please help me fix my hair!
April 16, 2012 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Hair care or product suggestions for very fine, long, straight, very oily hair?

My hair looks very similar to the picture posted in an earlier question, although my hair is usually much more frizzy. Lots of volume, mostly straight with a natural wave toward the ends. It's long (about bra-strap-length), cut in long layers, and I don't want to change the style at all.

Main problem is that it gets oily very fast - noticeable within 24 hours and quickly intolerable after that. I usually wash it every other day, which is not enough (second day it's too greasy to be out of a ponytail), but it's a giant pain to wash my hair. It takes forever to work shampoo and conditioner into my hair and wash it out cleanly, and also takes forever to air dry so I'm sitting around for an hour or more with wet hair (I shower at night) washing it daily is a daunting idea. I've also heard that washing it daily is damaging etc.

Is there anything I can do to make my hair ok with non-daily washing? I'm not interested in no-poo, SLS-free is super expensive with unconvincing results, and I have trouble finding dry shampoos in my local (Canadian, if it matters) drugstores, especially reasonably priced ones. Secondary problem is frizz - whenever it's not oily, it's frizzy.

I would like to make it more sleek and less oily, if possible. It's fairly easy to achieve either of these (to some degree) but never both at once. Every anti-frizz serum/cream/spray I've tried either does nothing or makes even freshly washed hair look extremely greasy. Blowdrying it straight helps but it's still very frizzy. Maybe I'm doing it wrong?

Relevant background info:

-Try to avoid damage: blowdry rarely, always with cool air. Pat dry with towel, then air dry. Untangle with a wide-tooth comb when completely dry, and brush with boar-bristle every few days on average. The ponytails are probably bad, but I don't have much of an alternative for greasy hair days (or sports, several times a week), and I use the metal-free bands to avoid tangles. It doesn't tangle much if I comb it every day, which I do.

-wash every other day with any random shampoo (concentrating on scalp, but spreading throughout hair) and usually garnier fructis conditioner (neck and lower) if I can find it on sale. The fructis sleek n shine line helps more than any other conditioner I've tried, but there's a lot of room for improvement. I'm ok with spending a bit more on shampoo and conditioner, but only if there's actually a difference!

-rarely use anti-frizz products (maybe every few weeks) and never use any other styling products - I'm clueless about them and also don't want to invest much time or money especially without guaranteed success. So, product buildup isn't a big issue.

-have never dyed my hair - really more of a wash, brush and leave it alone kind of person. Low maintenance solutions strongly preferred!

In short: I'm looking for reasonably priced (under 10$, or under 20$ if exceptional), reasonably fool-proof hair products or simple hair care tips that will make my fine, frizzy, oily hair look better. Thanks!
posted by randomnity to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I also have fine hair that tends to get oily. I like Redken products. I alternate Redken with whatever else my partner (a former stylist) buys. I've learned that with hair products for hair like ours, you generally get what you pay for. Good luck!
posted by kamikazegopher at 12:26 PM on April 16, 2012

Best answer: One thing you might want to try is the fructis triple nutrition. I have fine, oily hair like you, that tends to frizzy if I'm not careful, and I've found using this stuff on the ends of my hair (never near my scalp!) really helps smooth and soothe my hair.
posted by LN at 12:27 PM on April 16, 2012

Hello, I have your hair! One this I do is religiously use dry shampoo, like Batiste on my 'second day hair'. It does a great job of making it less oily, and making me feel anxious about my greaseball locks. I know you said you couldn't find dry shampoo easily locally, but maybe it's worth ordering from Amazon or something?

