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Do you ever feel the need to wear a shirt saying “I washed my hair this morning, don’t judge me”? Thin hair has an annoying habit of becoming oily within hours of cleansing, no matter how well you washed it, what your diet is, or how long your hair is. It sometimes seems like it only has two states: flyaway or oily.
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. We know the frustration thin hair can cause, so we’ve put together a list of the 11 best shampoos for thin, oily hair.
1. Blu Atlas Shampoo
Blu Atlas shampoo is specifically designed to remove dirt and oils without damaging your hair. The main ingredient responsible for this is cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB), a natural surfactant derived from coconut oil. CAPB is a great choice of cleanser because instead of binding to all oils, like harsher detergents do, CAPB only dissolves oil. This means only the excess is washed off, and the oil your hair needs to stay healthy is left within the hair shaft.
It’s important not to over-wash oily hair, no matter how tempting it is to remove every trace of oil from your scalp in the hopes it will never return. Removing too much oil can actually backfire as your body releases stored oil to try and make up for the loss. This means your hair becomes greasy sooner than if you only wash your hair on a regular schedule with a gentle surfectant.
Along with the choice of a gentle detergent, Blu Atlas has included aloe vera and saw palmetto extract, two plants that are great for a stressed-out scalp. Aloe vera is high in antioxidants such as vitamin E, which helps to soothe any irritation caused by the buildup of dead skin, sweat, and oil. The anti-inflammatory properties of aloe are also well known, which is why you’ll find it in everything from moisturizers to burn cream.
Saw palmetto extract has been shown to inhibit the potent androgen DHT (dihydrotestosterone). In those with a genetic predisposition to hair loss, higher levels of DHT can lead to thinning hair. Therefore, by inhibiting DHT production, you may slow down the thinning process. Emerging research also suggests that saw palmetto extract may actually cause your body to produce less oil. More hair and less oil to cover it. Sounds good to us!
What we like best about Blu Atlas is their commitment to using healthy plant based alternatives. They strive to keep their products free of synthetic chemicals such as silicones, sulfates, and preservatives. In particular, their products are all paraben- and phthalate-free.
The use of natural, premium ingredients allows for a formula with fewer fillers, so more active ingredients can contact your hair and scalp. In total, 99% of the ingredients in their shampoos are derived from natural origins such as plants, fruits, and minerals, so you can easily read the ingredients list yourself to check what’s in it.
Blu Atlas is such a versatile shampoo, we’re seeing it hitting the top spot in haircare products time after time. This gentle shampoo uses nature’s solutions to remove buildup, soften and strengthen your hair, and leave you with clean and shiny locks.
2. Briogeo Scalp Revival Shampoo
If you have oily hair, odds are you often suffer from a buildup of dead skin and oils around your roots. This can lead to dandruff, an itchy scalp, and even scalp acne. Briogeo’s Scalp Revival shampoo makes use of microcrystalline cellulose and bamboo charcoal to exfoliate your scalp to free clogged pores and remove any debris buildup.
For best results, you’re going to want to really work this shampoo into your scalp. Gently massage your scalp with small circular motions from front to back making sure to focus on any areas that often give you issues.
It takes a little longer in the bath or shower to get the full benefits of this shampoo, but it’s only meant to be used once a week, so it’s worth allocating a little self-care time for. The feeling of a clean scalp can be wonderful if you’ve spent the last week unable to get a good scrub in. It’s worth noting that even though this shampoo only contains gentle surfactants, the physical removal of dead cells and oil through exfoliation can cause irritation to your scalp if overdone, so stick to once a week.
Working the shampoo into your scalp is a pleasant task as the inclusion of tea tree oil, spearmint, and peppermint gives a pleasant cooling sensation as it’s applied and releases a pleasantly unisex, refreshing, herbal scent. The essential oils don’t just smell nice, they also inhibit the growth of microorganisms, such as those that cause scalp acne and dandruff, helping your scalp stay healthier.
Like Blu Atlas, our second choice is vegan, phthalate- and paraben-free, and uses gentle surfactants. This formula only contains 95% naturally derived ingredients, but Briogeo has taken care to avoid anything harmful to you or the environment.
3. Shu Uemura Pure Serenity Deep Cleanser
This next shampoo is made from a mixture of natural and synthetic ingredients, and is much stronger than our previous favorites. You’ll want to make sure you have a good conditioner for use afterwards as this cleansing shampoo contains sodium laureth sulfate (SLS).
