Learn all about sebum, how it affects your scalp, and what you can do to make your bald head less oily.

There are a number of daily forms of maintenance that go into keeping a bald head healthy. The absence of hair might seem like things are going to be smooth sailing, but simply shaving a head and keeping it healthy are two completely different things. Issues that men with bald heads run into are often attributed to some sort of combination of moisture levels and the body’s ability to manage them.

Why do bald heads get so oily? Simply put, oil is produced by the scalp to keep the head moisturized, but if the body produces an excess, a layer of oil can sit on the scalp, causing oily, shiny heads. Nobody wants to look oily, so to break down how to battle oil and get moisture levels in check, let’s keep in mind these key questions for managing the moisture level of the scalp:

  • What is Sebum, and What Does it Do?
  • What Determines Oil Levels on the Scalp?
  • How to Manage Oil on a Bald Head?
  • What is the Best Treatment for an Oily Bald Head?

What is Sebum, and How Does it Affect the Scalp?

If the word sebum hasn’t come up in research about bald heads and excess oil, it may be a foreign concept. In actuality, sebum is the key to managing a greasy scalp, and the first step is getting a better idea of why the excess oil is developing.

Understanding Sebum

Nobody wants an oily scalp, especially when there is no hair to help keep it hidden. Even with a full head of thick hair, men and women who have an oily scalp feel and see everything happening with their sebum levels.

Sebum is the name for oil developed in the sebaceous glands. This oil develops on nearly every body part of mammals, including humans. In the simplest definition, sebum is the body’s attempt at protecting the skin. When the skin is at risk of losing its moisture, the chance of drying out and becoming brittle and broken rises. The body can recognize this, and send sebum out from the sebaceous glands to provide a sheet of protection onto the skin to keep things from getting damaged.

Sebum is a form of waterproof protection for the scalp. For example, if it is a sunny day and someone does not use any sunscreen on their head, sebum will develop to protect the scalp from over-drying. Putting that onus on your body is a problem, however, because if the body begins to secrete too much sebum you’ll find yourself with an oily scalp and too much sebum on your head.

why is my bald head so oily?

What does Too Much Sebum Do to the Scalp?

Unfortunately, the body is prone to releasing too much sebum. When too much oil collects on the scalp, a bald head, as well as a head of hair, can become greasy and messy. The collection of greasy excess causes what is commonly referred to as dandruff. The fungus that causes dandruff is called malassezia, and the flakey visual manifestation of dandruff is simply just the skin cells dying on the scalp.

Dandruff is not found in too many people with bald heads because it is easy to remove the fungus or dead skin from a bald head. When hair is in the way, it can be harder to remove. Nevertheless, an oily scalp is one of the most frustrating parts of being bald because of how apparent it can be.

Does a Shiny Head Mean There’s Too Much Oil on the Scalp?

No matter if a head is bald or holds a full head of hair, the shininess of the head is going to depend on its sebum levels. If a bald head is too oily, it will appear shiny. Likewise, an abundance of sebum on a full head of hair will give it a shiny, greasy look.

With a bald head in particular, the appearance of a shiny scalp is going to be present simply for the lack of hair. Even though it’s clear whether or not someone has hair on their head, the body has no clue. That means the body, with the power of hormones, is going to produce sebum no matter how much hair is up there. 

Given the inevitable role sebum is going to play for people with a bald head, it’s helpful to know what determines the oil level of the scalp, as well as what you can do about it.

What Determines Oil Levels on the Scalp?

There are two major factors in an oily scalp for bald heads: hormones, and exposure to the sun.

Hormones

Nearly everything that occurs on the skin comes down to hormones. Even if you moisturize the scalp every day, exfoliate dead skin a few times a week, and wear sunscreen, hormones can affect the production of sebum. Much like the saying goes, you can’t choose your family, and that also means you cannot chose your hormones, which are determined by genetics.

The question becomes, is there a way to manage hormones? There are treatments that can help control hormones as they pertain to the skin and scalp, but a doctor is the only one who can answer specific questions. Treatments and approaches of this sort are given on an individual to individual basis.

