(847) 392-5440
There was a problem with your submission. Please review the fields below.

What Causes an Oily Scalp?

Mar 25, 2022

There are certain times in life (ahem, puberty!) when you expect an oily scalp. And, a little oil is actually necessary in order to protect and support the growth of healthy hair.  However, if your hair feels oily all of the time, it may be time to seek the assistance of a dermatologist who can rule out the possibility of a skin disorder.

Here are a few causes of an oily scalp:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis: a condition that irritates and inflames skin. Pink, scaly areas of skin can develop in areas where there are a lot of oil glands.  Dandruff ay also appear.  This can be caused by an allergic reaction or, possibly, an autoimmune condition.  Often treatable at home.
  • Skin conditions: eczema and psoriasis (problems related to the immune system) may cause red, scaly patches to form.
  • Forehead acne: oil and skin cells get trapped inside the pores and lead to specific acne bacteria and develop into acne bumps.
  • Genetics: the amount of oil your glands produce may be determined by your genetic makeup.

You may also be curious about:

  • Oily scalp and dry hair: Possibly caused by skin condition, genetics, overwashing hair, shampoo and products with artificial chemicals that leave residue.
  • Oily itchy scalp: Dandruff! This could be caused by eczema or psoriasis flare ups or even an allergic reaction.

What are some OTC (over the counter treatments)?

There are many OTC options to try that may provide relief, such as:

  • fish oil as a dietary supplement
  • aloe vera
  • probiotics in your diet or as supplements
  • tea tree oil diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut or olive oil, and applied directly to the affected area
  • apple cider vinegar applied to hair after washing, left for a few minutes, then rinsed
  • oily scalp shampoos with key ingredients
    • water as a base
    • sodium lauryl sulfate
    • benzoyl peroxide
    • selenium sulfide
    • sodium sulfacetamide
    • ketoconazole

What can you try on your own?

  1. Seek the balance of washing your hair!  You may need to wash more or less frequently in order to maintain that perfect balance.
  2. Condition carefully, avoiding the roots of your hair, and rinse well.
  3. Use products designed for oily hair.
  4. Clean your brush.
  5. Use aloe as a hair mask.
  6. Avoid silicone as an ingredient in your hair care products.
  7. Be gentle when washing, brushing, styling, scratching so you don’t cause irritations.
  8. Keep your hands away- no twirling, scratching, or running fingers through!
  9. Try a dry shampoo
  10. Wash after a sweaty workout.

When should you seek a doctor’s help?

If you have tried multiple treatments and had no success OR if any symptoms worsen, it may be time to contact a dermatologist.  It is possible that a prescribed shampoo, solution, or medication may be necessary.  If genetic disorders or certain skin conditions are found, it may be that a dermatologist has some treatments to offer.

Remember, there isn’t always a need for concern about an oily scalp as some oil is needed for healthy hair.  However, there is no need to allow an oily scalp to continue preventing you from leading a happy, healthy lifestyle, then know that the friendly staff at Arlington Dermatology are eager to help you with your specific needs.  Please take the time to visit our website at or call our friendly staff at 847-725-0824 for assistance today.