Using too much SLS can cause dry hair, scalp irritation, and even hair loss, so it’s good to keep an eye on which products do and don’t contain sulfates, the group SLS belongs to. Shu Uemura has diluted the amount of SLS in this product with the gentler CAPB, so it’s not relying on pure SLS to clean your scalp.
One thing that sets Pure Serenity apart is the inclusion of Thermus thermophilus extract. This extract comes from a bacteria that naturally grows in hot springs and is rich in vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed by your scalp and hair. This shampoo not only gives you a deep cleanse but it also helps your body grow healthier hair and repair any damage to your scalp.
While you’ll want to be careful not to overuse this shampoo, it’s great for those days when you are fed up with the feeling of lank, limp hair. Pure Serenity leaves your hair feeling light and silky, which may not always be the easiest to style, but certainly feels nice. To avoid drying your hair out, alternate between this and a gentle, SLS-free shampoo.
4. Biolage Full Density Shampoo
Biolage Full Density Shampoo is a thickening shampoo that aims to thicken existing hair strands. Thicker hairs absorb more oil, so you can go longer between washes. The added strength also helps prevent frizz and gives your hair more bounce and volume.
Although Biolage highlights biotin and zinc PCA as the active ingredients in this shampoo, very little evidence exists to suggest that zinc PCA provides any benefit for your hair. Biotin, however, is well known for maintaining hair growth and reducing inflammation.
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is naturally found in foods such as avocados, nuts, and seeds. Although most effective when eaten, applying biotin to the scalp also allows some of the vitamin to sink into the surface cells, including your hair follicles, where it can help your body create stronger, healthier hair.
Full Density also contains salicylic acid, a chemical naturally found in willow bark. Salicylic acid is commonly used in moisturizing creams for people with facial acne as it helps to break down layers of dead skin and unclog pores. It also reduces inflammation and clears up dandruff, but some people can find it irritating to the skin in high concentrations. We recommend trying a test patch to make sure you’re not one of the unlucky ones.
If you have no issues with the salicylic acid, this shampoo excels at soothing an itchy scalp and providing volume to otherwise limp hair. A couple of fillers are also used in this shampoo to give your hair that extra bulk, so you’ll want to use a stronger, cleansing shampoo once in a while to prevent any buildup.
5. Ethique St Clements Shampoo Bar
If you’ve never tried a shampoo bar, now’s an excellent time to give it a go! Shampoo bars don’t have extra water added to keep them liquid, so the ingredients are more highly concentrated. This means not only do you get more bang for your buck, but you also cut down on packaging and transport emissions. Even the packaging is compostable, making this one of the most eco-friendly options out there.
If you’re not sure about using a solid shampoo, we recommend trying the travel version of the bar. This cheaper, smaller version still packs enough cleansing power for 20 washes, so you can get a good idea of how well it suits your hair. If you’re new to shampoo bars, it’s also important to know that you’ll want to keep them dry when not in use or they can get mushy.
What we love most about this shampoo is the amazing citrusy zing. Both lime and orange oils are incorporated into the shampoo, providing a real citrus scent—no artificial cleaning product smells here; it’s all zesty lime and sweet orange. Cocoa butter and castor oil are included to replace any lost oils, and glycerine is added to draw moisture into the hair strands, giving them more volume and helping prevent frizz and flyaway hairs.
This is another shampoo that only uses mild, naturally derived surfactants, so it’s great for day to day use. Usually we’d suggest mixing in the occasional clarifying wash, but unless you use a lot of hair product, we find that this shampoo is enough to remove buildup without having to resort to harsher detergents. Also, did we mention how amazing it smells? Seriously, we can’t get over this fresh, clean scent.
6. Videri Lemon Sage & Tea Tree Shampoo
Videri is a small, relatively recent addition to the haircare scene. Their flagship shampoo contains a variety of essential oils, including lemon, lemongrass, and sweet orange. The mixture of tea tree oil, sage, and citrus makes this an excellent choice for anyone struggling with mild dandruff as this non-medicated shampoo makes the scalp inhospitable to yeast and bacteria.
Interestingly, this shampoo doesn’t contain any added water. Instead, aloe juice is used to create the right consistency, which explains the soothing sensation after use. Videri shampoo contains a variety of gentle detergents to cleanse your hair, and glycerin is an ingredient that acts as a humectant to keep your hair hydrated.
Other than essential oils, you won’t find any conditioning agents such as shea butter, jojoba oil, or caster oil. This shampoo avoids anything but small, necessary amounts of oil required to give Videri shampoo its soothing anti-dandruff properties and refreshing scent. This means that the shampoo can be a little drying for some people, but if you follow up with a lightweight conditioner, you shouldn’t have any issues. If you have really oily hair, you can probably skip the conditioner and still find yourself with soft, fragrant tresses.