I also sleep with my hair in a top knot (the once where you curl it around like a pastry on top of your head) or braid it when sleeping to avoid knots, and it getting all frizzy.
posted by teststrip at 12:33 PM on April 16, 2012

Best answer: Amazon doesn't ship most things to Canada, but -- ships for free in Canada and has a number of under-$10 dry shampoos

I have hair something like yours and I think your hassle may lie in your washing habits. Shampooing...giant pain? Hmm. Have you tried a non-drying shampoo and skipping the conditioner? Having a bath instead of a shower? Wrapping hair in a very absorbent towel post-shampoo? I suspect the 'daily shampooing is bad' folk don't have fine greasy hair, and I fear there aren't great hacks to get around that.

But I have had great results with using nice creamy shampoos and ditching the whole conditioner idea entirely. I don't have any drugstore recommendations, but do you live near a "Winners"? Loads of "salon" shampoos at pricier-drugstore prices (or cheaper in the hit-n-miss clearance sections).
posted by kmennie at 12:50 PM on April 16, 2012

You don't say specifically, but do you only condition the ends? The hair from about your chin on up probably doesn't need conditioner. I have fine, short, straight, greasy (but not at all frizzy) hair and I can't use conditioner at all if I want to avoid looking like a greaseball by lunch. I use a spray de-tangler (which is conditioner-like, but very light) to help with combing.

Many people have recommended to me that if I shampoo less often (I wash it every day) that it will eventually not need to be washed every day. I have tried this a couple times, once for a couple months after surgery, and didn't find it helped, just FYI. But my hair is no bother and I like washing it every day, and I find as long as you aren't using hot devices, washing doesn't damage it.
posted by looli at 12:55 PM on April 16, 2012

I have your hair too, and dry shampoo is a godsend. There are fancy brands with scents and stuff, but the important part? Baby powder. Cheap! Easy!
posted by troika at 12:57 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

My recomendation is a hair care line called Purelolgy. It is expensive, however, its gentle on your hair, and will not remove the good oil. I'm thinking that the product you are currently using is removing ALL of the oils out of your hair so an over production of oil from your hair folicles are making your hair to greasy. If your shampoo lathers up a lot, thats a sighn that there's to much detergent in it. The less it lathers the better. With a good product like Purology, you will not need to shampoo your hair as frequently. You can get it in salons for your kind of specific hair problem, and I use it myself, so, i'm very familiar, and know it's the solution to your hair problem. :)
posted by brittaincrowe at 1:14 PM on April 16, 2012

Best answer: I have really fine hair and a scalp that loves to overproduce TONS of oil. Before I discovered my magical trick, I absolutely had to wash my hair every day or else it would get so disgustingly stringy-looking and greasy. So greasy that it seemed to develop these impossible tangles and mats! Gross.

So what is my magical trick? Hair dye. There is something about getting my hair colored every two months that has made me instantly be able to go 2-3 days without washing my hair. Plus, hair dye can actually smooth out the hair shaft, thus reducing frizziness. You don't need to go all the way with super-strong permanent dye. I just do semi-permanent or even sometimes a rinse and that does the trick. I don't even dye my hair a color that's different from my natural color, so nobody knows.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:23 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Do you have a dry scalp? The oil production may be trying to address this. My hair got a lot less greasy when I started using Head and Shoulders 2-in-1 for dry scalp. I find the 2-in-1 better, as a separate conditioner is too heavy for my super fine hair. The thing that helped me the most was shampooing less often, though.
posted by emeiji at 1:28 PM on April 16, 2012

I adore Kevin Murphy Angel Wash and Rinse. My hair is very fine, and though the hair itself is dry and frizzy, my scalp is crazy oily. Because they're sulfate and silicone free, they neither dry out or greasily coat my hair and scalp, and unlike some sulfate-free shampoos, they actually clean my scalp well enough. Before I found it, Pureology was my fave, but now I like Kevin Murphy way better.

