Truly, is there anything more high maintenance than having oily scalp in these tropical climes? With the heat and humidity doing oily scalp no favours, sufferers of greasy roots know all too well the need for daily shampooing and detoxifying hair treatments, lest they risk itchy, aggravated scalp with a side of limp, lifeless, weighed-down hair.
Why oily scalp occurs and what it looks like
Dr Nisha Suyien Chandran, head and senior consultant of the National University Hospital’s dermatology division says, “Oily scalp occurs in the condition known as seborrheic dermatitis. It occurs due to the combination of hypersecretion of sebum or oil, the proliferation of various species of the skin commensal fungus, Malassezia, variations in the skin barrier, and localised inflammation of the scalp.” This results in scalp that feels greasy, and looks coated in oil which can make the hair also appear “flatter or more matted.”
What are the lifestyle and environmental factors that exacerbate oily scalp?
Genetics aside, factors such as stress, sweating and occlusion from wearing caps and head wraps are some of the lifestyle factors that exacerbate oily scalp, according to Dr Chandran. And with Singapore experiencing an average annual relative humidity of 83.9 per cent according to the Meteorological Service Singapore, it’s hard to ignore the fact that environmental factors such as “low humidity in winter [when travelling] or high humidity found in tropical climates like that of Singapore and Southeast Asia” also aggravate the scalp, says Dr Chandran. Dr Teo Wan Lin, dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre says, “The skin and the scalp have to deal with a lot of inflammation on a daily basis because it is exposed to the external environment.” Sun and UV exposure “which is considered an immunosuppressant [and] environmental pollutants collectively cause free radical damage to the skin,” says Dr Teo. Similarly, she says, our scalp is subject to the same aggressors. “In an individual who is consuming a lot of antioxidants in their diet (which tend to be plant derived), versus an individual who does not incorporate antioxidant-rich food in their diet, the former will be better equipped to fight off these external aggressors.”
Wing Choong, L’Oreal Professionnel’s education director, shares other internal factors include hormonal balances linked to “stress, pregnancy or even menopause.” For Choong, oily scalp and lifeless hair can sometimes even be attributed to selecting the wrong shampoo or haircare range, including products that are simply too rich for the scalp, infrequent washing, “applying styling products [such as serum and wax] too close to the scalp.
Can I leave my oily scalp untreated?
“An oily scalp on its own leads to irritation, discomfort, and less aesthetically pleasing hair,” says Dr Chandran. But does it lead to hair loss? “It does not cause hair loss. If left untreated and if severe, however, the inflammation can lead to hair loss. This can occur gradually or manifest as red, bald patches. An oily scalp can also be associated with folliculitis of the scalp, this is manifested as papules and ‘pimple’-like pustules on the scalp.” For Choong, “a healthy scalp needs a balance of moisture and sebum” like the skin on our face and body. “If left untreated, scalp will first start to feel irritated and itchy. The scalp will also emit a bad odour.” Thankfully achieving consistently clean, rebalanced and healthy scalp is as easy as a good wash. Here are our top picks for clarifying shampoos and scalp-regenerating treatments to help manage oily scalp. And if you’re a hijabi, your scalp and tresses might need extra TLC under your tudung.
1 / 5
René Furterer Curbicia Lightness Regulating Shampoo
With its intoxicating scent of stimulating rosemary, thyme, clove and orange essential oils, you’re going to want to use this toe-curlingly delightful shampoo on the daily, but French hair experts René Furterer recommend enjoying this up to twice a week as a weekly treatment shampoo. It contains Curbicia, a patented active ingredient derived from hydrolysing pumpkin seeds which is three times more effective in reducing sebum. Curbicia shampoo deeply cleanses the scalp, eliminating excess oil to help hair regain its natural bounce and radiance.
René Furterer Curbicia Shampoo, $39.80 for 150ml; available at Guardian
2 / 5
Klorane Anti-Pollution Detox Shampoo with Aquatic Mint
We defy you to find anything more exhilarating than this mojito of a shampoo—especially on warm Singapore days. Geared at removing pollutants and impurities for more rebalanced scalp, this detoxifying shampoo contains organically grown aquatic mint for airy, stimulated, and totally refreshed scalp with every wash. And if you’ve coloured and highlighted hair, fret not: this is one clarifying shampoo that’s compatible with your colour-treated hair.
Klorane Anti-Pollution Detox Shampoo with Aquatic Mint, $18.90 for 400ml; available at Watson’s
3 / 5
L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Citramine Pure Resource Oil Controlling Purifying Shampoo
Citramine and vitamin E offer oily scalp and dirty hair a new lease on life. It is formulated to remove dirt, residue and product build-up to leave scalp feeling clean, comfortable, and nourished. For this reason, it’s a win for those who love styling their hair with heavy waxes or hair serums. Use as a daily shampoo or treat when your hair is crying for a good clean. “For those with oily scalp, cleanliness of the scalp is important. Due to the over-secretion of sebum on the head, the hydrolipidic film balance of moisture and oil will be affected. It may lead to bacteria growth on the scalp, which therefore leads to dandruff or even hair loss,” says L’Oréal Professionnel’s Wing Choong.
L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Citramine Pure Resource Oil Controlling Purifying Shampoo, $29 for 500ml; available at S.H.S The Hair Salon
4 / 5
KMS Headremedy Deep Cleanse Shampoo
Any great hair style begins with a healthy foundation, and this line was created specifically to improve scalp problems including oily scalp. This refreshing grapefruit-scented treat makes for a great first cleanse to deeply remove buildup and product residue, hard water, minerals and pollutants while being gentle and soothing enough for irritated scalp and for daily use.
KMS Headremedy Deep Cleanse Shampoo, $32 for 300ml; available at Evolve
5 / 5
Kérastase Specifique Renewing Cream Gel Treatment Mask
We love a good scalp and hair mask, but it can be a challenge finding the time to slow down and enjoy one. Thankfully this 3-minute leave-in mask hydrates and soothes the scalp, enhancing skin’s quality and resilience especially when experiencing oily and dry concerns. Ingredients such as L-Carnosine, an antioxidant, helps prevent damage from external triggers such as pollution, cigarette smoke or UV damage. Scalp is rebalanced, nourished, and left soothed with hair soft and light after every treatment. It helps treat a melange of concerns such as oily roots, dandruff, irritated and itchy scalp as well as hair-loss concerns.
Kerastase Specifique Renewing Cream Gel Treatment Mask, $74 for 200ml; available at Sephora