Avatar universal

Sticky / Oily / Greasy scalp?!?

I have an weird sticky substance in my hair that NOTHING will get rid of and it's extremely frustrating.  About a month ago i noticed after i got out of the shower and blow dried my hair that the hair at the crown of my head was very oily and sticky (but ONLY at the crown of my head). At first i thought i forgot to wash the conditioner out so the next night I scrubbed thoroughly, but once again the stickiness was still there.  Then i bought a few different brands of clarifying shampoo (thinking it was build-up) and still the same thing.  The oil is def coming from my scalp because at the same time that this happened I started breaking out with acne really bad.  I'm 27 years old and have not broken out this bad since puberty.  Very strange.  So i went to the extremes of trying baking soda, lemon juice, listerine, medicated shampoos, even dawn (for it's grease cutting abilities) and NOTHING gets this substance out of my hair.  It's driving me crazy to the point that i asked my dermatologist to put me on accutane to stop oil secretions.  Has anyone experienced this problem before, and if so, do you know of anything that will get my scalp back to normal.  PS - it has nothing to do with my diet, because i eat extremely healthy and always have.
328 Responses
Avatar universal
I have this same exact problem.  My doctor put me on acutane too because right around when i got the stickiness of the scalp i started getting bad acne too.  My sticky hair went away while i was taking acutane but came back a couple months after I stopped taking acutane.  It is an extremley frustrating problem. I found the thing that helps for a couple to few weeks is dying my hair and/or getting a scalp treatment at the hair salon.  Let me know if you find a remedy that works on a daily basis!
Avatar universal
Thank you for replying!  Did your doctor tell you what might be causing it??  I've found ways to "manage" it but not to cure it.  Until i start the accutane I've been shampooing with Palmolive.  I know it sounds funny but it's the only thing that was able to break up the residue around the crown of my head - i usually do two rinses with palmolive (around the crown) and then use a clarifying shampoo on the rest of my head.  The only thing is i have to deep condition every time because it's very drying to my hair.  I wanted to ask you, i kind of have two theories of why this may be happening...around the time it started did you notice that you were eating more candy / sweets than usual?  I noticed that it started around the holidays when i was eating more junk food and sugar so i'm trying to cut back on sugar to see if that helps - also i was thinking that it might have something to do with the extreme cold - did you get any of these symptoms over the summer?  Let me know if you have any other tricks or if you find a more permanent solution.

Avatar universal
i had the same problem for almost two weeks, i tried using different kinds of shampoos but it didnt work, i even changed the pillow cases everyday thinking that might help..but still the problem was never solved..it was so frustrating..

but today as i was going through some website i read and article that said to mix 1/2 cup of vinegar with 1/3 water and rub it on the scalp and leave it for 5 minutes then shampoo and rinse..
so i gave it a try.i had no choice..and for my surprise it WORKED!!!!
i dont know if it works with everyone..but why not try it and figure out..
Avatar universal

I have been reading these threads for 5 days, experiencing the same "out of the blue "p problems and was getting very frustrated that everyone had suggestions, but no one said what actually worked.

I did the Vinegar clarify recipe above and it took all the greasy, stickiness out immediatley. I just did it 15 minutes ago, so no idea yeat how it will hold up over time, or if I will have to make vinegar part of the routine.
Avatar universal
The reason I think the  vinager might work is because it is not only acidic but it is a natural anit fungal. Read up on Scalp Fungas and I think you will find the key to your issues. I am a hairdresser and find so often people can and do get a fungas in the warmer reagions of there head due to sweat , or not drying there hair , high humidity. To the woman that found it in the crown of there head i would like to ask if you were in the habit of wearing a pony tail ? Closing off the breathing ability of that affected area to help make a breading ground for a fungas [email protected] is my e mail and would like some feed back if an anti- fungal helps.
Avatar universal
I have the same problem with the sticky, waxy, greasy hair on the crown of my head. I've also been reading different posts on the internet. I don't use any hair products except nice & easy to color my hair and shampoo and creme rinse.

I've noticed that it happens to my hair in the spring, and eventually subsides. I also tried a variety of shampoos (including medicated) and they didn't work.  I did read about the vinegar and water treatment and I'm so glad others have posted that it works! I'm going to try it tomorrow!

