Experts’ Tips on Caring for Combination Hair

March 12, 2023
Experts' Tips on Caring for Combination Hair

You may have become proficient in recognizing your skin type and maintaining its oil levels and hydration, but have you considered the intricacies of your scalp and hair? Similar to your skin, your hair can also be classified as a combination, displaying both oily and dry areas due to various factors such as environmental exposure, chemical treatments, and daily styling.

Kasper Heemskerk, the international education manager of Balmain Hair Couture, explains that combination hair is characterized by oily roots and dry lengths. Due to the overproduction of oils on the scalp, these oils do not get evenly distributed throughout the hair shaft, resulting in hair that appears greasy at the scalp and dry and brittle at the ends.

To help you identify the indications of combination hair and simplify your hair care routines for optimal results, we consulted with a trichologist, dermatologist, and other hair industry experts. Read on for their advice.

The Experts

  • Kasper Heemskerk holds the position of international education manager at Balmain Hair Couture. 
  • Anabel Kingsley is the President and Head Trichologist at Philip Kingsley
  • Gretchen Fries is a trichologist certified by BosleyMD. 
  • Dr. Elyse Love is a board-certified dermatologist practicing in New York City.
Tips on Caring for Combination Hair

What Causes Combination Hair?

Combination hair can arise due to various factors, with your scalp type being the most significant contributor. As one of the most sebaceous areas on your body, your scalp’s condition is unique to you and can be affected by several factors, including weather, seasonal changes, diet, menstrual cycle, and stress levels. According to Anabel Kingsley, head trichologist of Philip Kingsley, some individuals may have more sensitive and reactive scalps than others, and these conditions can fluctuate over time. Ultimately, regardless of hair texture, anyone can have combination hair.

What Hair Types Are Most Likely to be Considered Combination?

Combination hair can manifest in different hair types, including fine, thick, curly, and straight hair. However, it is most prevalent in individuals with fine, long hair due to the increased presence of oil glands on their scalps. As Anabel Kingsley notes, the excess oil produced by these glands can accumulate at the roots, while the older and more weathered ends of longer hair tend to be drier.

Gretchen Fries, a trichologist certified by BosleyMD, adds that those with curly hair textures can also have combination hair. Oily scalps and curly, long hair make it difficult for sebum to travel down the hair shaft, resulting in a greasy scalp and dehydrated ends, as she explains.

See also: Vitamin C for Hair: Benefits and Usage Tips

How to Care for Combination Hair

Stop overwashing

To manage combination hair, experts advise against overwashing, as it can lead to the overproduction of oils by the scalp. Anabel Kingsley suggests washing the hair once a day for individuals with thin, straight, or wavy combination hair, similar to the daily cleansing routine for facial skin. Using a shampoo suitable for your hair texture and a pre-shampoo conditioning treatment like the Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Pre-Shampoo Treatment can help hydrate strands and restore elasticity, especially for those with dry ends.

For curly hair textures, Kingsley recommends focusing on scalp health during wash days, even if you shampoo less frequently or prefer the look of your hair between washes. “Don’t leave more than three days between cleansing your scalp,” she advises, highlighting the importance of maintaining a balance for combination hair.

Pick the right shampoo and conditioner

Creating a routine for your combination hair doesn’t need to be complex. The main objective is to cleanse the oily areas while moisturizing the drier parts, and choosing the right shampoo and conditioner is key. If you have an oily scalp, it’s best to avoid overly moisturizing hair products that can lead to product buildup. If your scalp is dry, it’s important to avoid heavy formulas that will coat your ends and leave them greasy.

To address an oily scalp and dry ends, Heemskerk recommends using a lightweight shampoo and a hydrating conditioner on the lengths and ends only. When dealing with a dry scalp and balanced ends, it’s better to use a hydrating shampoo to treat the scalp and a lightweight conditioner on the lengths and ends. Some clarifying shampoos may work well for oily scalps but could be too drying for combination scalps.

In such cases, Dr. Elyse Love, a board-certified dermatologist, advises looking for scalp products that focus on gentle cleansing. “Find specific scalp shampoos that decongest and soothe the scalp while removing buildup from hair strands,” she suggests. If you’re experiencing persistent scalp concerns and discomfort, it’s best to consult a board-certified dermatologist.

If you have an itchy scalp or dandruff, the Dove DermaCare Scalp Coconut and Hydration Anti-Dandruff Shampoo ($5) is recommended. It contains pyrithione zinc to soothe and calm irritated scalps, while coconut restores moisture and offers natural antimicrobial benefits.

Don’t forget to brush

According to Dr. Love, combination hair usually requires moisture from mid-lengths to ends. To distribute hydration without weighing down your hair, she suggests combing your conditioner through wet hair. While straight hair can benefit from brushing in the morning to redistribute oils, Dr. Love advises against dry brushing curly hair as it can cause breakage and damage.

Invest in a Scalp Scrub

A scalp scrub can be an excellent addition to any hair routine, as it can provide numerous benefits. Kingsley recommends using a scrub to soothe your scalp, buff away dead skin cells, and address any imbalances. “Scalp scrubs can be especially useful if you’re washing your hair less than every other day,” says Kingsley. Look for treatments like the Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Mask, which contains exfoliating salicylic acid, antimicrobial piroctone olamine, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and shea butter. 

Alternatively, for those with severely oily and clogged scalps, try the BosleyMD Rejuvenating Scalp Scrub, which features bamboo, charcoal, and caffeine to absorb excess oil, remove product buildup, and prevent further inflammation.

Use hot tools sparingly

To prevent damage to your combination hair, it is best to use hot tools sparingly, according to Kingsley. He also advises that you always use a protective spray when using hot tools. Using hot tools every time you wash your hair can exacerbate combination hair by drying out and weakening the mid-lengths and ends, so it is best to avoid this practice.

The Best Products For Combination Hair

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Final Takeaway

Once you have identified that you have combination hair, managing it becomes easy. The key is to create a routine that includes the right products and techniques to balance the care between the scalp and the strands, which will keep your hair healthy and looking great. However, if you find that your hair still feels unbalanced after following a modified routine or if you experience the development or worsening of a hair or scalp condition, it is essential to consult a dermatologist or a trichologist to determine if there are underlying issues beyond combination hair.

Photo: Pexels/ Rafael Barros

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Margaud Raynaud is a beauty expert with over 10 years of experience in the industry. She has a passion for sharing her knowledge and tips with others and has a particular interest in skincare and makeup. When she's not writing about health and beauty, Margaud enjoys trying out new products and experimenting with different looks. Follow her blog for expert advice and inspiration for living your best life.

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