For straightening, I love Living Proof Straight Making Spray. It's silicone free, so it doesn't make my scalp gross. It makes my hair straighter and way less frizzy (even when it's humid), plus it dries faster. Awesome stuff, indeed.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:34 PM on April 16, 2012

Oh, yes, also dry shampoo! Magical stuff! I like a couple of the expensive kinds, but Batiste is my go-to because it's cheap. I alternate wash days with dry shampoo days, and it basically saves my life. My hair is too dark to use baby powder, and I like the finer texture of the spray kind.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:44 PM on April 16, 2012

Best answer: No. All hair needs to be washed every day, oily hair may have to be washed twice a day.

The idea that washing your hair daily will damage it, is a lie invented to frustrate people with very oily hair. You are expected to keep your hair clean, but mustn't wash it. Double bind.

If you don't have dandruff, it doesn't really matter what shampoo you use, just keep trying until you find one you like. If you do have dandruff, buy Nizoral shampoo over the counter at a pharmacy, do not pick Nizorelle off the shelf (it may be the same but I don't know), and use as directed, several times a week for a few months IIRC, then a weekly maintenance dose forever. Do not use other dandruff shampoos. If you don't have dandruff, then, yay.

It's not surprising that anti-frizz products would make it look greasy. In the first place, it is greasy because it's not getting washed every day. In the second place, anti-frizz products rely on silicone, which is a pseudo-oil.

I don't see why it should take "forever" to work shampoo into your scalp. It's no more of a nuisance to have a daily shampoo than it is to have a daily shower. I estimate that the entire shampooing process takes me less than a minute.

Put your conditioner on the ends (your choice, depends on preference and local water hardness) and leave it on for a few minutes. Then put the shampoo onto your scalp and rinse it all off. Wrap your hair in a towel, then comb it out with a wide-toothed comb.
posted by tel3path at 1:49 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have the same kind of hair, only straighter. I agree with everyone above who says for those of us with fine but thick hair and an oily scalp, the no-poo thing just doesn't work (unless you are okay with perpetually-greasy hair). I wash my hair every day using an SLS-free shampoo (Kiss My Face Whenever shampoo) and a small amount of conditioner (just switched to this one and it seems okay). But the thing that really gets rid of frizz, for me, is blow drying every time, using some kind of lightweight smoothing product (I like this one by Garnier). If I let my hair air-dry it will, without fail, look pretty terrible. I'm not convinced that blow drying is all that damaging--maybe the ends of my hair get more beat up, but I figure a few split ends are a small price to pay for having frizz-free hair everyday!
posted by Jemstar at 1:49 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can wash your hair every day, blow dry it, and curl it with a curling iron, every day, and it will be okay unless you have overly processed hair, which you don't. People with overly processed hair have to be more careful because it's already fried.

I too have tons of long, very fine hair. I have to wash every day. Otherwise it is a flat mess. If you are worried about keeping your hair healthy, then spend a bit more on shampoo and just use less. Only shampoo the scalp. Condition only the ends. L'Occitane has wonderful shampoos and conditioners. It's all I will use on my hair and my children's hair. If there is a store near you, you can ask for free samples to find the one that works best for your hair. I wash, blow dry, and use a curling iron EVERY DAY and have very healthy hair since I started using this. When I was using the cheap stuff, I had loads of split ends, and that was before I owned a curling iron and blow dryer.

When blow drying your hair, hang upside down and focus on getting your scalp dry first. This seems to help me with my oily problems. Dry your hair completely to avoid getting frizzy.
posted by myselfasme at 2:14 PM on April 16, 2012

If you do go the dry shampoo route: Blow Pro Faux Dry is GREAT! I use it to stretch the time between using the dryer and straightening iron.
It is about $20 for a bottle but honestly lasts a very long time. It is not scented, and it's mainly composed of corn starch. Corn starch is much more fine than baby powder and is not visible after you "shoosh" your hair around.
It does a great job of absorbing any oil or product build up and 'freshening' my hair (with no scents).
I was skeptical at first (re: price/value and effectiveness) but I really like it.
I bought it at Ulta :)
posted by sleepykitties at 2:20 PM on April 16, 2012

I had a friend who had the same problem. She began using only SLS-free shampoo from Aubrey, specifically the scalp-soothing one. She ditched her conditioner and began doing hot oil treatments with jojoba oil 2-3 times per week, concentrating on her hair and scalp. She always finished with a cold water rinse. She said that after about a month, her hair was much less oily, and she's been using this method for the last three years.