For nsummer, I have long hair and I never put it up in a ponytail. After doing some research, I believe it is an over production and build up of sebum on the scalp.   I have had acne problems,  have rosacea, and my skin and hair is very oily. I found balancing shampoos on line that are supposed to prevent sebum build up. Aveda is one of them, but I haven't tried it.

Sebum: substance with an oily consistency produced by the sebaceous glands. It lubricates hair, is an antifungal/antibacterial, and imparts waterproofing properties to the skin.

It's a relief to know that I'm not some freak. I thought I was the only one with this hair problem and it's baffled and frustrated me for a long time.

Thank you to everyone for posting on this topic. I will post the results of the vinegar treatment.

Avatar universal

I am the same way - i have acne and an overproduction of oil.  I recently went on accutane and it cleared up the scalp promblem but shortly after i stopped taking the pills my face became extremely oily.  I also experimented with a pill called spironolactone which seemed to supress the oil production by blocking androgen but unfortunately i stopped that too becasue it was giving me heart palpatations...... (sigh)..... i'm looking into a more holistic approach now.

Avatar universal
Hi Jersey,

I know exactly what you're dealing with when it comes to the sticky waxy greasy hair, and it's horrible, frustrating and nobody knows what it is or how to fix it. Trust me; I've been looking for an answer.

I tried the vinegar rinse after shampooing and it didn't work very well. Immediately after, I made it stronger 2/3 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup water and put it in my hair and rubbed it on the sticky spots and all over my scalp. I left it in my hair for 10 minutes and rinsed it out, then used my shampoo and creme rinse;  it made a huge difference. It didn't get all of the stickiness out, but it was about 90% better. I read blondes should use lemon juice and brunettes vinegar because of the effect they both have on a person's hair color.

I also switched to a sulfate and pabin free shampoo - Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat shampoo and creme rinse - you can get it really cheap at Vitacost.com. $4.63. I've used it about 3 times and it's great!I  There's about 125 reviews on the website and they're all positive.

Maybe the combination of the new shampoo with the vinegar rinse made the difference. Have you tired a sulfate free shampoo?

I've had really oily skin and hair since puberty, the rosacea kicked in around my mid-30s.  The best skin treatment I ever had was a pulse light treatment, cleared up the rosacea, acne, oily skin for 4 months. It was the fist time I had clear skin since the age of 12. It was actually weird to see myself in the mirror.

The dermatologist said it would take about 6 treatments for my particular skin and then once a year after to maintain.  I would have completed the treatment but insurance doesn't cover it and I haven't had the money.  I highly recommend it if you can afford to do it. You'll be amazed, not only does it clear up the skin problems but it also zaps fine lines, wrinkles and sun damage as a side benefit. I found the Laser Surgery Center of New Jersey - Dr. Sandy Milgraum - she's been on numerous TV shows so she's looks very reputable. I'm going to call to check the prices. She has a website if you want to look into it.

One thing that I found by accident that really works on my skin is double anti-biotic ointment (helps prevent infection from minor cuts, scrapes and burns) from Rite Aide, it's Rite Aide's brand. I use it every night and I've noticed a huge difference in my skin.  Less breakouts, rosacea is less noticible and if I get a pimple it's smaller and clears up faster. Plus it's dirt cheap and one little tube lasts forever. For the time being, it fits my price range.

If I find another solution for the sticky hair; I'll definitely post it here. I thought about writing to Doctor Nancy Snyderman from the Today Show hoping she would come up with some new information.

Hang in there.
Avatar universal
Thanks for the response Indy.  I actually went to Dr S. Milgraum before.  He (it's a man) is the first person to have put me on accutane when i was 17. Unfortunately he's so sought after he doesn't take insurance.  But my derm now is great because he pretty much puts me on anything i ask him to.  I've been curious about the lazer treatment but thought it would be better suited for someone with just acne and not overproduction of oil.  I figured how can it make oil production less from the skin's surface.  But you're saying that it helped with the oil??  I may have to give that a try.... how much did you pay for your treatment?  at this point i'll try anything.  I'm experimenting with spearmint tea right now.  Its actually pretty gross and it tastes like toothpaste but i've heard that it effects the hormones in a way to block the absorption of androgen in females and hence, lessens oil production and acne and also makes your hair grow better so i'll see if that helps.  I def think my problem is hormonal because of the extreme difference in oil based on my cycle.... not to mention that i had amazing skin before puberty.  I actually use the antibiotic onintment too! funny you should mention that... i guess we both had teh same idea!  You should def write to that Dr.... you never know.  I know that the couple of derms i've been to think i'm crazy..., they say "i don't think your scalp is that oily".... they really have no idea that theres a whole community of people out there with this problem.
Avatar universal
Hi Jersey,

