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Debunking Oily Hair Myths: The Truth Behind Washing Your Hair “Too Often”

Hello, my beauties! We’re now at the end of August and for this month’s final episode, I will bust a frustratingly common hair myth for you. Can you guess which one?

Before Hair Loss Awareness Month ends, let’s dissect this: “Washing your hair too often will make your hair oilier.” Does this sound familiar? You’ve probably heard it somewhere, at some point – or worse, maybe you’re a victim of this myth yourself!

It doesn’t matter if you heard it from a salon, a beauty influencer, or read it from some article on the internet – washing your hair frequently DOES NOT and will never contribute to an increase in oil production. As your go-to board-certified Dermatologist, I’ll share with you the factual reasons why.

Disclaimer: I am not trying to throw shade on anyone who believes this hair myth. I am, however, stepping into my role as a (beauty) medical professional – taking care of my beauties’ skin, hair, nails, and overall health. That includes exposing myths. So today, we’ll get into what science says about this myth, how your hair oil production actually works, and why you do need to work with your hair to maintain its healthy moisture levels. 

Is Your Hair Capable of Self-Regulating Oil Production?

The myth we’re busting is based on the claim that your hair can self-regulate its oil production processes. To explain why that’s false, let’s first get into how this hair myth justifies itself as fact. Here’s a breakdown:

  1. Frequent hair washing strips your hair of its natural oils – WRONG
  2. Your Sebaceous Glands produce more quantities of oil than usual to compensate for the absence of the “stripped” natural oils – WRONG again

As they say, two wrongs don’t make a right. Let me explain why that saying definitely applies here. First of all, the “natural oils” referred to in the myth is actually the Sebum that your Sebaceous Glands normally produce. What it doesn’t tell you, however, is that stripping your hair of these oils is only natural – necessary even. 

Oil build up causes all sorts of trouble such as: trapping dirt and inviting infections, making hair look dull, and even causing hair to break and shed. 

Second, Sebaceous Glands are not equipped with “Biosensors” that enable them to regulate oil production according to the amount of oil present on your scalp and hair. Meaning: these glands are incapable of compensating for lost oil. Coupled with the fact that Sebum production autonomously continues, the myth’s claims don’t match how our hair anatomy works. 

So, there you go – myth busted! 

How Your Sebaceous Glands Actually Work 

Now that you know what the Sebaceous Glands don’t do – it’s time to discuss how it actually does its job. Here are the factors that control how much oil your Sebaceous Glands produce:

1. Hormones & Age are the foremost factors in oil production. The younger you are, the higher your hormone levels; thus, your oil-producing glands are rendered more active. 

  • For women, this period of activity for oil glands noticeably decreases after menopause. This is due to the decrease in Androgen (male sex hormone) levels – which are in control of the oil glands. 

2. Genetics also majorly contributes to oil production. With that, you should wash your hair according to how genetics designed your oil glands. For example: when washed too often, the naturally dry hair of African Americans would break due to brittleness. 

  • Whereas oil often saturates the length of most Caucasian hair – which is due to their naturally rapid hair growth. Thus, Caucasians mostly need to wash often to counter their oily tendencies. 

3. Stress – yes, it causes oiliness. Just as how your face breaks out into multiple pimples, your scalp increases Sebum production under stress too. After all, your scalp is part of your skin. Fact: Androgens are not the only hormones that can spike your Sebum production – Cortisol (a.k.a. the stress hormone) can act as a trigger as well. 

4. Length and Form do not contribute to oil production BUT they do affect oil distribution. The longer your hair is, the harder it becomes for oil to reach the full length of your hair – meaning: your hair tends to get drier towards the ends. Remember last episode when I told you to never skip your conditioner? This is yet another reason why. 

  • Moreover, due to the presence of twists and bends in curly or wavy hair, oil has a harder time reaching the hair ends. Don’t worry my curly beauties, you can simply reinforce your hair moisture with natural oils such as coconut, olive, jojoba, or others. Word of caution: use these oils in moderation – you’d want to avoid the greasy and dull hair that comes from oil build up. 

