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When you’re dealing with oily strands, hair washing is a daily activity. Mayyyybe, if you’re super lucky and load up on tons (and we mean tons) of dry shampoo, you can get away with skipping a day. Maybe. While there’s some debate as to whether or not daily sudsing is a good move, or if you should try to stretch out washes in order to ‘retrain’ your scalp, one thing is for certain: Whenever you do wash, it’s in your best interest to use a shampoo specially formulated for oily hair.
Typically lighter and containing a lower concentration of rich, hydrating ingredients, these instead focus on removing excess grease—and product residue, from all that dry shampoo—to leave your mane looking and feeling fresh and clean. Similarly, they usually contain more or stronger detergents (yes, like sulfates) and/or exfoliating ingredients to better help rid the scalp of excess oil, notes Hannah Draeger, stylist at One10 Beauty in Nashville.
Keep reading to see the best shampoos for oily hair.
Best Overall: L'Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Clay Shampoo
Absorbs oil and purifies scalp with clay
Hydrates the lengths of the hair
You’ve likely seen clay in face masks geared toward oily skin, but the ingredient can have similar benefits in haircare. More specifically, this shampoo relies on three different types of clay to absorb oil and purify roots. We know, that kind of sounds like a recipe for ending up with dry, stripped strands, but on the contrary—it’s specially formulated to keep the lengths of your hair nice and hydrated.
Hair Type: Oily, Dry | Sulfate-Free: No | Scent: Fresh | Size: 12.6 fl oz
Best Budget: Neutrogena Anti-Residue Clarifying Shampoo
Clarifying formula removes buildup and residue
Gently exfoliates scalp with grapefruit extract
May leave the hair slightly dry
This newbie has a clarifying formula, and relies on grapefruit extract for an ever-so-mild exfoliating action (always a good thing if you have a greasy scalp). But don’t worry, it’s still nice and gentle, free of parabens and two of the most common sulfates found in shampoos. We’d be remiss not to mention the citrusy, grapefruit scent too, a refreshing pick-me-up on sleepy mornings.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: No | Size: 6 fl oz or 12 fl oz
Best Drugstore: OGX Weightless Hydration Coconut Water Shampoo
Lightweight, residue-free formula
Hydrates with coconut water
Free of silicones and heavy butters
May leave the hair slightly dry
Byrdie’s Editorial and Strategy Director Kathryn Vandervalk sings the praises of this lighter-than-air formula. Rather than relying on heavy silicones and or butters, it boasts lightweight coconut water to impart just the right amount of moisture (because even if your roots get oily, your ends still need hydration). Couple that with a residue-free formula and it’s a solid drugstore choice for anyone with oily hair.
Hair Type: Dry | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Size: 13 fl oz
What Our Editors Say
"This formula is one of my drugstore staples. It's sulfate-free, so I know it won't strip my hair and cause me to produce more oil, but it still leaves me with that squeaky-clean feeling. I have an oily scalp, and dry shampoo is a must for me too, but this leaves me with the perfect canvas to extend my style for days." — Kathryn Vandervalk, Editorial & Strategy Director
Best Preventative: Paul Mitchell Shampoo Two
Removes oil buildup with jojoba leaf extract and white ginger
Minimizes future oil production
May leave fine hair limp or dry
This pick earns our vote for working in two different ways. Formulated with jojoba leaf extract and white ginger, it not only removes unwanted oil pretty much right away but also helps to minimize future oil production to tamp down greasiness over time. It’s color-safe, too, and leaves hair super shiny and voluminous.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: No | Scent: Lemon | Size: 16.9 fl oz
FYI, how you use these shampoos matters, too. “Really focus on working the shampoo into the scalp and roots, since the mid-lengths and ends need less cleansing,” explains Susan Ford, Master Stylist and Creative Director at Asha Salon Spa in Chicago. Additionally, spend a little extra time under the water to ensure you thoroughly rinse out your shampoo.
