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Avatar universal

Sudden oily scalp, the crown area. Will not wash out, why? What is it? I am healthy and bath daily.

The crown area of my scalp suddenly became very oily.  I have washed my hair with every shampoo I thought was strong or harsh.  I have even tried liquid dish detergant.  Nothing works.  I am a healthy woman who baths daily, I say this to offset the idea that maybe I am ill or unclean.  Please tell me what this is, how I can get rid of it and how I might be able to prevent it from coming back.
161 Responses
Avatar universal
I have the same exact thing - and it's only at the crown!!  So weird and frustrating - i've been trying everyting under the sun to get the stickyness out of my hair but NOTHING has worked - i even went to the dermatologist and they said they never heard of this before.  I scrub my hair every night - it's the oddest thing because i'm 27 and never had this problem before - and i also tried dish detergent lol.  Let me know if you find anything! ps - i also noticed around the same time that my face started breaking out - is it the same for you?
I had the same thing! I switched to head and shoulders for a bit, went back to Treseme, on the first wash it was completely gone...like magic.
Avatar universal
I am experiencing the same thing!  I am 27 and have NEVER had oily hair like this before.  Its literally oily before its even dry.  I too, have also tried dish soap.  That doesn't work either.  The ONLY thing I can think of is the new birth control that I am on... Microgestin.  I've been on it for 2 months now.  
I tried calling a few beauticians and one said she thinks its just a sudden reaction to weather change.  She said it can just all of a sudden happen, similar to allergies appearing later in life.
Does ANYBODY know what is causing this and how to treat it???  I am getting married soon, and DO NOT want to deal with this on my wedding day.   :'(
I go through phases of this and I think it's due to stress (personally I notice my scalp gets more oily if I'm extremely stressed out)
563773 tn?1374250139
There is no medical condition as such which causes oiliness of the hair.I would suggest you to clean your hair frequently with a mild shampoo(you can use the ones for oily hair) and don’t apply any conditioner on the hair.Also you can shampoo twice during each wash and apply shampoo on the scalp without piling the hair on top.

In case the symptoms persist then consult a dermatologist in that case.

I hope it helps. Take care and please do keep me posted in case you have any additional doubts. Kind regards.

Avatar universal
Hi Leo,

I totally know what you mean. I am astonished that Doctors have let this condition go un-named, unresearched, and undiagnosed for so long. LOOK AROUND DOCTORS - there are literally HUNDREDS of people all experiencing the SAME condition ... what i like to refer to as "sticky scalp". It IS a medical condition as far as I'm concerned because everyone who complains of this problem has exactly the SAME symptoms..... i.e....1) sudden onset 2) the oil is ONLY at the CROWN of the head 3) the sebum is thick, waxy, and "sap-like" in nature and is RESISTANT to ALL traditional remedies such as shampoo and soap...... are we all crazy?!?

Dr. Bhupinder Kaur.... you should research this and maybe become the poineer in diagnosing this condition!

Leo... I have a theory on why this happens and what this is.... I believe it is a fungal infection of the scalp. The reason I think this is that the waxy sebum has a sort of "fruity" smell or "sweet and sour" smell. That just so happens to be the same smell that happens under your fingernails when you get finger nail fungus. Anyone who wears tips or acrylics knows what smell I am talking about.  Anyway, the cure for this is using a number of antifungal remedies altogether while keeping the scalp as dry as possible. You can buy anti-fungal/medicated shampoos at CVS that contain zinc or sulfides which fight fungus and yeasts......take acidopholis pills......soak your head in apple cider vinegar every day before you shower.  All this will cure the infection in time (1-2 weeks), however it will not degrease the stubborn sticky sebum that is already there... for this try original palmolive..... don't just shampoo.... put the palmolive on the crown of your head, lather with water, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before you shower. After the first 2-3 washes the stickiness should be gone.... but continue with the anti-fungal treatment.... I promise it will go away.... mine lasted for 3 mths before i figured this out, but it's goine.... last but not least, use a clarifying shampoo like pantene clarifying.
Avatar universal
Hi JerseyGirl.... I am SO happy you got my post!  I was hoping somebody would see it.  Thank you so much for the response!!

