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I Tried Oil Training My Hair, Here’s What Happened

If you have excessively oily hair, the kind that looks and feels greasy less than 24 hours after washing it, then you know how frustrating it can be to manage. You likely schedule activities around your hair washing routine, have spent hundreds of dollars testing out every dry shampoo on the market, and have begged your hairstylist for tips and tricks on how to remedy it. After years of experiencing this all myself, I decided it was time to try something I had heard about many times, but had avoided due to the discomfort I knew it would put me through: oil training.  

What is Oil Training? 

Before I dive into my experience with oil training, let’s talk about what it is exactly. Oil training is pretty much what it sounds like—it’s the process of training your hair to produce less oil. While it might sound counterintuitive, the idea behind this technique is that washing your hair less often actually lessens your oil production. This is done by gradually shampooing less frequently with the goal of being able to go comfortably at least a few days or even a week without washing. I had heard about this approach from friends, stylists and countless articles, and despite hearing mixed opinions on the validity of it as well as varied experiences, I decided to give it a shot. 

My Oil Training Game Plan 

Prior to beginning this experiment, I washed my hair every night with the exception of perhaps one night a week if I had no plans the following day and could afford to be a greasy mess. I have fine hair, meaning that while I have a lot of it, the individual strands are thin. My hair is also incredibly frizzy and of course, oily—truly a winning combination, I know. This means that not only do I have to wash my hair frequently, but I also have to use hot tools to combat frizz, which leads to serious heat damage and split ends on my fragile strands. All of my high maintenance hair traits considered, I planned to start out by shampooing every other day, being sure to continue using heat protectant and opting for dry shampoo on the days I couldn’t wash. Depending on how that routine went, I would try to build up to washing every third day, and so on.

The Result  

I anticipated that the first few weeks of washing every other day would be pretty miserable, and I was right. My scalp looked and felt incredibly oily, my nicely curled hair went limp, and by the end of the second day, my hair was so heavy at the roots that it was physically uncomfortable. I decided to stick with it in hopes that I would see the positive results that I’d heard others had. Sadly, after a long, difficult six months of being fiercely committed to washing my hair every other day (even trying every third day thanks to quarantine), there was no change. My hair was as greasy as ever, and my excessive use of dry shampoo made for major scalp buildup. Not to be dramatic, but I was devastated. 

What I Learned From Oil Training My Hair   

My failed attempt at oil training my greasy hair left me confused and in part a bit concerned. Why had this technique worked for so many people and yet I saw no change at all? Was there something wrong with the health of my scalp? I decided to do some research. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the sebaceous glands which produce oil on your scalp are controlled by hormones, and how often you wash your hair does not affect the production of oil. The American Academy of Dermatology even says that one way to keep oily hair healthy is to wash it more, perhaps as often as once daily. My takeaway from this research combined with my personal experience is that it can’t hurt to try oil training, but manage your expectations. Perhaps this technique works for some people, but for those with naturally very oily scalps, just continue with a hair care routine that works best for you—whatever that may be. 

My Current Oily Hair Care Routine  

I’ve since gone back to washing my hair as often as I feel is necessary. If my hair feels like it’s on the brink of being greasy, but I can stretch it a bit longer, I reach for the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Air Volume Dry Shampoo. It’s lightweight and very lightly scented, which I prefer. Because I heat style my hair almost daily, I apply the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Heat Styler Pre-Iron Spray Leave-In which protects my hair against heat damage up to 450°F. I finish it off by applying the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Oil Treatment from my mid lengths down (not on the roots) in order to hydrate and tame the dryness and frizz at my ends as well as to help mend any damage. I’ve come to terms with having oily hair. In all of this I found a routine that works for me and now I just giggle when my friends suggest that I wash my hair too often. 

Photo Credit: Alyssa Kaplan

Next: What Shampoo Should You Use Based On Your Hair Type?

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