Like acne and dandruff, oily hair is a problem that most moms don’t expect for their children to have to deal with before their teenage years. So when you notice your child’s once-shiny hair is taking a turn for the greasy, it’s a relief to know that oily hair in children is perfectly normal and simple to treat.
Each of the hairs on your child’s head has an oil gland at its base. These glands — called sebaceous glands — produce oil that protects hair from damage and moisture and makes it shiny, explains KidsHealth.org, an online health and parenting resource maintained by the Nemours Foundation. When the oil glands start over-producing, which often happens around the age of puberty, oil can build up on the surface of your hair, making it look greasy. Some people’s oil glands naturally produce higher quantities of oil than others.
Oil overproduction can make your child’s hair look greasy and dirty, but it can also make his hair smelly. That’s because all that oil is like a banquet for the normal, harmless bacteria that live on everyone’s scalp, explains New York City dermatologist Jules Abadi in “Cosmopolitan” magazine. The increase in the number of bacteria can cause your child’s scalp to have a stinky odor.
If your child has oily hair at any age, the best way to treat it is to wash her hair with a gentle shampoo every other day. If odor is a problem, ask your pediatrician if it’s OK to use an oil-absorbing shampoo containing tar, zinc or sulfur once a week to soak up some excess oil. High oil production is usually triggered by hormones or stress and is short-lived, but if it’s a persistent problem, consider seeing a dermatologist, recommends Abadi.
If your child’s hair is super oily, use a clarifying shampoo to wash his hair every day for a week, recommends Roy Teeluck of NYC’s Julien Farel Salon in “Cosmopolitan” magazine. The shampoo will help strip away oily build-up so that you can move into a regular care routine the following week.
Resist the urge to scrub your child’s scalp and hair too hard. Scrubbing hard won’t help get rid of oil and may cause scalp irritation and hair damage. Instead, gently lather a little shampoo near the scalp and rinse it completely with warm water.