I have great news - I've been using the Giovanni Tee Tree Triple Treat Shampoo and creme rinse for a week and the sticky greasy hair is gone! My hair hasn't looked this good in years. Give it a try!  It's not expensive on Vita.com it's $4.63 each. I purchased mine at Walgreens and it was $8.00 each.

When I had the laster treatment done, it cost $300.00 for a full facial treatment. That was about 5 years ago. I went to see an ocular plastic surgeon/ dermatologist to have a bump removed that was near my eye - Dr. Wulc in Bucks County, PA. Dr. Wulc does all kinds of plastic surgery, but he also specializes in problems near and on the eyes.

  Dr. Wulc was the first one to tell me I had rosacea. I can't tell you how many doctors I asked about the redness of my skin and the broken blood vessels on my nose who told me it was from drinking. The irony of that ridiculous diagnosis is my husband was an alcoholic. I thought I was channeling Dorian Gray, he drank and my blood vessels broke. It just goes to show you how uninformed doctors can be.

Anyway, Dr. Wulc had a technician at his office who did laser treatments. Dr. Wulc also had rosacea (his skin looked perfect) and he said 6 treatments then once a year there after for maintenance. I started the treatments but my finances changed and I had to stop. My skin never looked so good and it was normal for about 4 months. My face looks like I wetted it down with mazola oil about 2 hours after I wash it and put on make up. I blot with tissues all day long. After the treatment, no oil, no acne, the blood vessels were all but gone and the redness gone.  I had normal skin for the first time since puberty. As soon as my finances permit; I won't hesitate to have the treatments done.

I wrote to Dr. Nancy Snyderman from the Today Show about the sticky hair after I wrote it in my comments to you; I'll let you know if I get a response. I'm just amazed the Giovanni shampoo did the trick. Today is the first day my hair is sticky waxy greasy free.  If you give it a shot, let me know if it works for you, too.

Avatar universal
So I had the exact same problem and it is a relief to know that I was not the only one. I came onto this site and tired a few of the remedies. I tired the 1/2 vinegar with 2/3 water. It didn't work at all for me. After I used dish wash soap and I started noticing a difference. I washed my hair with it for twice a day for 2 days and it is 95% gone. The only thing now is that from washing my hair so much my scalp is a bit itchy, but whatever I'd rather have that then sticky hair. I'm going to start using Nizoral shampoo to take the itchiness away plus it is supposed to take the sticky/wax away the pharmacist said to use it 3 times a week and hopefully it will bring my hair back to normal. Do not bother changing shampoos or going out and trying out different products just use the dish wash it will work. Hope this helps!
Avatar universal
Hi guys!  I've been having the same oily crown problem too for about 2 weeks.  It is so weir and SOOOO frusterating!  I tried dish soap, it didn't work.  Mine seems to already be oily withing minutes of my showers.  I can't believe that this hasn't been diagnosed yet.  

I recently changed my birth control pill (2 months ago) to Microgestin.  I am also taking an anti-fungal oral pill (for about 2 months as well) because my toenail fell off and I didn't want to get a fungus.  Its called Terbinafine.  I also take a Kirkland brand multi-vitamin each day.  As far as my diet, well, I started eating a high-protein, lots of fruits & veggies diet about a month ago, but about 2 weeks ago, fell off the wagon.  (lol)  I don't eat "bad" per say, but more junkier than I should.  I am also a senior in college and working towards a double major, which is pretty stressful.  I read that sudden changes like this, is stress related and hormonal.  I was wondering if any of you experienced this.  

Oh, I also had my gallbladder out in 2005.  I found a site that talked about the oily crown issues and found that some people who experience this have had their gallbladders out as well.