7. Design Essentials Oat Protein & Henna Deep Cleansing Shampoo
Design Essentials Oat Protein & Henna Shampoo combines the best of synthetic and natural ingredients to create a deep cleansing shampoo that also repairs damaged hair and delivers vitamins and minerals to your scalp.
When this product says deep cleansing, it really means deep cleansing. This isn’t a shampoo for everyday use as it contains both sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate. Both of these detergents strip away any kind of buildup, whether it’s natural hair oil, a buildup of hair product, or a coating of silicone. Soapwort extract has also been added to provide a natural cleansing effect, so this really does get your hair squeaky clean!
The advantage of this strict cleaning is that it removes dead skin cells, which allow helpful ingredients to come in contact with living skin. This direct contact allows vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids to be easily absorbed by your scalp, benefiting both your scalp and hair. Among the best ingredients in this shampoo is hops, which is known for being rich in essential oils and vitamins. Other natural ingredients in this shampoo also deliver a variety of nutrients direct to your scalp.
The title ingredients, oat protein and henna, have two functions. Hydrolyzed oat protein is well known for its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains high levels of amino acids, which bind to the existing protein in the hair, filling in cracks and damage, and thickening the hair strand. Henna has antimicrobial properties to help keep dandruff at bay.
This shampoo also contains horsetail extract, a less commonly seen ingredient in modern shampoos. Horsetail reeds have been used as a natural remedy for hair loss for centuries, if not millenia. While no scientific evidence proves that horsetail really does prevent hair loss, studies do exist that show it can improve the strength of your existing hair and possibly stimulate growth from existing healthy hair follicles.
What we like best about this shampoo is the synergy between natural and synthetic ingredients. The majority of ingredients come from natural sources and provide nourishment for your scalp, while science gives a helping hand to the natural cleansing properties of soapwort and CAPB. This is a great example of how careful use of ingredients can result in some of the best shampoos for oily hair.
8. Ouai Fine Hair Shampoo
Ouai Fine Hair Shampoo is a thickening shampoo designed to give your hair bounce and volume. Although this shampoo doesn’t deal directly with oil production, having thicker hair helps give you the appearance of normal oil levels.
Most people with thin oily hair don’t actually produce excess sebum, the natural oil your body makes to keep your hair and skin waterproof. Someone with thin hair might produce the same amount of oil as another person with thicker hair, but with fine hair, there’s less hair for the oil to be distributed on.
That’s why Ouai’s thickening shampoo makes such a difference for thin, oily hair. The additional volume this shampoo provides helps soak up more oil, balancing out the hair to oil ratio. Most of this thickening comes from the addition of biotin and hydrolyzed keratin. Hair is mostly made of keratin, and when you apply hydrolyzed keratin to damaged hair, it automatically slots into place in the damaged sections. That hair is now thicker, stronger, and less prone to split ends.
Ouai is known for their signature scents, and their Fine Hair Shampoo is part of the Mercer Street collection. The care Ouai puts into the scents of their products resulted in Dean Street, their first fragrance to be released as a perfume. We wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the floral and musk scent of Mercer Street does the same.
9. Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine Shampoo
If you have thin oily hair and are fond of going swimming, you might wonder how chlorine manages to make your hair simultaneously greasy and dry. Even though your hair feels rough in your hands, somehow it still looks greasy in the mirror. This occurs due to chlorine reacting with the natural oils and other hair products in your hair to produce a waterproof layer of grime over the hair shaft. It’s no longer oil, so it doesn’t hydrate your hair, but it does cause it to become limp and clump together.
It’s worth mentioning this now because we’ve found that number nine on our list, Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine, is quite possibly the best shampoo available to remove that annoying post-swim buildup. It leaves your roots clean and fresh and your hair incredibly soft and sleek, particularly when combined with their leave-in conditioning spray.
Sleek and Shine doesn’t add any thickness to your hair, but it does give it a little more bounce while smoothing the individual strands so they lie neatly together. If your hair is looking greasy as soon as it dries, it may be that you’ve also got a buildup of modified product in your hair, even if you don’t go swimming. In that case, it’s definitely worth giving Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine a try to see if it can help lighten the buildup on your hair.
Garnier Fructis, like the name suggests, has a pleasant fruity scent, partially from the inclusion of sugarcane extract, apple fruit extract, and lemon peel. Sodium laureth sulfate, coco-betaine, and salicylic acid give this shampoo it’s impressive cleaning capability, while the presence of argan oil and castor oil explains how this shampoo makes your hair so sleek.