It’s worth noting that the experience of those who go on medications vary as well. Many turn to an increased focus on sun exposure and finding an oily scalp treatment to manage excess sebum on the scalp.

Exposure to the Sun

A bald head does not have the luxury of hair to protect it from the sun. Sun exposure is the leading cause of dryness and excess oil production in bald heads, as well as skin cancer. Protecting the scalp from excess sun exposure is a key determinant for oily skins. To reiterate, the scalp produces sebum to protect against drying out, and if the scalp is not being treated, it can start to produce more oil than it needs, leading to a greasy scalp and tough to manage skin.

A sunscreen or moisturizer is not enough to keep the scalp from being oily. Nor is just showering once a day. Doing too little or too much can cause further damage, so it is important to find that sweet spot where your scalp is happiest. This varies based on an individual’s hormones and exposure to the sun. So, how can one manage oil production on their head, and keep from having an oily scalp?

sun exposure shaved head

How to Manage Oil on a Bald Head?

The key to managing oil on the scalp is a combination of keeping three elements of the scalp in check:

  • Keep the Scalp Hydrated
  • Exfoliate the Scalp
  • Wear an SPF

Each element is easy to manage, once you know the right way to treat each crucial influencer over an oily scalp.

Keep the Scalp Hydrated

It’s not enough to just wash your scalp when you shower or bathe. A lot of shampoos, even for bald heads, actually dry out the skin a lot more than it should. That’s why it is important to keep the scalp hydrated. Skin is constantly utilizing the water content of the body for added help, so it’s important to also make sure to drink the recommended amount of water throughout the day as well.

Keeping the scalp hydrated means intaking enough water, as well as treating the scalp with one of our recommended moisturizers or oily scalp treatment. Some products will market themselves as an SPF and a moisturizer in one, but it really helps to have one product for each element. More on that below, but next, it is important to make sure a well moisturized scalp is also being exfoliated.

Exfoliate the Scalp

Exfoliation may sound technical, but it is a simple process of using a product to remove dead skin cells from the scalp. Two forms of exfoliation are available for the scalp:

  • Scrubs
  • Oils/Chemicals

An exfoliating scrub will have a rough texture to it, possibly with a minor ingredient like oats or cocoa. These can feel nice on the scalp since they seem to really scrub the skin cells away. Take caution, however, because over exfoliation happens most often from scrubbing too hard while using this type of exfoliant.

An oil or chemical exfoliator is preferred by many because it is much easier to avoid over exfoliating the scalp. In some products, the consistency is almost like a thicker version of water, allowing the process to be a simple as rubbing and massaging the scalp for a few minutes and then rinsing.

No matter what you prefer, exfoliation is key. Once the dead skin cells are gone, you will want to make sure to put an SPF on the scalp as you head out for the day.

Wear an SPF

An SPF is the number one product in every bald person’s arsenal. Healthy scalps that avoid that oily, greasy film on the head are often protected by an SPF. SPF, commonly found and understood to be sunscreens, are protective creams or sprays that block out harmful UV rays from penetrating the scalp.

When the scalp feels itself drying in the sun, it will produce sebum, and too much of that leaves the head greasy and gross. An SPF does the extra work to avoid an oily scalp. The recommended SPF to wear for a bald head at minimum is 30, however products can be up to 40, 50, and even 60 SPF.

What is the Best Treatment for an Oily, Bald Head?

Unfortunately, every head is different, so it can be tough to pinpoint the universal method that eliminates oily heads. What is certain is that a combination of proper moisturizing, exfoliating, and SPF protection can help decrease sebum production and make the head look overall more healthy. The order of treatment should always go:

  1. Exfoliate in shower or at sink
  2. Moisturize the scalp
  3. Apply an SPF before leaving the house

It’s crucial not to over-exfoliate or the skin can become damaged. Likewise, it is also important to allow for the moisturizer to sink in. Unlike shampoo, moisturizers are not to be washed out or rinsed. Doing so eliminates their hydrating capabilities.

It can be a bit of a trial and error cycle to finding the best way to keep your scalp from getting too oily. A good oily scalp treatment, once mastered, can completely alter the negative feelings you have towards your head. Make the effort to find a good routine today, so you can feel great about the way your bald head looks tomorrow.