Oily Scalp Hair Loss: Are The Two Connected?

Oily scalp is a common problem, experienced by everyone at some point in their lives. Individuals with pattern baldness, however, are at a higher risk for developing oily scalp.

And, while not a direct cause of hair loss, this can lead to clogged hair follicles and sebum buildup which can increase the chances of hairfall.

In this post, you’ll be introduced to oily scalp, including the four most common causes for the condition. I’ll then answer the question, does an oily scalp cause hair loss? Last, you’ll be introduced to the three-step, all-natural method for treating and preventing oily scalp.

What is Oily Scalp?

Sebum is a natural substance which is secreted from the sebaceous glands. These glands are found throughout the body (except for the palms of the hands and soles of the feet) and produce oil on a regular basis.

The sebaceous gland, as seen in a model of the hair follicle.
The sebaceous gland, as seen in a model of the hair follicle.

When an individual’s glands produces too much sebum, however, this leads to an overproduction of oil. This can cause acne on the body and scalp line, and also contributes to oily scalp.

Of course, aside from the cosmetic issues that oily scalp poses, it can also have a number of ill effects on hair and scalp health.

What Causes Oily Scalp?

The direct reason for an oily scalp is overproduction of sebum by the scalp’s sebaceous glands. This, however, can be caused by a number of things.

Hormonal Imbalances

There are a number of conditions which can lead to an overproduction of sebum. One which is common in individuals with baldness, however, is Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA). While not a hormone imbalance in the usual sense, the hormones which trigger the condition also play a role in sebaceous gland size and production.

How?

DHT is a byproduct of testosterone and 5alpha-reductase, and is also a known issue in individuals with AGA.

While individuals with male-pattern baldness don’t have higher levels of DHT in their bodies, the androgen receptors within their scalps are more sensitive to its presence.

This results in hair miniaturization over time, leading to hair loss (which may be irreversible if not treated quickly).

Alternatively, as the follicles shrink, the glands increase in the size. This means that more of the scalp is covered in oil-producing glands. Additionally, AGA has been shown to have an effect on the secretion of sebaceous glands in the scalp, though the mechanism is not currently known.

Poor Diet

As you can imagine, what you put into your body can play a large role in your scalp’s overall health. This is why diet should be a focus for those who are looking to stop hair loss and regrow their hair.

Diets high in greasy foods can certainly contribute to an overproduction of oil. This can cause restriction of the blood flow and clogging of the pores. Additionally, DHT can become trapped, retriggering hair fall and repeating the cycle.

A diet high in greasy foods can lead to an oily scalp.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

A chronic condition, seborrheic dermatitis can cause an overproduction of sebum. Over time, this leads to the buildup of dead skin and oils, causing the red, itchy, flaky patches of skin characteristic of the condition.

While this condition isn’t all that common (affecting about 4% of the population), a lesser form of seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, is seen in at least 50% of the world’s population.

While the severity and symptoms differ between these two conditions, the cause for both is the same: Malassezia, a yeast which impacts the natural balance of the scalp.

Improper Hygiene

For many sufferers of oily scalp, the solution can be as simple as changing up their hair care routine.

Just as washing too little can lead to a buildup of sebum and oil, so too can washing too much. This is because a dry scalp will overproduce oil, attempting to replace the natural oils which are necessary in order to protect and nourish your scalp and hair strands.

Using chemical-free shampoos will cut down on this issue dramatically, but it’s also important that you experiment with hair washing frequency to strike a healthy balance.

Does An Oily Scalp Cause Hair Loss?

As mentioned above, there are a number of reasons an individual may find themselves dealing with an oily scalp.

With this in mind, then, oily scalp itself does not directly lead to hair loss. However, the underlying condition certainly can, and oily scalp may just be a symptom of the bigger issue.

How to Treat and Prevent Oily Scalp

While the treatment will vary from person to person, the three-step method outlined below will get you started treating your oily scalp and preventing it from returning.

Step 1: Remove Buildup With a Salicylic Acid Peel

It’s difficult to prevent oily scalp from recurring if you haven’t dealt with the current buildup. To do this, you’ll need to begin the the treatment process by removing buildup with a scalp peel.

I recommend a salicylic acid peel. Salicylic acid is commonly used by dermatologists to remove dead skin and oil buildup, and is a natural alternative to the variety of scalp peels on the market.

What You’ll Need:

  • Salicylic acid (15% solution or less)
  • Coconut oil

Directions:

First, wash your hair and scalp with a gentle, cleansing shampoo. This will prepare your scalp for

Once the shampoo has been thoroughly rinsed from your hair, apply the coconut oil to your scalp. Be sure to cover your scalp and hair in its entirety, and allow the oil to sit on your scalp for at least 30 minutes.