Best Clarifying: WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo
Uses natural ingredients
Leaves hair shiny
Is there anything apple cider vinegar (ACV) can’t do? When it comes to your scalp and strands, it’s choice for deeply detoxifying and balancing pH levels to help keep both healthy. It’s also a great astringent, helping to minimize excess oil. This formula uses a raw and natural apple cider vinegar to do all of the above and is also free of parabens and sulfates.
Hair Type: Dry | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Sweet Apple, Coconut | Size: 16.9 fl oz
What Our Testers Say
"I was a fan of the results I got from the WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo. I did pair it with the recommended conditioner, which includes coconut oil and avocado oil, and I found that my hair was shinier, smoother, and healthier-feeling the next day." — Leigh Weingus, Product Tester
Runner-Up, Best Clarifying: Davines SOLU Shampoo
Clarifies and removes product buildup
Extra foamy lather
Subtle earthy scent
A bit pricey
This is a favorite of Karli Bendlin, Byrdie’s Email Editor. Extra foamy, those who love lather will appreciate the airy feel, and it’s that foaming action that also effectively clarifies your scalp and hair, removing every last bit of oil and product residue. So much so, that it’s even recommended to be used to prep hair before a perm.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Size: 8.45 fl oz
Best Sulfate-Free: Drunk Elephant Cocomino Glossing Shampoo
Uses coconut-based surfactants to cleanse and remove buildup
Lathers beautifully sans sulfates
Leaves hair soft and shiny
Can be slightly drying
The truth of the matter is that many clarifying shampoos for oily hair rely on a good amount of sulfates; they’re the detergent-esque soaps that work to effectively de-grease. That being said, they can be very harsh and stripping (not to mention are a no-no for those with colored hair for said reason).
If you’re searching for a sulfate-free option, try this guy, a go-to for Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue. Rather than using sulfates, it relies on coconut-based surfactants to do the hard-hitting cleansing, removing dirt, products, and oil, while imparting plenty of softness and shine. Plus, unlike many other sulfate-free shampoos, this still lathers beautifully.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Fragrance-Free | Size: 8 fl oz
Best Natural: Reverie Shampoo
Super clean ingredient list
Gentle enough for daily use
Essential oil-derived fragrance may irritate sensitive scalps
Xue says this sudser is a good pick for those with oily hair, not to mention that it also boasts a squeaky clean ingredient list. Even the fragrance is completely natural, derived from essential oils. It’s cleansing yet hydrating, gentle enough for daily use, and works well on all hair textures. In short, it’s a universally foolproof pick.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Neroli, pink grapefruit, jasmine, sandalwood, and bourbon vanilla | Size: 8 fl oz
Best Cleansing Oil: Shu Uemura Art of Hair Cleansing Oil Shampoo
Purifies hair with volcanic-derived ingredients
Transforms from oil to luscious foam
Leaves hair soft and shiny, not oily
A bit pricey
Don’t be put off by the word "oil" in the name of this shampoo; according to Byrdie Senior Editor Hallie Gould, it is in fact a top pick for those dealing with oily hair. The featherweight formula boasts volcanic-derived ingredients, known for their purifying properties. Even though it starts as an oil, it quickly transforms into a luscious foam that’s great for all hair textures, from stick straight to crazy curly.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Size: 4.7 fl oz
Best for Fine Hair: Pantene Pro-V Blends Micellar Shampoo
Lightweight formula won’t weigh down fine hair
Micellar technology leaves hair clean, not stripped
Fine hair and oily hair go hand-in-hand: “Finer hair and hair with less texture tends to show the effects of oil more,” says Ford. Adding insult to injury, fine hair is also more likely to get weighed down by the heavy moisturizing ingredients in many shampoos. If you’re dealing with greasy, limp locks, seeking out formulas that are lighter and clearer (versus thicker and milkier looking) is a good move.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: No | Size: 10.1 fl oz
Best for Dandruff: Head & Shoulders Paraben Free Instant Oil Control Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Contains pyrithione zinc to fight flakes and dandruff
Specially formulated to minimize excess oil
Dandruff is a complicated condition with a variety of factors that come into play. But to put it simply, oil is one of the major factors, and those dealing with dandruff often tend to have an oilier scalp and hair as well. Enter this shampoo, which uses pyrithione zinc (one of the best flake-fighting ingredients there is) and is specially formulated to also minimize excess oil, leaving the hair clean (not stripped!) and flake-free.