As far as my skin goes, well its pretty healthy.  It always has been.  I am 27 and have never really experienced breakouts even to this day.

I would like to try the Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat shampoo, as well as the vinegar remedy to see it it helps.

Does anybody have any feedback on if/how/when their suddenly oily crown problem was corrected???  I am newley engaged and am really scared this will effect my hair on my wedding day.  :'(

Oh, PS.... I noticed a lot of people report this problem in the warmer months.  I am from Washington State and it is the middle of October now that I am experiencing this!  -A friend of mine that is a hair dresser said its from the weather change (warm-cold).  She said its like allergies suddenly developing in life.  She said some people just "develop" a sensetivity to weather and experience this.  

????  So frusterating.  Any and ALL feedback is greatly appreciated!!!
Avatar universal
This happened to me a few months ago. I woke up one day and my usual light, flowy hair was suddenly super sticky and greasy just at the crown of my head. I had done nothing differently and showered like normal the night before. Thinking that my shampoo was doing it, I went out and bought 2 different clarifying shampoos. None of them worked. Then, I remembered that I had once used Selsun Blue shampoo to help cure some skin fungus I had. So I thought, why not? I'll try it out. The first time I used it, it helped ALOT. I used it every day for the first few days, then progressively less and less, until I was down to using it once a week. Once my hair returned to normal, I started using regular shampoo again. HOPE THIS HELPS!!
Avatar universal
I have the same sticky crown problem...I have had this about 5 times over a two year period
The only thing I have fow=und to work so far is a fungal creme my mother had.  I read someplace it was a fungas and I used it .  Just rubbed some on now and will leave it in overnight.

Can you all let me know if you think your hair is thinking out at the back of the crown since you experienced this condition?

Avatar universal
I have the same waxy sticky buildup and am going to do the vinegar, but does it make your hair smell??
Avatar universal

If you wash it out with some shampoo there should be no smell.
Let the vinegar soak before you take a shower... then wash as normal.
Avatar universal
I have this disgusting sticky, oily, waxy hair-on-the-crown-of your head only - PROBLEM too!!  I am so glad I found this website.  It makes me feel less crazy.  

I am going to try the vinegar/water solution first today, and if that doesn't work, I'll try the 4 capfuls of Listerine option next.  

Just for anyone who is trying to research, or just to know... I am a 31 year old female, with long, thick brunette hair.  I am not using a hormonal form of birth control, I use an IUD (intra-uterine device) - that is copper only.  I have no changed my diet significantly, and I believe I eat "moderately" healthy.  Plenty of protein veggies and carbs, and fair share of "bad" foods too.  
I have had occasional, moderate acne for most of my life.  My acne was really bad for the 2 years surrounding my pregnancy.  Now, I only get breakouts usually during my period.  
I have always had a scalp that produced oil enough to need a shower each day, or hair would look just a bit greasy by the 2nd day.

My problem started just a few days ago, in mid-late-December 2009.  I have searched all over online, and this site seems to be the most helpful.

Thank you all for posting, and PLEASE, if anyone finds a better answer from a DERMATOLOGIST, please let us know!  Thanks!!!  
Avatar universal
I noticed that the last time I experienced this was around the "holidays" last year. I was fine for the rest of the year, and now it is coming back again. I figured that it happens around this time because I eat a LOT of sugary foods....you know, parties, people bringing snacks / baked goods / candy in to work. So I skipped all forms of sugar for an entire day and my scalp and face had about 75% less oil than usual when I woke up the next day. I believe this might be a SUGAR induced problem.. Have you been eating more candy than usual lately?
Avatar universal
I am 52 years old and my sticky, greasy hair problem started after I had a sinus infection and was perscribed a Z pack to take.  Two days after I completed the Z pack was when I first noticed my hair problem.  Like many of you, I have scrubbed my hair until my fingers and hand ache.

I am going to try all of your suggestions.  I have already changed my shampoo 4 different time and yet nothing helps.  I am about ready to pull my hair out!!

I will let you all know how your suggestions work.  Thanks for the tips!!
Avatar universal
I had the same awful sticky gross problem and was at my wits end.  I saw the suggestion to use Listerine after washing with a clarifying shampoo on another thread related to sticky/greasy hair.  And IT WORKS!!!!  I had already tried the clarifying shampoo alone, Selsun Blue, baking soda + shampoo, vingar rinse, not washing, washing several times (which made it way worse).  Nothing helped.  Like many of you, my issue came right out of the blue - no changes in diet, products used in my hair, etc.

