them grow and develop—the same reasons why humans produce breast milk. Research has proven that milk contains many different hormones and anabolic steroids which support growth and development.

It’s these hormones and other substances, in addition to the fat in dairy products which can contribute to an increase in the production of sebum, resulting in oily hair.

General Hair Care

When trying to manage oily hair, the best plan is to wash your hair a maximum of once per day. If you can stretch to it, try to wash it every other day. If your hair looks too oily for you to cope with in public, a scarf, hat or baseball cap are all great tools for disguising oily hair.

We’re aiming to wash hair regularly to keep the amount of oil on the scalp and in the hair as low as possible. However, we also want to avoid washing our hair too frequently as this can strip the oils out of the hair and scalp, and stimulate excessive production of sebum.

When it comes to hair brushing, try to do this only once or twice per day to avoid too much stimulation of the scalp. One of the best times to brush your hair is immediately after washing and drying, when the amount of oil on the scalp is at its lowest level. This means there’s less sebum available for the brush to distribute through the hair.

Another great tip when it comes to hair brushing is to make sure you remove the hair and clean your brush very well on a regular basis. This avoids a buildup of oil on the hairbrush, and means it can’t be re-introduced into the hair and add to the oiliness already present. Everyone should clean their hair brush once a week, so aim for twice a week for oily hair.

Select a Good Shampoo

To help control oil production, we need to be using a shampoo that isn’t full of harsh cleansing ingredients that completely strip the hair and the scalp of oil. This is the exact situation we want to avoid.

A gentle shampoo, on the other hand, will cleanse the hair and scalp thoroughly without penetrating deep into the skin. This prevents stripping out all of the natural oils, and encourages the cells in the scalp to just continue producing oil as normal, rather than working flat out to replace lost oil.

The products in our review section at the end of article have all been specifically designed to care for oily hair. Whether you decide to go with our recommendations or not, make sure the shampoo you’re using is designed to help manage oily hair.

Mix It Up!

One technique some hairdressers recommend is to mix it up when it comes to shampoos and other hair products. Using the same products over and over can lead to the residue of that product building up in the hair, which can cause irritation and encourage excess oil production.

So it might be worth trying to keep two different oil control shampoos on hand, and alternating between them. Sometimes it’s surprising, even a small change such as this can make a big difference to the condition of your hair.

Things to Consider

If a particular shampoo or hair care product isn’t helping to reduce the oiliness of your hair within a few weeks of use, it might be worth trying a different product.

If any hair care product causes itching, or makes your symptoms worse in any way, discontinue use immediately.

If, having tried a few different product and given each of them a few weeks of use as a trial, you find that nothing is helping to decrease the excessive oil in your hair, it’s time to consult your medical practitioner to investigate.

A doctor can arrange for tests to check things like thyroid function, hormone levels and other factors which might point to an underlying cause.

If nothing seems to be helping and you’re in good general health, a visit to a dermatologist can also help. They’re experts in skin care, and can help to identify problems which may be linked to excessive oil production, as well as suggesting specialized hair care products.

If you don’t have oily hair, it’s best not to use products which are designed to control scalp oil. They could potentially dry your hair out too much.

What We Know So Far…

So far, we’ve talked about the fat that we need the sebum that’s produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin, and that we need sebum for protecting the skin, lubricating and soothing the scalp and hair, and many other essential functions.

We know that oily hair can be more likely if you have oily skin, and different hair types can be oilier than others. Hormones, especially the androgen hormone, play a role in whether your hair is oily or not, and hormones can fluctuate at many different points in our life, including throughout adulthood.

While not washing your hair often enough can be a cause of oily hair, washing hair too frequently can strip out much of the naturally produced oil and stimulate the excessive production of sebum.

Excessive hair brushing can also make hair appear more oily, so oily hair doesn’t necessarily mean poor personal care.

Hair products, particularly those with synthetic ingredients, dietary factors and specific skin conditions can also be associated with scalp irritation and oily hair.

We’ve highlighted several changes that can be made to diet and lifestyle to help decrease the amount of sebum produced and manage hair in the best ways possible to avoid stimulating overproduction of sebum and care for hair without stripping it of the natural oils it needs.

So having identified the need for a shampoo that’s appropriate to help manage oily hair, from the vast array of products that are available for oily hair, what are the best products to choose? Don’t worry—help is at hand…

What Is the Best Shampoo for Oily Hair?

We’ve searched the hills and valleys with a fine-tooth comb…ok, well, in supermarkets, drug stores and online, at least—to select five good-quality shampoos that are designed to help control oily hair.

We’ve enlisted the help of some users so that we can relate the positive points of each product as well as any downsides. While not every oil control shampoo will suit every person, there should be something here for everyone.

Our Choice

Reflecting on all the products we reviewed, we found they were of a high standard, and all helped to control oily hair to some extent for the vast majority of people. This is great news, because if one product doesn’t suit your particular hair type, there are certainly other products for you to try.

Our overall winner is the shampoo that users felt was the most effective and most pleasant to use. Degrease Moisture Control Shampoo is produced by a trusted brand with a good reputation for excellent quality in the health and beauty industry.

The vast majority of people found this shampoo to be extremely effective in controlling scalp oil without drying hair out too much. People found it pleasant to use and easy to get a good lather. Most users liked the fragrance of this shampoo.

Some people disagreed about this, but really it was the only downside to this product we could find, and that has to be a sign of a good-quality shampoo.

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