Combination hair: what is combination hair

You’ve heard of combination skin but do you have combination hair?

2nd March 2024 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber

Combination hair, like with combination skin, can be difficult to balance. Here’s how to treat greasy roots and dry ends


Greasy, dry, or damaged. Many of us are lumped into one of these three categories when it comes to not only our hair type but the hair products we see on the shelves.

Yet just like with skin types, these categories don’t always tell the full story – there is a fourth that many of you may resonate with, and that’s combination hair.

As the name suggests, combination hair is a combination of two of the other types: oily and dry hair. In particular, this means you have oily roots and dry ends.

If you have combination hair you can’t use shampoo for greasy hair because it can leave your ends dry, and you can’t use thick conditioners because they make your greasy scalp worse.

In this guide, we explain what combination hair is, what causes it, and how to balance it.


Combination hair

What causes greasy hair and why does my hair get so greasy so fast?Getty Images/iStockphoto

The main characteristics of combination hair are:

  • Oily roots: If you have combination hair, your scalp produces too much sebum. Sebum is designed to keep hair hydrated and protected yet, in combination hair the excess sebum can weigh your hair down and make your roots look greasy and limp.
  • Dry ends: With combination hair, the sebum produced at the scalp doesn’t travel down the hair shaft to the ends, leaving them dry, frizzy, and prone to breakage.

Symptoms of combination hair

There are also other symptoms that suggest your hair and scalp might not be in balance.

  • Different textures: Another hallmark of combination hair is having different textures throughout the hair. For example, the hair near the roots might be straight or oily, while the mid-lengths and ends could be wavy, curly, or dry.
  • Product sensitivity: If you have combination hair you might find that certain haircare products work well on some parts of your hair while causing issues on others. For example, a moisturising shampoo designed for dry hair on the oily scalp might make oiliness worse. While using a clarifying shampoo meant for oily hair on the dry ends could lead to further dryness and breakage.

Causes of combination hair

Causes of combination hair and the best shampoo for greasy hairShutterstock

There are several reasons why you might have combination hair.

Firstly, your genetics could be to blame.

Some people are simply more predisposed to having combination hair than others. This is particularly true for people who have greasy roots because this can be due to the skin on their scalp. If they’re prone to oily skin on their face, they can be prone to an oily scalp.

Hormone changes, such as the changes that happen during puberty, periods, pregnancy, and menopause, can affect sebum production and contribute to combination hair.

As can using harsh shampoos, heat styling tools, and chemical treatments can strip the hair of its natural oils, leading to dry, brittle ends.

Using your haircare incorrectly can also cause problems. Shampoo is largely designed to clean your roots, while conditioner is best for your ends. Using too much shampoo on the ends can dry them out, while using too much conditioner on your roots can make them greasy.

FURTHER READING: How to get rid of greasy hair and stop it from coming backBest hair moisturiser UK


How to balance combination hair

How to get rid of an itchy sore scalpShutterstock

Managing combination hair means using products that address your specific needs without making them worse.

This can involve using different types of shampoo and conditioner on different sections of the hair, as well as using targeted treatments such as scalp masks or leave-in conditioners.

The goal is to hydrate and nourish the dry areas without overloading the oily parts with excess moisture, which could lead to further oiliness and scalp issues.

Step 1

Simply changing how you apply products can be enough to bring balance to your hair and scalp. Try using your shampoo just on your roots. This is usually where the most build-up occurs. As the bubbles run down your hair, they will gently clean the hair shaft and lengths without you having to use too much.

Similarly, concentrate your conditioner just on the ends of your hair. If you have layers or short hair, take a wide-tooth comb or wet brush into the shower, create a centre parting, and gently massage the conditioner into the lengths and ends.

Step 2

If that doesn’t solve the problem, switch your normal shampoo to a gentle shampoo. Choose a shampoo that is formulated for oily hair but doesn’t contain harsh ingredients that can strip the hair of its natural oils. Our favourite is the Philip Kingsley No Scent No Colour shampoo (£24) but it’s a bit pricey. A cheaper alternative is the Monday Gentle Shampoo (£5) which you can get from Boots and Sainsburys.

Philip Kingsley no scent no colourPhilip Kingsley

Step 3

Use a clarifying shampoo once a week. This will help to remove buildup from the scalp and prevent it from becoming oily. We recommend the Ouai Hair Care Detox Shampoo (£28) and the OGX Clarify + Charcoal Detox Shampoo (£9.99). The Ouai shampoo is available for £12 in a travel-size version, in case you want to give it a go first before buying a full-size bottle.

Step 4

To manage the dry ends, try to reduce how many times you use heat styling tools such as straighteners and curling irons and get regular trims. Split ends can make dry hair look even worse. Getting regular trims will help to remove dry ends and keep your hair looking healthy.

We also recommend giving hair oiling a go. It might seem counterintuitive to use a hair oil to avoid having greasy hair but a good oil will revitalise the scalp and soften the ends without leaving it heavy.


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