What I did was I bought a clarifying shampoo from Sally Beauty Supply and bought a big jug of Listerine - the classic kind - its yellow/brownish.  I washed real good with the clarifying shampoo, rinsed well, and then poured 4 or 5 capfuls of the Listerine on the problem area.  I let it set in for a few minutes, massaged it around slightly, and then I rinsed it out.  I did put conditioner on my ends because all this really does a number on your hair.

I don't know how it works, or why it works, but the problem was about 90% better.  The next day I did the same process and it all went away.  FINALLY!!   The third day I went back to regular shampoo and used just one last capful of listerine after washing just for good measure.  The 4th day and since I've been sticking to a good quality shampoo and conditioner.  No further issues.  I should warn that your hair will smell like Listerine when you do this treatment - but it's not that bad, and well worth having "normal" hair back.  And the smell totally washes out once you are done with the Listerine treatment itself.  

Good luck!  
Avatar universal
I just started getting sticky hair too! About a month or maybe two months ago. On my crown.  I don't think it's my shampoo (Dove) because I've used it many times in the past and this has never happened to me before.  I switch around shampoos often.  I always always rinse my hair of conditioner in the shower.  I thought it might be because I put my hair up in a towel right after I get out of the shower and keep it that way for abt. 30 min while I do makeup and whatnot. So all my hair is basically piled on the top of my head in the towel.  But I've been doing that all my life...why did this just start? So I'm counting that theory out.  I've started rubbing tea tree oil on my crown.  I've done this for 3 days and so far it's not helping. My hair has never been oily. Or scalp. In fact, it's still not oily.  It's just my hair in that one spot is always sticky and LOOKS greasy.  The area is about 4 inches diameter.  It has to be something. I refuse to believe it is caused by a product because we are all using different products.  I don't want a temporary fix although I'm going to have to try the vinegar thing now...but I really want to know what is causing this.  It's kind of scaring me now that I see it's something we are all getting. Same symptoms.  Is anyone stressed? My boyfriend says it might be caused by stress.  But I've been STRESSED  to the point of anxiety attacks and football sized knots in my stomach...and never any sticky hair. I don't use styling products and I use a big tooth comb..not a brush.  It's winter. It literally just showed up in one day...not gradually...and just stayed that way. I don't wear hats. Anyway it's annoying.
Avatar universal
I am having the same problem, it just came out of the blue beginning of January and has been driving me nuts.  I actually sat in the shower rinsing my hair for 10 minutes the other day trying to fix it.  I originally thought it was because my boyfriend would brush his hair with gel in it and the gel would get on the brush, so, I bought another brush but still there.  I am going to try the Listerine thing first because it smells better than Vinegar.  My shampoo varies from Panteen and Dove different kinds.  My friend is a hair dresser and the only thing she can think of is most of the shampoos from Grocery stores (Panteen, Dove, Sauve...) are loaded with Oils and Plastic so this will eventually coat your hair and scalp.  I asked why just the crown of my head and her answer was because this is where most of the oils in the head are produced.

So I will give it a try and let everyone know how it worked.
Avatar universal
Ok, I tried the Listerine and bought Neutregina (spelling) and I have to say my hair is 90% better.  I have been living with this for a month now and in one night it is better.  I wish I looked this up sooner.
Avatar universal
I have had this problem a few times over the last few years and normally I just soak my hair in vinegar, and it works the first time. However it came back the other day, i think perhaps because of hormones as it has happened before when it has been my time of the month. When the vinegar didn't work I looked on forums online for suggestions, most people jus suggested changing shampoo, which as we all know doesn't work, at least not straight away. Anyway I ended up using bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and making a paste with some grease cutting washing-up liquid. I rubbed it in to the scalp, left it a few minutes, then rinsed, and then repeated the treatment a few times. I've jus blow dryed my hair, and its lovely and soft and no more stickiness!!
Hope this helps anyone who needs more ideas!
p.s. the washing-up liquid was lemon flavoured too so no vinegary smell to wash out!
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