Solutions for oily hair and skin?
February 5, 2009 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Solutions for oily hair and skin?

I have oily hair that begins to look unwashed after 16 hours and oily, breakout-prone skin.

I've tried all sorts of different strategies--gentle shampoo, shampoo for oily hair, regular shampoo, dandruff shampoo, "intelligent" shampoo designed to "balance" the scalp's oil production, expensive shampoo (Kerastase and the like) and regular drugstore shampoo, brushing my hair with a boars bristle brush to distribute oils away from my scalp. For my face, similar types of regimes--acne wash, gentle cleanser for sensitive skin, lotion/cream cleansers, foaming cleansers, oil-free moisturizer, everything. Still, my whole head ends up looking like a grease slick within 24 hours.

The only thing that has ever made a whit of difference was a course of Accutane I took as a teenager--it cleared up my cystic acne and made my skin and hair un-greasy for at least a year afterward. I would love to take a second round (as I know a lot of people have to), but my dermatologist says my skin isn't bad enough to justify the risk of serious side effects.

Is there anything I can do in terms of supplements or lifestyle changes? I already drink a lot of water and have cut out caffeine. I don't apply conditioner to my scalp. I don't mind washing my hair every day, but I'd like to be able to take a shower at night and still look like I've bathed recently by the next afternoon.

I'm a 22 year old female, I am not on hormonal birth control and this has been an issue for the last ten years.
posted by cosmic osmo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Take a really good look at your diet. I had annoying pimples that would randomly pop up, and it wasn't until I was well into my 20's that I realized I was allergic to citrus. Now I just rarely eat it and my skin is perfectly clear. Maybe lay off the soda, or coffee...other things that aren't "good" for you. Good luck!
posted by Unred at 5:29 PM on February 5, 2009

I assume your dermatologist has put you on some other acne medications? I'm on Benzaclin and Tazaroc, and it has taken a really, really long time to get my acne mostly under control. Keep fighting the good fight with whatever he has you on.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:34 PM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have the exact same issue with my skin/scalp. I would also love a solution for this; the mainstream treatment hasn't been any useful.

As for the acne, it should go away soon. My doctor didn't let me go on Accutane - I was prescribed tetracycline. Doc also said that I will likely have acne as late as 25 yrs because of my severe acne might have a similar case.
posted by Danniman at 5:38 PM on February 5, 2009

I have had absolutely amazing amazing amazing success with CoalFace from Lush. Absolutely fantastic without over drying my face. As for my hair, I actually went with a volumizing shampoo from Bumble and Bumble, which is totally awesome because it doesn't dry my hair but actually does a great job of also making my hair fantastic.
posted by banannafish at 5:40 PM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not a big cosmetic product person, but this Prescriptives Immediate Matte Toner is amazing. I have really oily skin and I apply this in the morning after my shower and it works all day. While I don't know if consistent use of a product like this can actually lower your oil production, it certainly feels that way.

I have also recommended Stievamycin many times over here. When the doc refused to prescribe accutane, I got this instead. It's brilliant.
posted by meerkatty at 5:50 PM on February 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

You've probably tried it, but since you didn't list it specifically:

I use tea tree oil products; the foaming kind when I go to bed, the gel kind in the shower, and the kind in the little mascara-type thing for spots.

Also, I avoid chocolate.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 5:56 PM on February 5, 2009

A lot of people have this problem. I have this problem. I can never go without a daily shampoo. Even if I wash my hair the night before, it's greasy by mid-morning. That's what you'll have to do: wash your hair every morning. It doesn't matter what kind of formulation you use, your head and face are still going to produce oil. It's not such a bad thing. Shampoo your hair every morning, concentrate conditioner on ends, not scalp, and don't use a lot of greasy looking hair products (like silicone shine drops).

If you're late and have an emergency situation, you can use some dry shampoo to soak up oil. Or bring it along for really long days if you can't wash your hair.

It is a huge myth that people with oily skin need to use moisturizer. I would use an oil control foundation, if you wear makeup, and keep oil blotting papers in your purse.

Proactiv is good. Neutrogena makes some great products for oily and acne prone skin. Use them consistently. Wash your face twice a day. More often, if needed. You can keep some of those Neutrogena blackhead scrubbers or disposable cleansing cloths in your purse for lunchtime touch ups. Matifying foundations, powders, toners may help you. Rimmel makes a matte foundation. Clinique, Shiseido, Ahava, etc. have matifying products. Many companies make them, from low to high end.

There are many good drugs on the market to control oil and clear acne. One of my favorite prescription products is NeoBenz Micro cream. They have a cleanser as well. I cannot rave enough about this medicine. Ask your dermatologist for a prescription. It curbs oil, clears acne, and does not cause redness or irritation. NeoBenz Micro is the platinum Proactiv. I can use this and in one night my acne can go from looking scary to virtually clear.
posted by Fairchild at 6:20 PM on February 5, 2009

Don't bathe as much. And when you do, go without random soaps (do wash up every few days). It might take a couple of weeks, but your body is confused from the wash with soap and cleaners every day. Usually, your body will balance out after a while. You're stripping all of your skin/hair oils and your body is going OMG WTF and trying to keep up. Take a shower/bath without soaps, just wash your skin, every few days scrub with a brush or exfoliating gloves, wash hair every few days instead of every night.