As far as SLS-free being expensive goes, I hear you, but it is the thing that nearly every salon worker I've seen has railed against, because of its skin-irritating properties. Supposedly the irritation can exacerbate greasiness. I would also stay away from silicones, since they had a bad tendency to weigh down hair and make it seem greasier. Read the ingredients of your products, and make sure there is nothing ending in -cone. I've also found that keratin has really helped my fine and frizzy hair. The shampoo I use is expensive, but there are cheaper keratin shampoos out there.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:51 PM on April 16, 2012

Whole Foods brand (365 something?) has SLS-free shampoos and conditioners that are priced about the same as nicer drugstore stuff, nowhere near the cost of salon products. They even have a fragrance-free variety.

I also have straight, blond-brown, very oily hair, and I'd have to agree with Joan-Holloway above. The only time I've ever been able to go more than a day and a half between shampoos is the year when I colored my hair. My hair didn't get dry or fragile or damaged, it just didn't need to be washed as often. My theory was that all my cursed natural oils were actually helping protect my hair from the dryness that some people get after chemical treatment.

If you do try a dry shampoo, definitely wait to try it out until a day when you have time to do a full shampoo if necessary. I've tried 2 kinds over the past few years (I forget which brands, sorry), one of which made my hair super sticky and gross, and the other which left me looking all powdery and gray like I was 90 years old. It sounds like there are products out there that won't do this; I'm just having trouble finding them. You don't want to be running late for work and think "I'll just try that new dry shampoo since I'm feeling kinda greasy and don't have time to wash." It could really backfire with the wrong product.
posted by vytae at 3:02 PM on April 16, 2012

Best answer: I also have fine, oily hair and I just wash every day. Is it "bad for my hair"? Probably. Who cares? My hair can't talk, and it certainly looks and feels better to have clean hair.

Ditto for blow-drying. My hair is medium length and rather thick in the back/underneathish parts. It takes forever to dry. So I blow dry it. Sure, this is probably "bad for my hair", but as above, what of it? It's a practical solution and my hair doesn't look any worse for it.

That said, my hair is not really frizzy. So maybe these things would exacerbate frizzy hair. I don't know?
posted by Sara C. at 3:28 PM on April 16, 2012

My hair is very similar to yours, although shorter and without any wave. I've tried out dry shampoos and they just make everything worse so I absolutely have to wash it every day. And I blow dry it on hot every single day too. And dye it frequently -- the horrors!! My hair looks fine. Some of us just need to wash it every day to avoid looking like greaseballs. Welcome to the club!
posted by jabes at 3:35 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

My two cents on dry shampoos: they can be OK in a pinch, but they only give me about twelve hours of use. They also can't be used more than a day here or there without combining with the oil and turning into grungy dandruffy nastiness that flakes out everywhere.
posted by Sara C. at 3:39 PM on April 16, 2012

Response by poster: wow, thanks so much for all the great tips!

re: dry shampoo, thanks for the suggestions and the links. I'll try ordering one online and try it out (in advance!)

re: ditching conditioner, my hair tangles really badly after a few days without it so that's not a great option for me. My ends get pretty dry, too. I do keep it well away from my scalp, though.

re: dandruff, my head is more greasy than dry so I don't really have a dandruff issue, although I see a few flakes here and there. So I don't think I need a special shampoo for that - although the dry scalp --> overproduction of oil --> greasy scalp idea does make sense, so maybe it would be worth a shot....

re: shampooing taking forever, I swear I'm not making it up! 95% of my shower time is spent getting my hair wet, working shampoo in, rinsing it out, and repeat with conditioner. It just takes a really really long time to get things into and out of my hair thoroughly, even massaging the crap out of it - and if I don't get the shampoo completely in or out, I get immediately greasy-looking hair, unfortunately. Admittedly this might be easier if my hair was less greasy to start off with!

