Ask a Beauty Editor: How to Train Your Hair to Be Less Greasy

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Reader question: They say you shouldn't wash your hair that often, but shouldn't I wash it after a workout? How can I wash it less? — @lromance16

Washing your hair is a cyclical nightmare. OK, maybe nightmare is a bit strong, but it certainly takes away from your precious sleep time and is something you just can't seem to escape.

The not-so-funny irony is that we wash our hair because it gets oily, but washing produces more oil. As frustrating as this is, you can train your hair to be less greasy by spacing out your washes.

So, why do stylists say you should wait as long as possible to wash your hair? Not only does it turn hair color, make strands brittle, and promote breakage, shampooing strips the scalp of its natural oils, causing it to make even more oil to compensate. The more you shampoo, the more it overcompensates. In order to break the cycle, you must be willing to put up with some oiliness until an equilibrium is eventually established.

It's worth noting that the grease won't cease right away, so the first few weeks will be difficult. The key is to not give up here—your patience will pay off. Also, keep in mind that what is "normal" between washes will vary depending on your hair type and texture, but these steps can help extend that number—whether it be by a couple days or a week.

Do a water-only rinse (or co-wash) if you're sweaty after a workout

To answer your question, yes, you're probably going to want to wash your hair after a workout. However, washing doesn't have to include shampoo. If you feel there is a lot of sweat on your scalp, opt for a water-only rinse, or co-wash (washing your hair with only conditioner) instead. This will get the scalp clean while not stripping it of its necessary oils. Another workout hack: Spritz the hair with dry shampoo before a workout to help absorb the sweat to come.

When you do wash, use a sulfate-free shampoo and cooler water

We all love a hot shower and a squeaky clean, but they're both grease-inducing culprits. "Sulfates (responsible for the squeaky clean feeling) are a fantastic cleaner, but not for your scalp," says hairstylist Jennifer Covington-Bowers. "Opt for a detergent-free hair cleanser, like Hairstory New Wash ($40; hairstory.com), which will lift away dirt and impurities but keep the natural protective barrier intact."

It's also worth paying attention to your shampoo's pH, which should ideally be around 5.5. Think of it along the same lines of toners and pH-balancing skincare—having a slightly acidic pH is necessary for proper skin cell turnover and functioning of enzymes needed to maintain skin hydration. Simply put, it won't be as dry.

As for temperature, washing with very hot water can contribute to a dry scalp, says Covington-Bowers. "Resist the temptation to turn up the heat and keep the shower temperature moderate or cool to preserve your natural oils."

Avoid touching your hair

Like touching your face (which you shouldn't do for topical and health reasons), constantly fiddling with your hair transfers oils from your fingertips to your strands. And this might be an obvious one, but try to minimize the amount of styling products you apply on your scalp. Any emollients, such as waxes, creams, and oils, can make your hair greasier, so keep these products away from your roots and/or look for lightweight alternatives.

Give yourself scalp massages and brush often (with a clean brush!)

Giving yourself a vigorous scalp massage with your fingertips and brushing hair can help distribute the oil away from the scalp and down the hair shaft. And while we're on the topic of brushes, your hairbrush can harbor all sorts of nasties (i.e., styling product remnants and natural oils). Brushing with this will only make your hair dirtier and oilier, so make sure to clean your hairbrush properly on a regular basis.

Apply a clarifying shampoo or exfoliating product once a week

If you're a greasy hair sufferer, you're probably a dry shampoo junkie. Nothing is wrong with using dry shampoo, but if you tend to use a lot of it or other styling products, this step—which you can consider a hair reset—is imperative.

Styling products will build up and clog the scalp, weighing strands down and creating the appearance of more oil. Give your locks a deep clean by using a clarifying shampoo (this will help control oil and extend your wash) OR scalp exfoliator two to four times a month (depending on how often you wash it). An apple cider vinegar rinse can also sub in here—according to stylists, ACV is acidic enough to restore the scalp's pH balance and eliminate buildup, yet mild enough that it won't strip your strands of essential nutrients. (It will also make your hair super shiny!)

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