Hair Type: Dandruff | Sulfate-Free: No | Scent: Citrus | Size: 13.5 fl oz
Best for a Combination Scalp: SheaMoisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Deep Cleansing Shampoo
Detoxifies the scalp while dissolving oil
Balances and soothes with tea tree oil
Great for waves, curls, and coils
May be slightly drying on ends
Just like you can have combination skin, you can also have a combination scalp. (Telltale signs included both oily and dry patches, or having either one at different times of the year.) When that’s the case, you want a shampoo that’s going to effectively remove the excess oil, but not make any dryness worse—this one does exactly that. Along with detoxifying charcoal, it also contains willow bark extract, a natural precursor to oil-dissolving salicylic acid. And for the dry parts, there’s balancing and skin-soothing tea tree oil.
Hair Type: Curly | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Essential Oils | Size: 13 fl oz
Best Shampoo Alternative: Girl+Hair Clarifying Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
Natural formula uses ACV to remove oil and buildup
Balances the pH of hair and scalp
Strengthens and detangles with rice water
If you’re trying to stretch out the time in between shampoos, but dry shampoo just isn’t cutting it, try this rinse instead. You use it like you would a shampoo, though rather than being detergent-based, it instead relies on purifying ACV to remove oil and product build-up. It balances the pH of both your hair and scalp, contains rice water with strengthening proteins, and works as an effective detangler, too.
Hair Type: Wavy/Curly/Chemically Treated | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Apple | Size: 10.1 fl oz
For anyone and everyone with oily hair, the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Clay Shampoo is a surefire pick, boasting three different types of clay that work wonders when it comes to sopping up excess oil from the start. It’s just one of many affordable options that work wonders when it comes to deep cleansing greasy hair; we’re also big fans of the Neutrogena Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo with Pink Grapefruit, OGX Weightless Hydration Coconut Water Shampoo, and Pantene Pro-V Blends Micellar Shampoo. (The latter is also great for those with fine strands.) And if you’re battling both excess oil and flakes, try the cult-classic, Head & Shoulders Paraben Free Instant Oil Control Anti-Dandruff Shampoo.
What to Look for In a Shampoo for Oily Hair
Clarifying or Rebalancing Formulas
This terminology indicates that the shampoo contains higher amounts of cleansing and/or exfoliating ingredients, which ultimately will help better rid your scalp of excess oil, says Draeger.
While you can totally go sulfate-free if you prefer, this is one instance where a shampoo that does contains sulfates may be a good idea, simply given that they're better at providing a deep clean, says Ford.
How much shampoo should you use on oily hair?
The correct amount of shampoo varies depending on your hair length, but getting it right is crucial so you end up with clean hair and minimal product waste. Use this visual guide: those with short hair should use a nickel-sized amount; for medium hair, aim for a quarter; and for long or thick hair, use a half-dollar amount.
How often should you wash oily hair?
Are sulfate-free shampoos good on oily hair?
Despite their squeaky-clean feeling, shampoos with sulfates can strip your hair over time, resulting in more oily strands. This means that sulfate-free shampoos can actually improve the condition of oily hair—celebrity hairstylist Laura Polko recommends finding a clarifying option, which controls oil without the consequences of sulfates.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Her hair is both fine and oily (as in, she has to wash it every day kind of oily), so she’s extremely familiar with and has used many of the oily shampoos on the market. Among the ones on this list, the Pantene and Drunk Elephant options are currently in her shower.