-Everything you say makes a lot of sense!  Except, I am currently taking an oral anitfungal... its generic Lamosil in pill form (darn toenail fell off and I didnt want fungus to grow).  Do you think that the pill would treat a scalp fungus???

Also, I have even more unsetteling news.  The day I posted that, I went to shower.  With the idea in mind that whatever this "sebum" stuff is, its not WASHING out properly.  So, I applied Head n Shoulders once, rinsed... applied Aussie's Grease Shampoo, rinsed... applied TWO more applications of Head n Shoulders, then rinsed and got out.  No conditioner.  Well, apparently I didn't get the memo on "over washing your hair" because to my surprise, once it dried, it looked like my ENTIRE scalp area was dipped in vegetable oil!  Apparenly I stripped it so badly with all that shampoo, that my sebum production went into overdrive!  I cried.  I went down to Sally's Beauty Supply (a beauty supply store franchise) and they were baffled about the spot, but not about the over shampooing.  They gave me some "dry shampoo" which is spray shampoo that you can use when you don't have access to actually wash your hair.  Well, I got home and sprayed it all over the top of my head.  I have brown hair and the spray was a light violet, so it looked a bit ashy... however, it dried the oil right up.  EXCEPT for that darn culprit crown spot!!!!  That one was a little hard to "dry" with the spray, but it masked it a bit to where you could only "feel" the spot, rather than "see" it.  
I also bought Generic Brand Tea Tree Shampoo (Generic for Paul Mitchell's).  I didn't wash it until this morning.  I scrubbed the top, then applied a teensy bit of conditioner on the ends (with the intent to replenish a little bit of moisture in my dried out hair).  The top was still a little oily, but I sprayed the dry shampoo.  The stupid crown spot, however was still there in full force.  The spray masked it though.  
Now Im nervous even to wash it after what I did to the whole top of my head.  LOL, my fiance said "we're gonna be rich cause we struck an oil mine on my head!"  >:(

Jersey, can you reccommend a anti-fungal shampoo with those ingredients you were talking about?  I trust you every step of the way with this.  My friends are stumped, my parents work in medicine and they are stumped, everybody is stumped about this WEIRD, HORRIBLE problem!!!  I am SO happy to have found you and to know that I'm not the only one this has happend to.  

THANK YOU SO, SO, SO much!  And Doc, thank you too for the response.  Like Jersey said though... maybe this can be a breakthrough!!!  :)

Avatar universal
I posted this post on another person's post on this site about the same issue.  I posted it right before I did all that shampooing on Saturday.  (I am copying and pasting it cause it gives alot more info about my particular case):

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
Hi Leo,

It will def go away - i've had this problem twice in the last 5 years - It usually goes away in 1-2 months, but you can control it by stripping the oil on your own. I know you've tried dish soap, but it HAS to be Palmolive. I tried dawn and that didn't work. Get the original green palmolive and apply it only to the crown of your head... lather with some apple cider vinegar and lemon juice and let it sit for a little before you get in the shower. Buy Pantene Clarifying Shampoo... wash your hair with this and rub it around with the palmolive then rince. Then for the final rinse use one of the medicated shampoos.... the truth is i used so many different kinds all at once that im not sure exactly which one did the trick.... some of the ones i used were i thing T/Gel (contains coal tar), sebulex ( contains sulfur), and one containing Zinc.... you can find them in the dandruff section and it will usually say "treatment for sebborhic dermetitis". Try mixing the palmolive with vinegar and some fresh lemon juice too... that's what I did.
Also make sure you use a good conditioner - try pantene deep fortifying treatment conditioner... since the palmolive will strip your ends... plus, like you said, overdrying will lead to more oil.
There is a 100% cure..... If you go to your derm and beg him to put you on accutane, the oil will surely clear up within days..... I did this the first time around...but the problem is you have to wait 30 days before you will get the prescription because you need to have two negative pregnancy tests. But that's last resort if nothing else works.... Please try the palmolive/apple cider vinegar and let me know if it works. The "wax" should be gone after two good washes.

