Quarantine may be the root cause of oilier, limper hair.

By Jaclyn Smock
September 28, 2020
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If you've noticed that your hair isn't shining as bright as it used to or that it's dryer, oilier, or limper than usual, you aren't alone. Hair is finicky—especially now, with the added stress our bodies and minds are consistently experiencing during this time spent inside as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. "When we are inside more, our hair is not exposed to the elements as much," notes Gretchen Friese, a certified trichologist with BosleyMD. "We need vitamin D from the sun for our overall health, including for our hair's, and while not absorbing as many UV rays has its benefits (less sun exposure will keep color fresh and rich), it can also dry out the hair." Dryness isn't the only issue: Elevated body temperatures (something you likely experienced all summer long while stuck inside on hot days) cause sebaceous glands to overproduce sebum, which results in oiler hair, adds Eugene Toye, a senior stylist at Rita Hazan.

woman sitting on couch with her hand in her hair
Credit: Getty / Daniel Grill

But there's good news: With the right techniques and products, you can revive your hair. To help you do so, we spoke to several experts to determine exactly how to handle hair issues caused by too much time indoors. Here, they share their best tips and tricks.

If Your Hair Is Frizzy and Dry...

"We know frizzy hair can occur when being outside in humidity, but a lack of moisture is truly the [cause] of the problem," explains Muhga Eltigani, founder of NaturAll Club, "which happens when you're spending more time inside, with dry air." Combine this with over-washing—we've all felt an increased need to be clean—and frizz worsens. "Over-washing or using products with sulfates and parabens strip away your hair's natural oils and leaves the cuticles raised and frizzy," she adds. 

To achieve healthier and bouncier hair, "use products that are free from toxic ingredients," shares Eltigani. Look for products with "jojoba oil to replenish the sebum on depleted scalps without leaving a greasy residue or clogging the scalp pores. It also brings balance to your natural oil levels, making it a great product even if your scalp is too oily," she says.

If Your Hair Is Slick and Oily...

Staying inside during COVID-19 isn't the sole reason your scalp is oilier—but what can have a significant influence on the amount of oil your scalp produces is your daily grooming habits, which may have been affected by new pandemic-era lifestyle changes. Showering and shampooing less regularly—a symptom of having nowhere to go—may lead to an accumulation of sebum or oil on scalp skin from product buildup and sweat, which can impart a greasy or weighed-down look, explains Dr. Brendan Camp.

Showering more isn't necessarily the fix, though—you need to take a look at your product roster. Work a clarifying shampoo into your routine to remove oil and buildup from the hair shafts. "On non-wash days, use a dry shampoo to absorb excess oil on the scalp and hair. Finish with a weekly change of your pillowcase, since it can be a source of retained oil and sweat and can also contribute to acne formation," adds Dr. Camp.

If Your Hair Is Flat and Limp...

Since we're quarantining at home, trips to the salon have been put on the back-burner—something that automatically results in flatter, limper hair. "While we all know that haircuts can recharge our style, those highlight and color services we had to neglect for a while could mean that our hair is less swollen from treatments we had exposed it to previously," says Nick Stenson, the artistic director for L'Oréal MATRIX. Wearing your hair in a pulled-up style, like a ponytail or top knot (a go-to work from home look!), could also be to blame. "If your hair has been pulled up in a tight top knot and forgotten about, it's going to need some work to restore elasticity and bounce, notes Stenson. "Tight updos relax your natural pattern and cause the hair to be more limp and lifeless."

To mitigate this issue, use products with proteins. "The coating provides extra thickness and strength to the hair. Some leave-in pre-shampoo conditioners give volume and thickness by coating your hair and plumping it from within to prevent hair breakage; over time, this adds volume back in," explains Dr. Jason Emer, the owner and founder of Jason Emer in Beverly Hills.

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