What Are the Common Causes of a Greasy Scalp and Dry Hair?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2019
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A greasy scalp and dry hair are typically caused by a variety of issues working together to create this contradictory problem. Dry hair can be caused by over-washing, excessive exposure to heat, or harsh chemical treatments. Oily hair can be caused by frequently touching the scalp, poor nutrition, or a skin condition. A greasy scalp may even be caused by excessive treatments to clear up dry hair or by the body’s natural response to dry hair. There are several ways to treat these conditions.

Occasionally, the problem of a greasy scalp and dry hair will start with grooming habits that dry the hair out and stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce excess oil to protect the hair. When this is the case, the problem can be avoided by simply changing grooming habits. For example, dry hair is often caused by washing hair too often, by applying too much heat to the hair, or by frequently treating the hair with chemicals to color, curl, or straighten the hair. A person with dry hair should wash her hair every other day, minimize exposure to the heat of blow dryers or curling irons, and limit colors and perms.


A greasy scalp and dry hair can occasionally start with greasy hair, and then the treatment for greasy hair will dry out the hair. This is because sometimes the treatment for the greasy scalp is aimed at treating the symptom rather than the real problem. One reason for oily hair is frequently touching the scalp. When people have a habit of touching their scalps or scratching their heads, they can massage and stimulate the sebaceous glands on the scalp, causing the glands to secrete excess oil. One good way of for a person with oily hair to minimize the oil is to avoid touching the scalp.

Another reason for oily hair is nutrition. If a person with oily hair frequently eats greasy foods or foods fried in oil, she will tend to have greasy hair. Changing eating habits to include more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in place of greasy foods may help to reduce the oil on the scalp.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that can produce scabby, yellow, or white skin on the scalp and lead to excessive secretion of oil on the head. When oily hair is accompanied by flaky skin that is white or yellow colored, then a dermatologist needs to be seen. Prescription shampoos to treat this condition are available.

Regardless of the reason, there are many ways to treat a greasy scalp and dry hair. The hair should be washed every other day, and after washing a conditioner should be massaged into only the ends of the hair. On the days when the hair is not washed, the hair can be wetted and a tiny amount of conditioner can be rubbed into the ends of the hair. Use of a hairdryer should be minimized, but when it is used, the temperature setting should be on low heat or cool, and the airflow should be aimed down along the hair and not directed straight at the hair shaft.


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Post 3

An excessively oily scalp may be a sign of an infection caused by yeast or fungi.

My daughter had a scalp fungal infection a few months ago. She was complaining about how oily her hair was even though she washed it every day. She also complained about itching, flakes and odor from her scalp. Surprisingly, her hair wasn't oily. The doctor said that it's a fungal infection and prescribed an anti-fungal shampoo which did the trick.

Post 2

@donasmrs-- Hair styling tools like a hair straightener or a curling iron cause hair to dry out as well. When I first started using a hair straightener every day, my hair was so dry and frizzy. But my scalp continued to be oily.

I then started using a product that protects hair from heat and it contained natural oils. My hair no longer was dry after that. As for my scalp, I have to wash my hair daily or it gets very oily, very fast. I use a shampoo made specifically for oily scalp and it does help.

Post 1

I always thought that a slightly oily scalp was a good thing because the natural oils transfer to the hairs and protect them from damage. I wasn't aware that it's possible to have a greasy scalp but with dry hair. It must be due to the chemicals used on hair.

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