Good Luck!
Avatar universal
P.S. - I think that changing birth control has a lot to do with it because around the same time i got the oil my hormones were going crazy and i was breaking out like mad. You might want to try switching to YAS or ask you doc to put you on spironolactone for a while.... this is a duiretic that blocks the androgen from overactive adrenal glands.... a side effect of this is that it clears up oily scalp/face...... i was on this too.... tried it the 2nd time because i didn't want to go back on accutane..... i believe this and a combination of everything else helped.
Avatar universal
Hi Jersey!  I CURED IT!!  LOL, I have been posting this response on as many of these common threads as possible!!!  - Thank you SO much for your help!  I hope we can help these others with this problem.  This was a horribly frusterating thing to go through!  

I FOUND A CURE!!!!  So I posted a thread on this website about a week ago.  I titled it different, but it is about the EXACT SAME problem!!
My "grease spot" was apparent as soon as I got out of the shower.  Therefore, I thought that whatever it was, it just wasn't washing out.  So, last Saturday I took a shower and used Head & Shoulders.  I scrubbed and scrubbed until my hands ached.  I rinsed.  Then I put on THREE more applications of shampoo, each time scrubbing until my fingers hurt.  I rinsed each time, skipped any conditioner and got out.  I let my hair air dry.  To my HORRIFFIC dissappointment, my ENTIRE HEAD looked as if I dipped it in oil as it began to dry.  I was so upset, I cried.  I threw it in a ponytail and headed down to our local beauty supply house.  (Here it is called Sally's Beauty Supply.  I think its a franchise).  The clerks were all amazed and dumbfounded about the "grease spot" but said that by "overwashing" my hair, I put my oil glands in my scalp into overdrive, causing this new abundance of oil!!!  With that being said, I bought some "dry shampoo".  It is a powder-like spray that is used in between shampooings.  You spray it on any oily or greasy spots, brush it through and BOOM, your hair looks clean, dry, and smells good.  I also bout "Generic Brand" Tea Tree Shampoo there.  (It is really called 'Generic Brand' and its generic for Paul Mitchell's Tea Tree Shampoo equivelant)  
As soon as I got home, I sprayed the dry shampoo and it completely transformed my oil head into clean, healthy looking hair.
I wasn't convinced that it was cured, so I didn't wash it the next day.  I figured I needed to let my natural oils regulate somewhat.  I DID wash my hair on Monday.  I washed with the Tea Tree stuff and figured, if I "overwashed all the natural oils out last time"... maybe I SHOULD condition a little to add moisture.  So I conditioned a little, and guess what??  As soon as I blow dried it, everything looked perfect!!!  I am proud to say that the spot has been gone SIX whole days now!  
Not sure what causes it, but with my remedy, I think it has something to do with the balance of the oils in our scalp getting out of whack somehow.