Put your conditioner on the ends (your choice, depends on preference and local water hardness) and leave it on for a few minutes. Then put the shampoo onto your scalp and rinse it all off.

This is really interesting. Conditioner first, then shampoo?? I've never heard of this (unless it's a typo). Is this really a thing? Doesn't the shampoo eliminate the effects of the conditioner?

This is also the first time I've heard anywhere that it's ok to wash your hair daily. I guess everyone I know has hair that works differently from mine. It's good to know I don't have to worry so much about that - I was afraid daily washing would make it frizzier from drying out. I don't know if I can find the time to wash it daily all the time, but I'll make an effort to do it more often. :)

Dry your hair completely to avoid getting frizzy.

And I was always taught to not dry hair completely, so that it wouldn't be damaged as much! Maybe I've been overcautious. I will give this a shot and see if it makes a difference...

And thanks for all the product tips (keep em coming!) - I'll give some of them a shot. :)
posted by randomnity at 4:21 PM on April 16, 2012

Regarding shampooing/rinsing it out taking forever... I was reminded of this question from a while back, specifically the advice from myself and others about not piling your hair on your head and scrubbing it to get the shampoo in. That only works in commercials!
posted by jabes at 4:33 PM on April 16, 2012

I can only assume that the "don't wash your hair every day" advice comes from the curly-headed and/or dry-scalped people. I wash mine every day, twice if I've gotten sweaty and am going somewhere nice in the evening, and I get compliments on my hair ALL THE TIME. The one upside to fine, oily, straight hair is it's SHINY.
posted by looli at 5:48 PM on April 16, 2012

Best answer: I get that you have to shampoo every part of your scalp to get it clean. So do I. But unless you have an unusually large cranium, your scalp probably isn't bigger than mine - and I do have a large head (in every sense, but my hat size is big too). I can't really understand why getting your hair wet would be time-consuming either. I get my hair wet by sticking my head under the shower water, and it takes two to three seconds, and I'm in the UK where showers have very low water pressure.

Your scalp probably isn't oily because it's dry. It's probably oily because it's oily. Some people are that way, and it isn't because of anything we did.

No, the shampoo doesn't eliminate the effects of the conditioner because you've given the conditioner several minutes to do its work and it will just slide off along with the shampoo when you rinse it.

Dry shampoo is not going to do you any good from a hygiene point of view. It's also very stimulating to greasy scalps because the way you use dry shampoo is to brush it through your hair, and the more you stimulate your scalp the more oil it will produce. In general, you shouldn't be touching your scalp or brushing your hair more than you have to.

As a greasy person, you have a problem that is very difficult to manage except by taking measures to stop the oil coming through in the first place. The only possible way to do that is through pharmaceutical treatment, like hormonal birth control or Accutane. There are no cosmetic products that can actually do that, very few that even claim to because they simply can't fool their customers for long, and it's not a big part of the market because dry/normal people make up the majority and their problem is much much easier to address.

So, almost all of the advice you read is going to be written by and for dry/normal people who have never experienced your problem, don't understand it, and have nothing in particular to gain if you solve it since the solution rarely involves selling you anything. For example, the press raves about what a wonderful solution powdercream foundations are for oily skin, but from my point of view it might as well be a cake of greasepaint. Similarly, loose powder is supposedly evil because it supposedly makes you look old - but, to me, even pressed powder is made too greasy by the wax that holds it together. Loose powder is hard to find, because the conventional wisdom is that nobody needs it. Conventional wisdom is not what's going to solve this problem.

Dry shampoos can be helpful for those with normal hair, and the stimulation of brushing may help to get some oil production in a dry scalp. It is only going to have a bad effect on oily hair.

