Dr. Asarch’s Column on Girls Gone Sporty This Month is all About Oily Hair - Page

  • Posted on: Nov 13 2012
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Originally published on GirlsGoneSporty.com November 9, 2012
by Dr. Richard Asarch, MD
For athletes, sweating is part of everyday life. When you work your body hard, you increase your heart rate and raise your internal body temperature. Your body then uses perspiration to help cool you back down to normal. Sweat glands are located all over your body, including on your scalp. If you’re an athlete with very active sweat glands, you may be concerned about the effect that all that sweat has on your hair due to the fact that sweating also stimulates oil production. This can lead to an oily scalp and oily hair.


Contrary to what you might think, it’s not your hair that produces oil or sebum. Instead, it’s your scalp that produces the excess oil that ends up by the hair shaft. These glands secrete sebum, a mixture of fats and other substances that normally keep your hair and scalp from drying out. Hormonal changes, such as puberty or menopause, and changes in hormonal balance due to stress or medication, can make your hair extra oily. Genetics, humidity, sweating and diet can all have an effect on your hair. Additionally, the straighter your hair is, the quicker it will pick up oil – a problem for those with very straight hair; less of a problem for those with curly or tightly kinked hair.


Oily hair can look “greasy” and can lead to additional scalp issues, such as dandruff, acne-like breakouts and even hair loss. Since it is difficult to stop the oil glands of the scalp from producing sebum, the key to controlling oily hair is to adequately remove the oil from the scalp. Shampoos will do this if you spend the time to thoroughly massage the shampoo into your scalp. It’s a good practice to lather-rinse-repeat if you have the time. If the shampoo does not foam, it’s an indication that significant amounts of oil remain on the scalp—oil that needs to be removed.

Wash your hair every day, especially if your scalp sweats during your workout. Choose a shampoo that is specially formulated for oily hair. These shampoos often contain stronger detergents and fewer conditioners. If you have seriously oily hair, it may be advisable to avoid conditioners altogether since your scalp is already producing its own natural conditioner in the oils generated. If you must use conditioner to avoid tangles or sooth dry ends, avoid the scalp and apply your conditioner a couple of inches below the root of the hair. Finally, you can control the spread of oil from your scalp to your hair if you minimize handling, brushing or combing your hair as this too spreads the oil from the scalp onto the hair itself.

If you have tried all of these suggestions and are still dealing with oily hair, you should see your dermatologist to determine if you have a more significant scalp issue.

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