If you’re looking for an everyday shampoo, this is probably too much for your hair to deal with on a regular basis unless you apply a heavy layer of styling product or enjoy swimming on a regular basis. Sleek and Shine doesn’t add any thickness to your hair, it doesn’t prevent dandruff, and it doesn’t stop your scalp from producing oil. What it does do is really clean your hair, and it does that really well.
10. Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo
Dandruff loves an oily scalp. And if you’re unfortunate enough to be susceptible to dandruff, odds are you sometimes want to pull your hair out with frustration. Thin hair is particularly bad for showcasing every flake of skin, and a red, irritated scalp is more easily visible through fine hair.
Neutrogena T/Gel is an anti-dandruff shampoo designed to work on greasy hair, so you can stop worrying about your dandruff and get on with life. The active ingredient in T/Gel is coal tar. Although this is an effective anti-dandruff treatment, it can cause serious irritation for some people. For that reason, it’s important that you try out this product on a small section of your scalp before jumping in head first.
The term “coal tar” really doesn’t sound like anything we want near our hair, but sometimes you have to take drastic measures. T/Gel contains a 0.5% concentration of coal tar, which is enough to squash dandruff and soothe psoriasis. And if we’re honest, it makes the shampoo smell terrible. The smell doesn’t linger once it’s washed away, so don’t worry about that. But If you’ve tried the other, gentler methods out there without success, you should give Neutrogena’s T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo a try.
11. Redken Amino-Mint Shampoo
Another natural–synthetic hybrid, Redken Amino-Mint Shampoo contains mostly naturally derived ingredients, bolstered with polyquaternium-10 and few synthetic preservatives and emulsifiers. Polyquaternium-10, like other “polyquats,” helps weigh down fine hair so it isn’t quite so flyaway when freshly cleaned. However, these compounds can also build up on hair over time, so this shampoo should be alternated with one of the harsher shampoos on this list.
Redken Amino-Mint is a fairly standard shampoo with the two namesake ingredients—amino acid glycine and peppermint—being the only things in the ingredients list that really make this shampoo stand out. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. Having fewer novel ingredients lowers the likelihood of one of them causing a reaction. And if you can get the balance right between cleansing and hydrating, there isn’t really anything else most people need from a shampoo.
While it’s nice to be able to have that salon experience at home, sometimes you just need something utilitarian and reliable to get the job done. And that’s where this shampoo shines. A bit of an anticlimactic end to our top 11 best shampoos for thin and oily hair, but plenty of other luxury products made this list for when you feel like trying something new and exciting. We’ll leave you with an FAQ to answer some of the more common questions we hear asked.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I alternate shampoos?
Although it would be nice to choose one shampoo and use that one only, it’s hard to find a shampoo that can always perform. Because your hair is affected by the environment, hair care products, styling products, UV exposure, and even what you eat, the needs of your scalp and hair are going to change over time.
Natural shampoos with gentle cleansers are much kinder on your hair, but because they’re so gentle, they struggle to remove any significant buildup. This means that ingredients in the shampoo itself, as well as anything else applied to your hair, can build up with time. That’s why most people benefit from using a harsher, cleansing shampoo two to four times a month. This gives your hair the deep clean it requires but doesn’t over-do it. If you use a harsher shampoo every day, it dries your hair out and causes it to become brittle and dull over time. By alternating between gentle and strong shampoos, you get the best of both worlds.
Why is having oily hair so bad for you?
It isn’t. Despite a lot of advertising saying otherwise, the only issue with oily hair is the potential for dead skin to build up, which can make dandruff and scalp acne worse. If you’re not having problems with either of these, there’s nothing wrong with having oily hair.
Unfortunately, because everyone’s hair gets greasy if they don’t wash it for long enough, oily hair is associated with poor hygiene habits. Societal pressure can make some people feel self conscious about the amount of oil in their hair, and using shampoos designed to reduce oil levels can help them feel more confident.
What makes hair thin and oily?
Thin hair has less surface area for natural oils to spread out across. This means that normal levels of oil production can become obvious much more rapidly in people with thin hair. Oily hair then tends to clump together, making the hair look even thinner.
Although some slight evidence suggests that eating dairy and high-GI foods is linked to an increase in sebum production, the standard advice of “try to eat healthy” is really all that applies when it comes to your diet. Oil production is mostly controlled by your hormones, and not much can be done about them without medical intervention.
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