I hope this helps all of you!!!!  GOOD LUCK!!!!
this is basically what I have hit on too. tea tree oil shampoo works the best for me. and dry shampoo is a good friend. :) (I too have the same mystery sticky oil spot)
Avatar universal
I'm so glad I'm not the only one having this problem! It actually started when I bought a new shampoo from a salon. I had been using the same one for a long time and when it was done I thought I would try a new one, because after using the same shampoo for too long it doesn't work as effectively. Well, this new shampoo made my hair really sticky and greasy in parts. It only seemed to affect one side of my hair, which was the strangest part. At first I thought I wasn't getting all of the shampoo and conditioner out, but the same thing happened all the time so ruled this out. I finally had enough so I went to the same salon and explained to them what was going on with my hair, and they gave me a different shampoo that they said should work.  It actually made the problem even worse!  I know that I made a mistake with applying the conditioner, because I had put it all over my hair and the instructions said to apply it only near the bottom of the hair and leave it in for several minutes before rinsing out. I used a clarifying shampoo to try and fix this (which had always made my hair so soft before) and used the conditioner properly, but it didn't work.  I tried to wash my hair with a natural shampoo, but that actually made it even greasier.  Today I went to the store and bought white vinegar, which I used in my hair, and then washed it with the clarifying shampoo. It is only a little bit better. I don't know if maybe I didn't live it in long enough, or if it will take several washes to make it completely better. I ask my friends if my hair looks greasy, and they say it doesn't (I know they would be honest because they always are). However I still want my hair to feel normal again!! Do you think the shampoo from the salon damaged my hair somehow?
Avatar universal

I doubt it was the new shampoo because it would have stopped once you switched back if it were. I'm almost positive it is a fungal infection of the scalp. I've been researching this for a long time and there are many reasons why I believe so. So it's also great to know that in order to cure the problem you can use anti-fungal treatments. Vinegar is a natural anti-fungal treatment, but you should also get medicated shampoos (you can pick up from your local pharmacy) that are for the treatment of fungal infections.... and if you can convince your doctor to prescribe you a diflucan that will help as well. It's not going to clear up all at once... it may take about a week or so of using the vinegar/medicated shampoos.... if you want the grease gone today you can strip it from your hair by using original palmolive (the green one). Lather it into the crown of your head with some warm water and let it soak for about 10 minutes before showing with the medicated and clarifying shampoos.... also make sure you condition... it's very important after the palmolive because that stuff literally strips every bit of oil out of your hair..... Good luck!!!!
Avatar universal
i have also had this unfortunate problem for about 8 days now. at first i thought i had just missed some shampoo so i rewashed it but that pesky spot was still there. so i changed shampoos and conditioners the next night. that did nothing to help. after that i even started taking 2 showers, one washing and conditioning my hair and the second just rinsing water vigorously at the top of my head. after nothing worked i got pretty desperate and starting searching as many forums as possible. there is another page on this website with the exact same problem as we have! it says to get SUAVE CLARIFYING SHAMPOO and the regular BROWN BOTTLE LISTERINE mouth wash. first you wash your hair with the shampoo then put 3-4 capfuls of listerine directly onto the crown of your head. i just did this and blowdryed it and voila- around 85-90% of the oil/wax/grease was gone! it's a miracle. i feel so relieved and clean now! i'm going to do it again tomorrow because it says it takes about 2 or 3 days to be completely effective. this truly works and i fully recommend it. i know first hand how stressful this dilemma is and i am proud to say this remedy is legitimate. hope this works for everyone!
Avatar universal
I know exactly what you mean!!  I am 40 years old and it started with me about two months ago.  And yes, I could tell even before it was all the way dry that it was still oily.  I used Pert for oily hair one month and it seemed to do fine.  Then i tried an oily shampoo and lite conditioner from Suave and that works great.  I was running low of the Suave and used the Pert again, and it did the same exact thing, so the Pert doesn't even work anymore.  It is VERY aggravating, but I am glad to see that it's not just me!!  I thought I was going crazy....

