curly hair is oily and smelly

Most women with textured hair love using oils and butters. Whether it is a shampoo, conditioner, or moisturizer, curlies are perusing the ingredients labels to find oils (preferably near the top). But what about the curlies or wavies who stray away from all things shea butter and olive oil? Essie580 from Q&A posed this question to us:


My type 3A hair becomes greasy, oily, and stinky very easily. I have it cut quite short, around chin-length, and wash several times a week with drugstore shampoo and conditioner. Along with the smell and oil, my scalp itches and produces greasy dandruff. Does anyone know what could be causing this or how to fix it.


Like most hair and scalp concerns, two of the best places start is diet and cleansing. I firmly believe in a holistic approach to health, which includes hygiene. You want to make sure you are drinking enough water and eating a well balanced diet. As for hair care maintenance, regardless of your hair texture, everyone’s scalp needs to be clean in order to maintain healthy hair and decrease the potential of scalp issues.


You describe your flakes as greasy, which sounds very similar to the scalp condition that I have (i.e. sebborheic dermatitis). Because I am not a dermatologist or trichologist, I do encourage you to schedule an appointment with either and express your concerns. Until then, here are some tips I can assist you with. As someone with sebbroheic dermatitis, I try to cleanse my scalp twice a week with a gentle shampoo and I always follow up with a deep conditioner.

When your scalp overproduces sebum you want to create a regimen that addresses your scalp needs without neglecting your hair’s needs. Due the nature of textured hair, the tighter the curl, the harder it is for the sebum to travel down the hair shaft, thus leaving tighter curl patterns more prone to dryness. Since you have short, 3a hair (looser curl pattern) it is more prone to accumulate sebum, debris, and product buildup at the scalp, which can create a breeding grown for odor and bacteria if not cleansed regularly and properly.

Like any other part of our bodies, it is important to be mindful of what you apply to it and how it responds. Some people overproduce sebum because there is a dysfunction of the sebaceous glands while others overproduce sebum as a reaction to certain products. Sometimes your sebaceous glands do not respond well to certain products and can overcompensate in sebum. You mentioned that you use a drugstore shampoo and conditioner, so I hope that they are formulated for your hair and scalp needs. Cleansers formulated for curly hair tend to be gentler on textured hair than the standard shampoos that contain sulfates 

First, try switching cleansers to see if your previous products were agitating your scalp. If your scalp continues to produce too much oil, then consider using a dandruff shampoo or explore gentler shampoosIf you do prep-poo treatments I would encourage you to stop and see what happens. Sometimes the key to eliminating buildup is to decrease the amount of products we apply. 


When trying to infuse the hair with moisture via deep conditioning, the next biggest step is maintaining that moisture with a leave-in conditioner, moisturizer, and/or oil. Since you have 3a hair, I strongly encourage you to peruse Jamie’s favorite products under our editor’s picks. The key for looser textures and low porosity textures to main moisture is to use lightweight products and oils. You can also try a dry oil. Dry oils are formulated to evaporate quickly so your hair (and body) will not feel greasy long after application. Try all of these tips and let us know how it worked out! 

NaturallyCurly, how do you manage your oily scalp?