So you're one of the many people with a combination hair crisis and you don't know how to care for your hair. Your scalp is oily and super-sebaceous, but your hair remains dry as a bone. It's a particularly common problem for those of us with long hair or curly and frizzy hair, or for those of us who overwash, which is practically all of us!
The first thing you need to realize when learning how to care for combination hair is that our body has a natural way of fending off dryness in the hair. It's called sebum! Sebum is the oil secreted from your scalp. Ideally, sebum would suffice in your efforts to combat dry hair, while at the same time not flow so prodigiously that it renders your hair totally greasy. Sometimes, for reasons within or beyond our control, that ideal escapes us. But if you have combination hair and want to normalize it to prevent the oiliness and dryness all in one fell swoop, consider the following hair care tips.
- Washing. It comes as little surprise that recommended washing habits for dry hair are different than for oily hair. But ignoring this fact is often what leads us to difficulty with our hair in the first place. You've no doubt seen the wide array of shampoos aimed at different hair types. It's tempting to just nuke our oily hair with the harshest shampoo possible, while lubricating our dry hair with tons of oil. Watch your step though, because both measures could do more harm than good.
- For oily hair. Don't use the strongest, most severe shampoo possible. Wiping away all of your sebum and drying out the scalp will only be temporary; your scalp, sensing its dryness, will just produce more sebum to make up the difference.
Really oily hair can be washed every day, and the scalp should be kept clean. The best bet for your oily scalp-area hair is to massage regular shampoo (none of those shampoo-conditioner combos) into it, cleaning the hair closest to your scalp in the process. Avoid the dry lengths of hair as you do this. You can even let it sit on your scalp for a few minutes. Be sure to rinse completely when you're done!
- Dry hair washing. Why not wash all of your hair at the same time? One of the best hair care tips is that dry hair doesn't have to be washed every day. In fact, it shouldn't be washed nearly so frequently. Overwashing is very likely one of the reasons for the partial dryness in your combination hair. Reduce your dry hair washing to only a few times a week, and use a gentle shampoo that contains humectants. These humectants attract moisture and, at the same time, keep the moisture in your hair. Also look for shampoos that contain acidifiers, which will help to repair every damaged cuticle (outer protective layer on a hair), further enabling your hair to recover from dryness.
Apply conditioner to the dry part of your hair every time you wash, being careful not to rub any near your scalp.
- Replacing the sebum. One reason for the dryness in the outer extremities of your hair is lack of sebum, so this lack needs to be addressed. Whether because of excessive heat, washing or just the curly nature of your hair, the sebum isn't extending from root to tip as it ideally would. To reduce the dryness in your combination hair, find an oil in natural hair products that will fill in for the absent sebum - one that behaves similarly to the sebum in our hair. Non-essential oils will just coat the cuticle, keeping moisture locked out. Get your hands on some Jojoba oil, an excellent oil that can imitate sebum in your hair and penetrate the cuticles. Use only a few drops and spread it throughout the tips and dry parts of your hair (your scalp doesn't need more oil!).
- Heat. Heat is an enemy of moisture and enough of it will lead to dry hair, split ends, and other damage. Since moisture is something your hair currently lacks (sebum isn't moisture), reducing your hair's exposure to heat will help cure it of its dryness. Curling irons and flatirons will also dry out your hair. Even the sun does damage! The good news? All of these are avoidable to a certain extent. Try blow-drying your hair less, or not at all. If you have to use a hair dryer, choose a lower setting. If you're going out in the sun, use a conditioner that has sunscreen in it. Your hair will thank you!
- Hormones and nutrition. We can control sebum to some small extent as well. As teenagers, our hormones just naturally cause the scalp to secrete more of this oil. But you're not totally powerless. Aside from using different products and adjusting your grooming habits to reduce oily hair near the scalp, you can also adjust your diet rather than using natural hair products. Is it a surprise that a diet high in oily food and grease will result in a scalp filled with sebum? Cause and consequence, my friends! Drinking more water, eating more fruits and veggies, and consuming fewer alcoholic beverages can all reduce the amount of sebum your scalp produces, helping to solve half of your combination hair problem. What's more, the extra water you drink will help to heal that dry hair at the same time.
- Hands off. Don't scratch your head so much - even if, like me, you're constantly perplexed. The more you touch your scalp, the more grease you deposit into your hair there. The skin of our hands is naturally greasy (and dirty) too. You wouldn't want to throw more oil on that oily scalp, would you? If you have to touch a scalp, then touch someone else's. But remember, they'll only be adding more oil to your face when they slap it.
- Chemical hair treatments. Ever wonder what it would be like to have just one hair condition to handle - oily or dry? Perhaps the true culprit for your combination hair is a perm or coloring. These chemical treatments can dry hair out in a serious way. If you stay away from those treatments for a while, applying humectant-rich shampoos and occasional oil to the dry reaches of hair, you might see that dryness disappear.
Don't lose sight of that ideal hair - it is still within your grasp! Remove the dryness, and you'll still have the oily scalp. Fight off the oily scalp, and your life is still plagued by dry hair. Tackle them both with a combination of good nutrition, the right products and a change of grooming. Oily and dry are not a winning combination. Turn the combo into consistent, healthy hair.