Washing every other day or less can be helpful for for those with dry or normal hair to keep down the dryness, but it's not very hygienic, and will again do absolutely nothing for an oily scalp. It is true that overwashing can provoke your scalp to become even oilier, but once a day is not overwashing, and even twice a day may not be too much for some people with really oily scalps.
posted by tel3path at 4:02 AM on April 17, 2012

I have hair like yours - mine falls just to my waist and is stick straight, but I don't have oily hair, though I probably should. My regimen consists of washing my hair every three days or so with whatever shampoo I've got on hand, and if I'm not in a hurry I get it wet even when if I'm not shampooing it. In case it does get oily between washes, I live for the sock bun. I rarely use conditioner, and when I do, it is only on the very ends, about the final third of my hair.

However, the best tip I can give you - once a month I do a vinegar rinse. Mix about a half cup of vinegar with a cup of warm water and rub it in all over, leaving it in for about 15 minutes. I like to really scratch the nape of my neck and the middle of my head as my hair is super thick and has a habit of collecting all the residue from oils and my shampoo, and it's damn near impossible for me to get out by shampooing alone. This gets the gunk out, and leaves it sleek and shiny too!

Also, make sure you're cleaning your hair brushes (I recommend the vinegar trick on them too). Your hair brush is going to pick up a lot of the oils from your hair on regular use, and brushing with them makes them less effective and more likely to put oil back into your hair after you've just washed.
posted by sephira at 5:20 AM on April 17, 2012

It's also very stimulating to greasy scalps because the way you use dry shampoo is to brush it through your hair, and the more you stimulate your scalp the more oil it will produce. In general, you shouldn't be touching your scalp or brushing your hair more than you have to.

Excess sebum is generally a hormonal problem, and touching your scalp isn't going to change the amount of oil the glands produce.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:12 PM on April 18, 2012

Yes it is definitely a hormonal problem, but my hair was never soggier than when I followed the "hundred strokes a day" advice.

Cosmetically, there's not much the OP can do about the cause of the problem, but some things are going to make the results worse.
posted by tel3path at 9:45 AM on April 19, 2012

Dry shampoo is [...] also very stimulating to greasy scalps because the way you use dry shampoo is to brush it through your hair, and the more you stimulate your scalp the more oil it will produce.

I only discovered dry shampoo in the last twelve months and it was a revelation. My hair was quite short for most of the last decade but after I started to grow it again I found that I really could no longer wash it every day because it just gets way too frizzy. So I use dry shampoo every other day. And after a little trial and error I have now come up with a way to apply it that does not require any brushing of the hair with a hair brush.

My favourite dry shampoo is the Lush one and I simply tap a tiny amount of the powder into the palm of my hand, pick up the smalles amount with my designated kabuki brush and lightly spread it over the sections of hair that are starting to look a bit greasy (or will do by afternoon), especially around my face. No scalp stimulation involved, the brush only touches the top most hair. I've found that I only ever needed to actually brush dry shampoo through my hair when I got a bit heavy handed (pre kabuki brush) and had to distribute the excess or walk round with a light powder patch........and yes, I wash the kabuki brush regularly.

Guess what I'm saying is that there are ways to apply it that won't cause this particular problem and that you only should use the tiniest amount of the stuff - I expect my Lush bottle to last me for many more months.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:06 PM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: long-delayed followup: telepath had it! I've been washing my hair daily since posting this question and don't have any more problems with greasy hair/scalp, and surprisingly it might have decreased the frizziness a bit too.

I've also been using the fructis triple nutrition shampoo/conditioner that LN suggested and that seems to work well for my hair.

I've been combing with a wide-tooth comb daily and brushing occasionally (1-2 times a week) with a boar bristle when I want it really smooth. I think maybe brushing it less often than I was before helped calm the frizz a bit, I'm not sure.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone! My hair looks so much better now.
posted by randomnity at 11:39 AM on March 20, 2013

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