Thanks to everyone for all the advice.  When I "googled" the problem I had no idea I'd find that there were so many out there having the same problem.
Avatar universal
I just had this same thing too. I think mine was from my Nice and Easy conditioner. I have noticed it in the past from this conditioner but it was mild, this time I used the conditioner after coloring my hair wtih Lorel hair color. I guess you shouldn't mix? Anyway I used three things this morning and it got most of it out. Not sure which one was the best. I used Palmolive mixed with Tea Tree oil from the health foood store and let that sit for 2 mintues or so, then I used the CVS version of TGel shampoo, then I used Nutreogena Clarifiying shampoo. I didn't use conditioner. But my hair was so dry I used some frizzease on the ends after I blowdryed my hair. So I think tomorrow I am going to use the same three shampoos and hoefully it will be the end of this monster oily waxy greazzy thing on my head!
Avatar universal
Hey you were right, I got most of the gunk out yesterday with the Palmolive etc, but today I used the Listerine and the clarifying shampoo and it got every last trace out. I am guessing it would have worked alone. Also make sure you tilt your head back far enough with the Listerine, I got a little near my eyes, they were shut, but it stung my eye lids like crazy..
Thanks everyone on this board for all your information, I hope I am "cured" for good.
Avatar universal
I have never been so excited to find this forum!  I've been looking under greasy hair for the past month.
I even had blood work done because I just turned 40.  This is not a thyroid problem.
Thank you all for advice, will be trying today as soon as stores open up.  Well let you know how it goes!
Avatar universal
I have been dealing with the problem of having a "Sapy" crown for a while. I was in a car accident almost two years ago and had very long hair I hurt both my shoulders and couldn't dress my hair properly so I started wearing it up in a bun. I wore it this way for about a year before I started having problems. I came to this site looking for a solution and it hit me! I would put my hair up while it was wet! Fungus thrives on dark damp environments. Today I used Ajax dish detergent the original lemon. and my hair is almost back to normal I also blow dried it on the cool setting NOT heated because it seems to make the stickiness worse. I also pulled just the sides of my hair up and clipped it with a Barret to keep myself comfortable and leaving my crown exposed so it can get air. I hope this helps someone or even all of you as it has me. Its a BIG improvement in just one day!!!
Avatar universal
I asked everyone about this, and this site is the first place I found my answer!  It was so frustrating and weird.  But I just knew I could not be the only person on earth dealing with it! :)

I have had very nice, long, straight hair my whole life, without any  issues.  This new condition is not the normal "Oh I haven't washed my hair for 48 hrs and now it is a little oily."  It is greasy and a little sticky, not too sticky, but it is like a film and almost waxy for me.  It makes me look like i haven't washed my hair in a week, RIGHT after I step out of the shower.

It happened the first time about 6 months or so ago last fall, and I think I used Dawn a few times and it was fine, or it just naturally went away.  I first blamed my shampoo, like everyone else.  I hadn't colored my hair for about 10 years at this point, so I wasn't doing anything besides washing and conditioning with the same shampoo I have used since high school.  After I used Dawn I realized that my good old shampoo wasn't the problem, and went back to my favorite shampoo.

This time it has been back on and off for a few weeks, so I did this today: Reg shampoo, Listerine: the minty kind! (and let set for about 5 min), Dawn, Reg shampoo, Conditioner.  I also cleaned my brush with alcohol.  I'll let you all know how it goes.  

I'm not sure this is fungus for me, as I had lived in a very humid climate for years and never had trouble, and all of this started in a very dry climate.  I rarely wear my hair up, and when I do it is only for an hour or so at a time.  

