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Everyone has dealt with greasy hair at least once — and has probably been annoyed by it.
But what if there were a way to get rid of grease for good? According to some beauty fans, there may be, and it’s called hair training.
The idea isn’t exactly new, but it’s been gaining popularity in recent years, especially as the “no poo” movement has picked up steam.
Hair training is a way of cutting back on using shampoo to help cut down on oils, as ingredients in shampoo can create buildup and grease.
While the idea of weaning yourself off frequent shampooing — which is what hair training is all about — may not be something some of us are comfortable doing, there are a few things you can do to make hair less greasy over time.
“Hair training” or “scalp training” is the act of “training” your hair to only need to be washed once a week or never.
The thinking is that the additives in conventional shampoos dry out strands, so by cutting back on washing, your hair will get back to its natural, healthy self.
“Hair training involves the goal of making the hair less oily — including the scalp,” says formulation chemist Tonya S. Lane, who specializes in natural hair care.
Not every expert is convinced: Dr. Trefor Evans, cosmetic chemist and director of research at TRI-Princeton, claims that hair training is just another beauty trend backed by absolutely no scientific data.
“I think the first thing to think about when you think about oily hair is the buildup of natural sebum on the surface of the hair and the scalp,” he says. “Inside every follicle on your head is something called the sebaceous gland that secretes out onto your scalp and hair.”
“There is this thought process that [sebum is] a natural conditioner, but it’s being produced all the time,” Evans says. “So, left to run to its own extent, it will build up and make your hair feel kind of oily. It’s part of the natural physiology of your body, so you can’t really impact that.”
However, shampooing less often isn’t necessarily harmful, so if you’re interested in giving it a shot, read on to find the best tips for your hair type.
The truth is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this.
How often you wash your hair largely depends on your hair type and the amount of sebum your scalp naturally produces, which varies from person to person.
While daily shampooing isn’t ideal for most hair types — curly textures especially — the amount of sebum that your scalp creates does heavily depend on genetics and your natural physiology.
But many stylists believe that how often you shampoo your hair — depending on your hair type — can actually help reduce oil buildup while avoiding doing any harm or drying out your hair’s natural and necessary oils.
“Hair training is implementing a shampoo and being diligent with it. This actually works by shampooing less so you do not dry out your scalp,” says hair stylist, curl expert, and owner of 5 Salon Spa Ona Diaz-Santin (also known as The Hair Saint).
“The right term that should be used is ‘training the sebaceous gland,’ since it starts there and slides down to the hair strands,” she says.
For folks who wash their hair five times per week or more, Diaz-Santin recommends taking things slow. Try going down to four times a week, then gradually down to three times, then twice a week, and see how that works for you.
She also recommends avoiding hot water when you shower, because that could also dry out your scalp — and trigger the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum.
If, after a few weeks, you don’t notice a difference, then washing only one to two times a week might not work for you.
The kind of shampoo you use also matters.
Shampoos with harsh detergents can dry out any scalp and lead to an overactive scalp that results in the production of more sebum.
Opt for a mild to gentle shampoo, like Bumble and Bumble Gentle Shampoo. It offers a deep clean but is formulated with avocado oil to help your scalp and hair retain moisture.
Also consider scalp treatments, like the Moroccanoil Oily Scalp Treatment or Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment.
Diaz-Santin insists that hair training can work for most textures, especially if you implement and maintain a proper and consistent routine. She advises that after two to three months of the same routine, your hair will eventually adjust.
But for many people with naturally curly or coily hair textures, daily washing is already a thing of the past.
“This is because it is more challenging for the sebum of the scalp to travel down curly hair textures versus those with straighter or fine hair,” Lane explains.
How often should I wash my hair if I have natural hair?
Typically, those with curly hair shouldn’t wash their hair more than one to two times per week. But natural curls also vary in texture and pattern as well.
Some people with thinner textures and looser curl patterns might opt for a shampoo that lathers but is still hydrating, like Rizos Curls Hydrating Shampoo, twice a week.
Others with thicker, coarser, and kinkier textures may benefit more from washing once a week with a cleansing conditioner or co-wash — a hair cleanser that cleanses and conditions hair but usually doesn’t lather — like As I Am Coconut Cleansing Conditioner.
Celebrity hair stylist Tym Wallace believes the idea of hair training doesn’t really apply to curly textures at all.
“This doesn’t make sense for natural hair since a lot of my natural clients use a lot of products. Sometimes you don’t have to shampoo your hair as much, and their oils are good for their hair. They also use natural oils in their hair. They aren’t training their hair because they need the oils and products in their hair,” he says.
Can hair training work with thin hair?
Wallace feels that people with wavy to straight and thin and medium hair could actually benefit from shampooing more. It’s all about selecting a shampoo that’s going to thoroughly cleanse without drying out the scalp.
Try Dove Clarify & Hydrate Shampoo, which contains charcoal to wash away product build-up and leave your hair with a squeaky clean feeling – without drying it out.
Wallace suggests following up with a hydrating conditioner. “Always remember to avoid conditioning the roots, because if you don’t, it’ll help produce the oils much faster,” he says.
If you have thin or thinning hair that’s easily weighed down by natural oils, Diaz-Santin suggests washing your hair twice a week with cooler water and avoiding heavy hair care and hair styling products with too much oils.
If you’re cutting back on shampooing but also want to avoid excessive oil buildup, Diaz-Santin recommends cutting back on heat styling as often as you realistically can.
“Heat promotes oil, so if it’s touching your scalp, this will be a trigger,” she says.
But if not heat styling isn’t an option for you, consider a good dry shampoo that’s going to help you stretch out your time between washes and boost volume, like Dove Refresh + Care Volume & Fullness Dry Shampoo.
You also want to make sure you’re using your dry shampoo on time and properly: Apply it while your hair is still clean, by day two or day three. If you wait until your hair is already too greasy, it’s not going to work.
There are also dry shampoos specifically designed for curly-haired people, like the Cantu Cleanse Dry Co-Wash, which is an apple cider vinegar-based dry co-wash.
Making sure to avoid ends, simply spray and massage a little onto your scalp between washes if you feel your scalp and crown area getting greasy.
And remember that dry shampoo doesn’t actually replace traditional shampoo (at some point, you’ll have to wash your hair again).
Because color-treated hair trends to be drier, Wallace suggests that folks who dye their hair not shampoo daily or too often. “Most women that color their hair don’t shampoo as often anyway because they’d like to preserve their color,” he says.
“I recommend using a sulfate-free color treatment system, such as Dove Color Protect Shampoo and Conditioner,” Wallace recommends. It’s formulated with keratin-repair actives that work to deeply nourish and repair hair while keeping the color protected and vibrant.
It’s clear that “hair training” isn’t for everybody. But fortunately, there are ways to keep greasy hair at bay without damaging or drying out your strands. It’s all about creating a routine and finding products that work for your individual needs.
If you believe that your oily hair could be a result of health or hormonal issues, make sure to consult with your doctor or dermatologist before adopting a new routine or trying new products.
Johanna Ferreira is a writer and journalist. She’s the former deputy editor of HipLatina and is currently freelance writing. Her storytelling is centered around Latina womanhood, culture, identity, race, and beauty and wellness often covered from a sociocultural perspective. She has been published in O, The Oprah Magazine, Well + Good, Pop Sugar, Mitú, and Soko Glam’s The Klog. You can find her on Instagram.