Using a small pipette or other instrument which enables you to control application, apply the salicylic acid. Pay particular attention to trouble areas, such as those with more oil buildup.

Leave the salicylic acid on your scalp for 10 minutes, and then rinse away with warm water.

Peel away the dried salicylic acid, taking along with it dandruff, dirt, and sebum buildup.

Hair Benefits:

Salicylic acid is an effective remover of dirt, dead skin, and sebum, cleaning out the pores. However, it can also be drying. This is why coconut oil is first applied to the scalp, in order to moisturize and enable the salicylic acid to penetrate deep within the pores without causing dryness.

Step 2: Utilize a Cleansing Shampoo

Now that the removal of sebum, dead skin, and dirt has been handled, it’s vital that you keep your scalp clean and free from buildup. To do this, I recommend using a cleansing shampoo (which can easily be made at home), such as the one below, at least 2-3 times per week.

Applying to the scalp and hair.

What You’ll Need:

  • Warm Water (1 cup)
  • Baking Soda (1 tablespoon)
  • Apple cider vinegar (1 tablespoon)
  • Citrus Essential Oil (5 drops)
  • Grapefruit Juice (1/3 cup)
  • Grapeseed Oil (2-3 teaspoons)

Apple cider vinegar shampoos gently cleanse the scalpDirections:

Using the container of your choice, combine the above ingredients.

Do not use an airtight container, as the baking soda and vinegar will react. An airtight container will result in dangerous pressure building up, and may break the container.

Applying to a wet scalp, pour the mixture into your hair and massage for 3 minutes.

Rinse thoroughly with warm water.

Hair Benefits:

As a gentle cleanser, the combination of baking soda and apple cider vinegar dissolve and wash away excess oils, while simultaneously ensuring that essential scalp oils are left behind.

Citrus contains antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, and folate; this makes it an effective treatment for oily scalp, whether from hormone imbalance or poor diet.

The grapefruit juice acts as a revitalizer, providing its high vitamin content and gentle acidity.

Last, grapeseed oil protects the scalp and follicles from damage and provides a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids.

Step 3: Treat the Underlying Cause

Now that you’ve removed the buildup and cleansed your scalp, it’s time to take control of the underlying cause of oily scalp.

Whether you’re suffering from AGA, poor diet, or an untreated skin condition, there are natural methods you can use to treat the root issue and bring your scalp back to a healthy, balanced state.

I recommend you take a look around the site, and experiment with a number of the methods mentioned throughout. While not each one will be effective for you, you’re bound to find one (or more!) which help you to, once again, take control.

My favourite way to treat oily skin is by drinking a pint of warm lemon water first thing in the morning. Squeeze 3 whole lemons into a glass and fill the remainder with warm water. Drink this on an empty stomach.

The citrus helps cut through grease and oil and clear out the digestive tract that helps more wastes get eliminated from the body.

I would also recommend that you increase your intake of ‘earthy’ foods. These will help to absorb excess oils travelling around the body. For example, wheatgrass powder, spirulina, chlorella all help to absorb excess oils.

Spirulina contains high concentrations of chlorophyll, making it the perfect daily supplement for strong hair growth.
Spirulina contains high concentrations of chlorophyll, making it the perfect daily supplement for strong hair growth.

If you’re serious about clearing up excess oils on your scalp then I highly recommend a detox program such as the one I outline here. This is the most complete and fastest way to reduce oily skin, and also helps to improve hair growth.

Conclusion

While an oily scalp is not a direct cause of hair loss, the underlying conditions which contribute, as well as the effects caused by excess scalp oils, can certainly trigger thinning and alopecia and make hair regrowth difficult (if not impossible).

For individuals looking to grow their hair, this makes the treatment of oily scalp an absolute must.

Of course, once the oil is under control, you’ll then need to focus on the root cause of your issues.

5 thoughts on “Oily Scalp Hair Loss: Are The Two Connected?”

  1. Thank you for this really interesting article Will. My oily scalp and hair loss has really been getting me down and I’ve tried lots of different shampoos but nothing seems to be working very well if at all. I’m going to try the lemon water and green powders and make my diet better with less processed foods. I’l also try the shampoo you recommend making.

    • Hi Louise, yes the best option really is fixing the issues from the inside out. Cutting out processed foods, especially any fried foods will help a lot, but the lemon water and greens powders are a simple way to get started.

  2. I’ve used baking soda and water to shampoo and diluted apple cider vinegar to rinse before but found it increased my scalp itchiness so what did I do wrong?

  3. I tried this wash today, and while my hair is super soft right now, it looks wet. It has no movability and feels silky. Any help would be super appreciated

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