Good luck everyone!
Avatar universal
I can't believe anything even showed up on this "sudden oily scalp" search!  Here you all are.  I'm 63yrs. old with beautiful, but slightly thinning hair in front.  Went to specialty store about 6 mos. ago and got a "growth stimulating shampoo" and a product containing minoxidol for the front.  The shampoo and products were great.  Didn't even need a conditioner with this shampoo.  Went to an upscale salon to get my haired colored with Goldwell product, since that is what the specialty salon recommended.  Then suddenly about 10 days ago, I was touching the crown of my head and felt this waxy mess!  I washed my hair 27 times within a week with all different shampoos and bar soaps.  Nothing worked till I used Paul Mitchel l#3 Clarifying shampoo.  After about the 4th time I washed with it, all residue was practically gone.  In the meantime, I stopped using all of my other specialty products and nothing mattered.  I started using them again.  The clarifying shampoo definitely helps, but my hair is still not right.  I'm calling dermatologist and endocronologist tomorrow and making appointments.  I'll let you know since just reading this site has made me feel better.
Avatar universal
I am so relieved to hear that there are others out there experiencing what I have for the last few weeks. Like many of you I thought I had not rinsed my hair very well. I have knee length hair and the length of it was totally fine. The crown of my head was a mess. I talked to my sisters this afternoon and they said that it happens to them sometimes but they just change shampoo and it goes away.  I already tried changing shampoos with no success
I am not on any bith control. I do not have any allergies. I have not changed shampoo or conditioner in the last few months. I have never had my hair colored. I do not have thyroid problems. I have never had oily hair. I live in So Cal so it is not a hot dry or day cold environment. I have started taking Omega3, Flax Seed Oil and calcium.
Other than having the same symptoms it appears that I do not have anything in common with anyone elses suspicions about how this happens.
I have been swimming thinking that the cholorine would help...no such luck.
It does seem like the vinegar and mouth wash seem to be working for others. I will certainly give that a fair try.
I will try to make sure I post my experience with the mouth wash, vinegar and clarifing shampoo.
Thank you for all of your input and for simply sharing your experiences. It was a relief to me to know that others are experiencing this as well.
Good Luck to everyone!
Avatar universal
Like so many of you have said - it's good to finally find others with this strange condition.  My husband thinks I'm a bit strange thinking this is anything other than just oily hair for a few days.  I find it funny that he even has an opinion, as he has been shaving his head for a few years now!  I am 35 & am experiencing the same symptoms as everyone else - it just popped up last week.  Yuck!  I will try some of the "cures" listed.  Even if it doesn't work for me, I'm glad it's helping some of you!  It will be interesting if there ever is a name given to the condition/symptoms.
Avatar universal
I'm so glad I found this forum. I have had this oily, sappy crown for a few weeks now, and have to just pull my hair back because it looks so gross and unwashed, right after showering. I swear... I was THIS close to just shaving my head and buying a hat. The only reason I didn't is because I wasn't convinced it would go away, after all, nothing else has worked! Thanks everyone for posting your stories. I can now tell my husband that I am not crazy and try some of the suggestions above. Big thanks to everyone who shared their cures. :)
Avatar universal
Hi everyone,

this has happened to me a few times and I had no idea what was happening or why as it was so sudden, like the shampoo just kept sticking to the crown of my head no matter how much I washed or rinsed it. I have a friend who was a sales rep for redken when this first happened to me, and she recommended I try their Hair Cleansing Cream Shampoo, which is designed to be used occassionally to remove product build up. After one wash the greasy sticky patch was gone! I swear by it, it works everytime, and this has now probably happened to me about 6 times over the last 7 years. Try it, you won't be disappointed.
Avatar universal
ok, this goes to you jersey girl and sevlow.  I have to admit I thought you were crazy before with the fungus talk.  then i read on and saw sevlow's comments.  Here is my background and now it makes sense to me:

-no history of waxy/oily hair - ever!  I am 36 yrs old
-no changes in hair products, i have long hair
-have been training for my first half marathon and have never been a      runner
-started to take glucosamine for joints/tendon strength
missed two BC pills in the last week!

So I am thinking it was hormones after reading some of the posts.  I had also considered the fact that I have been putting my hair up in a ponytail (something I never would do - always wore it down to work and in a clip at home).  And you know what?  It was usually damp when I put it up!  Plus, I run with it up and sometimes have a ball cap on.  sure makes sense for the fungal explanation now doesn't it!  I thought maybe just sweat, etc but had never thought of fungus growth from dampness!

thanks for all the comments as I too thought I was going crazy!  I will have to try the palmolive/apple cider.....and of course I don't have either so it will require a trip to the store!  here's to trying it!

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