There you have it – all the science-backed reasons for the production of oil in your hair. See, your Sebaceous Glands function in a continuous process (regardless of how frequent you wash your hair). Thus, oil production differs from person to person. With that, the notion of “washing your hair too often” varies depending on Age, Hormone Levels, Genetics, Stress Levels, and Hair Length & Form. 

Tips for Mindful Hair Washing

We may have busted the myth, BUT in this journey to gorgeous locks, we’ve got more to tackle than just oily hair. So, here’s how you can prevent dry & brittle hair:

Let’s first take a short dive into hair anatomy. The inside of our hair contains Intercellular Lipids and Fats that form a barrier – preventing the penetration of foreign material. These Internal Lipids, however, are susceptible to drying out when you repeatedly wash your hair with High-Cleaning Detergents. Unlike Sebum, which is continuously replenished, studies show that we need to preserve these Lipids more carefully.  

1. Use mild shampoo to prevent loss of Lipids. Thankfully, they’re not hard to find – simply look for shampoo that doesn’t contain Sulfates. Since mild shampoo are made with Lipid preservation in mind, you’d also benefit from the natural oils and botanical extracts these often contain. 

  • Keep in mind, however, that you do need High Cleansing Shampoo to rid your hair of heavy products such as: gels, hairsprays, mousse, etc. A general rule: keep heavy products off of your hair as much as you can – these highly contribute to hair loss and breakage. 

2. Concentrate on Your Scalp when washing with shampoo. Again, shampoo is meant for your scalp – since that’s where most debris and dirt are. On top of that, excess oil cannot be found on the hair strands themselves; simply allowing shampoo to run down your hair washes off any dirt and debris. 

  • Repeat after me: shampoo is for the scalp; conditioner is for the hair strands. 

3. Do Not Wash Your Hair Too Often. There is such a thing as washing too often – just not for the reasons you’ve been led to believe. Does your hair feel itchy? Irritation and itch are telltale signs of obsessive hair cleansing. When you wash your hair too much, with the wrong products, your hair becomes dry and brittle. Left unchecked, it eventually breaks and sheds. 

Now you know what habits to watch for, it’s better to incorporate them in your routine as early as possible. These (seemingly) little alterations to your hair care routine will do you wonders – I promise. They will make a difference; just be patient and consistent in taking action, my beauty. 

Tribe, I Will Help You Build a Great Partnership with Your Hair

First of all, I’ll make sure that none of my beauties fall victim to beauty myths. Stepping Out with Confidence® requires knowledge and mindfulness, after all. Knowledge grounded on Science. I’m here, as your go-to board-certified Dermatologist, to provide you with that. 

BUT remember: your hair needs you to take action on my advice. There’s simply no one else who could take on the daily steps of bringing your hair to its best version – there’s only YOU. Of course, you don’t need to stress too much because I’ve got the guide, the information, and everything else covered. So, let’s work on it! 

Ready for more science-backed hair advice? I’m now accepting waitlist applications for the first round of The Healthy Skin Blueprint where I included a bonus called the Healthy Hair Training Toolkit!

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to let me know on Instagram! You can tag me, @drnikoleta, with a screenshot of the episode and your greatest takeaways. I’d also really appreciate it if you would subscribe and leave a five-star rating on Apple Podcasts — that helps us share the podcast with more people like you who are looking to achieve the skin of their dreams! 

Want to be a part of my glow-getter group so you can have your questions answered in real time? Text “GLOW” to 480-530-8187 to join the group! 

You can also text “PODCAST” to 480-530-8187 to get a weekly skincare routine reminder & affirmation!

Until next time, Step Out with Confidence®, and finally, take action on your hair care habits – it’s the only thing between you and gorgeously smooth & strong locks!

Dr. Nikoleta

I'M DR. NIKOLETA BRANKOV!

I am a board-certified dermatologist, CEO and Founder of Healthy Skin Blueprint, an acclaimed podcast host, best-selling author, and nationally recognized skin, hair, and nails expert. Welcome to the Skin Talk with Dr. Nikoleta blog.

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