How to Deal With Sebum Build Up on Scalp?

a woman showing her scalp

What Is Scalp Buildup?

The natural oil in your skin and scalp is termed sebum. It is produced in the hair follicles. Sebum's work is to lubricate the hair follicle and prevent moisture loss from the scalp.

If your follicles produce too much sebum, your hair and skin get greasy and sticky. That can cause problems like flakiness and acne. Untreated sebum buildup on the scalp can lead to more severe symptoms, including hair loss

When your hair follicles overproduce sebum, it's called hyper seborrhea which is one of the several causes of buildup on the scalp. Scalp buildup comes from gathered:

  • Sebum
  • Sweat
  • Dead skin cells
  • Hair products

What Is The Role Of Sebum?

Your bodies can get benefit from sebum in numerous ways:

  • It prevents the loss of water from the skin’s surface.
  • It defends the skin from infections.
  • It helps in strengthening the immune system of the skin, as well as regulates the rapid growth of a bacteria called P.acnes, which lives in the pores.

Symptoms of scalp buildup are:

  • Flaky scalp, oily scalp dandruff
  • Oily or crusty skin
  • Scalp redness
  • Scalp itchiness

Causes of Sebum Buildup on Scalp

The reasons for scalp buildup are unknown. But a few factors make it more likely that you'll have a rise in sebum production that can cause scalp buildup. These include:

Hormone imbalances: Imbalances of thyroid and pituitary hormones may cause a rise in sebum production.

Metabolic disorders: Unhealthy fats hamper your metabolism and can spur a rise in sebum production. 

Digestive problems: Intestinal and liver problems can alter the chemical makeup of sebum which makes it ineffective at protecting your hair and scalp.

Poor scalp hygiene: Washing hair less than every 2-3 days, hair product types, and other hygiene-related factors can cause scalp buildup and inflammation that can slow hair growth.

Microorganisms: An increase of bacteria or fungi can cause inflammation and scalp buildup. A parasite called Demodex Folliculorum can trigger hyper seborrhea.


Long-term sebum buildup on the scalp may cause:

  • Hair loss due to a condition called folliculitis, which damages hair follicles
  • Acne around the hairline
  • Pityriasis Steatoides
  • Seborrheic dermatitis

Home Remedies

You can try various home remedies to get rid of oily scalp buildup.

Regular Shampooing and Brushing

Wash your hair every 2-3 days, or more often if you have very oily hair.

Wash with a natural, gentle, sulfate- and chemical-free shampoo that's suitable for your hair type.

Use warm water as hot water can dry the scalp, which can further increase flaking and itchiness.

Avoid scratching and vigorously scrubbing the scalp in a back-and-forth motion. Rather, massage it in a gentle, circular motion which helps improve blood flow and prevent dryness.

Regular brushing is essential as well as can stimulate blood flow, which provides hair growth. Brushing vigorously can worsen sebum buildup.

Exfoliate the Scalp

You can exfoliate once or twice a week with a good scalp exfoliant to get rid of dead cells and scalp build-up.

Or, you can make your own as well, combine:

  • Oatmeal
  • Brown sugar
  • Hair conditioner

Keep hair detangled

Brushing your hair daily can keep your hair detangled. This may minimise and break up scalp buildup. A bristle brush is a good tool for keeping your hair tangle-free.

Bristle brushes are made from either natural (boar) or synthetic bristles that help distribute oils evenly throughout your hair and are suitable for all hair types. This can also help minimise scalp buildup.

Be gentle while brushing your hair. Start brushing from the ends up to your scalp in small sections, ending at the roots.

Apple cider vinegar rinse

Apple cider vinegar is antibacterial and antifungal in nature and can kill dandruff-causing yeast on the scalp.

To use it:

Add 2 tbsp of ACV to a glass of warm water.

Shampoo your hair as usual and rinse them.

Slowly pour the ACV solution onto your head and let it sit for 2-3 minutes.

Rinse it off properly.

Doing this once a week can also help eliminate buildup from hair products.

Use Lemongrass Essential Oil

In a small study, a hair tonic with 10% lemongrass oil seems to reduce dandruff among participants who used it twice daily.

Do not use pure essential oils, as they're too concentrated and can be very harmful. Always dilute essential oils with some carrier oils and be cautious for signs of allergies or irritation.

How To Minimise Excessive Sebum Production On Scalp?

  1. Decrease the frequency of using chemical hair products.
  2. Wash your hair once every 2-3 days with a mild gentle clarifying shampoo.
  3. Wash the scalp properly and rinse all the residue of hair care products.
  4. To protect your hair while swimming wears a swim cap.
  5. Do not use a blow dryer after washing your hair. Try to air-dry your tresses.

Take Away

Scalp buildup and the linked symptoms, such as dandruff, can be very embarrassing. Rest assured it's a normal process that occurs to some people.

Focus on using mentioned home remedies and getting your scalp healthy. If that doesn't work, consult your healthcare provider who may be able to help.