This is something I learned from being homeless and doing little more than sponge baths and the occasional shower... skin/hair actually got much better.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:31 PM on February 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

The only thing I can say is that it'll probably change in the next couple of years - for a lot of women, 22 is still in the OMG OIL PRODUCTION adolescent stage. When I was in college I never understood that beauty mag talk about how a second day blowout looks BEST. Second day hair, for me, was clearly *dirty* and gross - and that's why college girls wear ball caps during exams and etc. By the time I was 25 things had really cleared up, and the ability to skip a shower and still have clean looking hair is my favorite (physical) thing about getting older.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:45 PM on February 5, 2009

A Russian girlfriend told me once that when she was in Russia, instead of washing their hair everyday, she and her girlfriends would comb talcum powder through it to absorb the oil. I've tried it and it does work, but then you stink of talcum powder (you kind of have to use a lot). I never pursued it enough to try other things, but I guess something similar but unscented would work. It's not the same as newly washed clean hair, but it does absorb a lot of the oil and makes your hair look a little more normal.
posted by gt2 at 7:24 PM on February 5, 2009

Pantothenic acid, a.k.a. vitamin B5 can dramatically reduce oil production, but the large quantities required are slightly disturbing. I personally used this on and off for about a year and can attest that it reduced my oil to such an extent that I needed to add oil back to my skin and scalp just to feel comfortable, so if you try it you will have to experiment a bit with dosage. There was also a hangover effect that lasted for several months when I stopped. You can read a lot more about people experimenting with this by searching
posted by defreckled at 7:50 PM on February 5, 2009

Also - if you live in a dry area (or are being sucked dry by heating in the winter), using a humidifier and moisturizer really CAN change your skin.
posted by Unred at 8:32 PM on February 5, 2009

I have also had a similar problem with my skin all my life. After years of using both expensive and over the counter products, I switched to making my own face and body scrubs with ingredients that are readily available in the kitchen. Since going all natural and DIY, I've had a lot of compliments on how clear my skin is looking. Perhaps the products that you are using are stripping your skin of the oils it needs?

Try this strawberry, yogurt and honey mask. It lasts for three days so you can use it several times, and it does wonders for the skin.

Oddly enough, if I wash my face with a brown sugar scrub (which I make with grapeseed oil or olive oil and other essential oils), my face feels extremely oily when I'm applying it, but not only does it moisturize and exfoliate, but it seems that my face is satisfied with the level of moisture and doesn't need to create more oil to compensate.
posted by so much modern time at 9:21 PM on February 5, 2009

I have hair that looks flat and oily really quickly, and the only thing I can do is wash it every morning. The plus side of having greasy hair is that you can dye it whatever freaky colours you like without damaging it - it stays shiny. in fact, I find my hair is fuller when it's dyed. (right now it's blue!) Also - oily skin will wrinkle less as you get older.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:19 PM on February 5, 2009

I, too, only got relief from a course of accutane. I thankfully had a doctor that didn't believe in waiting until things got too bad to knock it down and let me do a number of mini-courses.
That said - what's given me relief in a way I would have never ever imagined in Yaz - the birth control pill with the androgen inhibitor spironolactone. It is a freaking miracle. My acne is gone. I am no longer a walking oil slick. I know of women who take spironolactone on it's own, without taking birth control pills. Ask your doctor if you could give it a try. It's a diuretic, so helps with bloating as well as with excessive body hair.
posted by Wolfie at 10:49 PM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding 5_13. I wash mine every morning, concentrating on the roots and conditioning the ends--and my hair is purple, and has a better texture when colored. Also, while it's embarrassing to still get zits at 41 on occasion, the upside is getting carded, for real, on occasion.
posted by immlass at 7:00 AM on February 6, 2009

Same problem for me - turned out to be caused by wonky hormones and PCOS. The solution was an Rx for the anti-androgen medication Wolfie noted (spironolactone) that solved the wonky hormones and helped minimize the PCOS issues and now my face is much clearer, "normal" instead of oily, and I could probably go for a week without washing my hair before anyone noticed.
posted by VioletU at 8:04 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hi. Check out this older question for more ideas on the skin part of your question. I used to get a super oily face and then accidentally discovered that cutting out sugar and grains made it go away. Sugars, grains, alcohol, fruit, etc. I was cutting them out completely for a while as I tried to get my triglycerides down, but when I noticed the change in my face oil level and experimented with it by going on and off carbs/sugars, that appeared to be the oil culprit. That might not be your issue, but try it for a few days or a week and see if it makes a difference for you. Couldn't hurt.
posted by Askr at 8:16 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Others have covered the "cause" in the answers above, but may I suggest jojoba oil as something to mitigate the problem meanwhile? My t-zone is pretty much exactly as you've described it here, and I've recently started using jojoba oil as my moisturizer. A little goes a LONG WAY, and for the first few days my face was a complete oil slick. It seems completely counter-intuitive, I know, but my face naturally adjusted. My t-zone is so. much. better. now. I only regret not having switched to this earlier!

(For what it's worth, I also use a gentle face wash - Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash, though greasier friends have had luck with this. Unfortunately, I'm still searching for decent SPF protection, so you're on your own for that.)
posted by mittenedsex at 10:52 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing the advice about diet - I have immensely better skin since eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And drinking lots of water.

Also, for hair, LUSH makes a shampoo called Washday Greens which is a "retro" product available online only (but it's easy-peasy to order from LUSH). Lots of oily-haired ladies and gents I know swear by the stuff.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:38 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

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