"Oil Training" Is the Haircare Method That Will Help You Skip Washes

A woman with slicked back hair

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For some hair types, skipping the occasional wash can come with some serious benefits—once you get past the oily stage, that is. The best way to beat the grease? Oil training, or the practice of “training” your hair to produce less oil over time, the better to allow your strands more time to absorb beneficial natural oils between washings. 

The switch-up is something to consider, especially as your regular washing routine may be leading to an unmanageable amount of oil. “Depending on your hair type, washing your hair more frequently could actually be the reason you are experiencing oily hair more often,” says celebrity colorist Rita Hazan. Contradictory, yes, but overproduction is what we want to avoid, the sort of grease levels that demand too-frequent cleansing, thus robbing our lengths of the opportunity to soak up beneficial oils between washes. “When you allow more time to pass in between washes, your hair retains its natural oils,” explains celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons. “Over time, your sebaceous glands will adapt and learn not to overproduce oil.” 

Oil Training and Hair Type

While oil training is a worthwhile option for some, the efficacy (or lack thereof) is entirely dependent on hair texture and type. “Oil training is definitely not for everyone,” says Fitzsimons. “While one person’s seven-day hair may look salon-styled, another person’s seven-day hair may be stringy or greasy.”

Finer hair types will find their hair more prone to oily hair, making skipping even one wash a non-starter. Conversely, thicker hair can thrive with a pared-down shampoo schedule. “Those with thicker or curlier tresses and textures may benefit from washing once a week because their natural oils and styling products won’t penetrate or move down the hair shaft as easily as straighter hair types,” says Fitzsimons. 

Hairstylist Weena of Harlem’s Renaissance Curls notes that oil training tighter curls can actually dry out hair over time—the opposite of the desired result. “What we’ve noticed with our clientele is that the ones that wash their hair consistently are seeing amazing results with their curls,” she says. “Their curls are usually more hydrated and easier to manage.”

Hair Training Techniques

Hair training comes down to reimaging your wash schedule. “Try to go as long as possible without a wash. Seriously—style your hair in updos,” says Hazan. “Just trust the process and watch how your hair will change over time.” Fitzsimons recommends easing into your new routine and embracing trial and error. “Start slow. If you’re used to washing your hair every day, waiting a week may seem daunting,” he says. “Try waiting a few days at first, and work your way up to it.”

When you do eventually wash your hair, Fitzsimons adds that some may need to shampoo twice, the better to remove any build-up. 

Tracee Ellis Ross wearing her hair up

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Hair Training Routines

Developing your own hair training routine is a personal process. “Make sure to test out different schedules to figure out which one is best for your hair texture and scalp,” advises Weena. “Some may need to wash their hair every three days, while others can wait up to 10 days before having to cleanse their scalp because it doesn’t get as oily. It's all trial and error so, don't give up if it doesn't work after the first try with a new schedule.”

When wash time comes around, Fitzsimons notes that a clarifying scrub like NatureLab. Tokyo’s Perfect Clean 2-in-1 Scrub & Clarifying Shampoo can help beat buildup without sapping strands. Relegate conditioner to the ends of your hair, and stock up on products to make your in-between wash life more manageable. "Arm yourself with a quality dry shampoo like Andrew Fitzsimons Discreet AF Dry Shampoo to help keep the grease at bay,” says Fitzsimons. “And don't be afraid to try new hairstyles—a slicked-back bun or pony works wonders for a greasy hair day.”

Hazan agrees: “Whenever I need a quick slick back, I grab a leave-in conditioner to help style it and also contribute to health; I’ve recently loved using the Raw Sugar Living Leave-In Cream Conditioner,” she says. “It helps restore my hair's shine and keeps the strands silky smooth.”

Olivia Palermo with slicked back hair

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Common Challenges and How to Address Them

When training your hair, patience is key—don’t expect results overnight. “Factors like texture, hair weight, and genetics affect how long the process will take,” says Fitzsimons. “The process can take a few weeks or even a few months.” This is a long game and will result in some unappealingly oily days on the way to healthier hair. “Oil training is just that—oily,” says Fitzsimons. “You may have to get creative with your hairstyles at the end of the week, but it’s nothing a slicked-back pony, bun, or hat can't help fix!”

Once you identify what works for your hair type and commit to the process, the results will speak (and shine) for themselves. “It can be difficult when you think that your hair looks or feels greasy, but just throw it up in a ponytail and let it be,” says Hazan. “Your next hair wash and blowout might just look 10x better.”

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