Can You Dye Greasy Hair? The Definitive Guide for Flawless Color.

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Do you have the kind of hair that gets oily in minutes of washing? Struggling with a sweaty hairline and dry ends but want to try out a whole new hair color?

We’re here to help. If you’re wondering, ‘can you dye greasy hair?’ we can tell you everything there is to know.

In this article, we’ll explain why it really isn’t a good idea. And what you should do instead. Let’s go!

The Oily Dilemma: Can You Dye Greasy Hair?

Short answer: Yes, you can dye greasy hair, but think twice.

Long answer: Hair dye penetrates the hair shaft and reacts with its proteins. Oil can be a barrier to hair dye, leading to patchy results and uneven color.

While natural oiliness might not be a deal-breaker, excess sebum or product build-up is a big no-no.

What the experts have to say.

“Always apply haircolor to clean, damp hair. Wetting the hair with water prior to the color softens and swells the hair and aids in penetration of the dye.”

John Halal, Founder, President –

“Definitely, you don’t want to wash your hair before any chemical dye or anything else that would cause scalp irritations. Best to gently comb your hair and then dye it on dirty hair.”

Lisa A. Worley, Cosmetologist

“It depends…if you are depositing color (going darker or covering gray), it’s best to color on clean hair…if you are lightening (either with color or bleach), then it’s best to have your natural oils present.”

Susan Clark, Licensed Cosmetologist / Barber 20 years experience
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What is making my hair greasy?

If your hair is oily, it can be a real pain.

Greasy hair doesn’t look or feel good and it can make styling difficult. It also means that your scalp might be producing too much oil – which isn’t great for the health of your hair.

The culprit is sebum, an oily substance from sebaceous glands. A little sebum is great, but too much leads to heavy, dull locks. It may even start to get knotted and tangled too.

Common reasons for greasy hair.

  1. Shampooing too often can strip your scalp and hair of natural oils that keep it clean and shiny.
  2. Too much product buildup on the scalp or hair shaft can cause oiliness.
  3. Hormonal changes like pregnancy or menopause may cause an increase in production in natural oils from sebaceous glands which leads to your hair becoming oily faster than usual.
  4. Certain medications such as antibiotics used for acne treatment may lead to increased oil production.
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How to stop greasy hair.

If you’re experiencing greasy looking locks then try one of these tips!

#1 Change your shampoo

Try a clarifying shampoo that will help eliminate excess oil and product build up, leaving your hair feeling light and fresh without stripping out natural moisture.

Clarifying shampoos are designed to cut through residue left behind by other hair products. Use once a week as they can be very drying.

#2 Stop over-washing

If the problem is that you’re just over-washing then a bi-weekly shampoo should suffice.

#3 Stick to a schedule

Try to stick to washing your hair around every other day, rather than everyday, as this could lead to greasier locks too.

Greasy or not – daily shampooing removes natural oils from the scalp which can affect the production of sebum and result in an oily scalp.

You can always invest in dry shampoo which you can apply on the second day to soak up any excess grease!

#4 Cut back on products

If you’re prone to greasy hair then try cutting back on products with alcohols, pore clogging ingredients and synthetic fragrances – these are all contributing factors for oily or greasy hair!

Beware of products like mousse and gel as well, which can lead to heavy build up on the scalp.

Only apply these products to the mid-lengths and ends of your locks for a more weightless finish.

#5 Get it checked

If you’re worried about your greasy looking locks then it might be worth talking to your doctor who can perform a patch test to check if your scalp is producing too much sebum for any medical reason.

Is it better to color your hair when it’s dirty or clean?

Since hair dye needs to penetrate the cuticle of your hair and grip onto the strands, it’s important to ensure your hair is clean and free of styling products.

If your hair is dirty, the problem you’ll face is that your hair will take in color unevenly, leaving you with patches of different colors instead of the deep, even color that you might want.

The solution here is to wash your hair well before dyeing it!

Expert Opinions: Should Hair Be Clean or Dirty Before Dyeing?

Here’s a great video from a top stylist that guides you through whether clean or dirty hair is best for dyeing.

Is it good to have greasy hair before dyeing it?

It used to be thought that having slightly oily or dirty hair would protect your hair from harsh coloring processes. This is why coloring your hair was often done at the hairdressers before you had washed it.

Nowadays, not all hair dyes use harmful chemicals like ammonia and there are far gentler ways of coloring hair, so greasy hair isn’t necessary for protection!

If you are planning on bleaching your hair, however, not having freshly washed hair can be an advantage – natural oils can protect your scalp from the bleaching process.

How dirty should my hair be before I dye it?

If your hair is dirty, it will affect the color of the dye. If you’re trying to go lighter, then make sure your hair is as clean as possible before applying any shade.

Dirty strands can also result in unwanted tones and shades after dyeing. We recommend shampooing your locks beforehand to avoid this problem.

Also remember that when using box dyes or bleach kits, there should be no oil on the scalp or hair in order for these products to work properly!

For hair dyes that use ammonia in particular – so permanent hair dyes – you’ll need to wash your hair very thoroughly the day before coloring.

You don’t want your hair to be dirty to dye it but you want it to be dry. Damp hair can cause the dye to go blotchy, so dry hair is best when trying to achieve the best all-over coverage.


A day before you plan to dye your hair, is a good time to wash it. The hair dyeing process takes time and you need your hair to be clean and settled before you start dyeing it.

Things like dry shampoo will absorb grease but will leave a chalky residue in your hair that will need washing out too!

Use a deep conditioner or olive oil treatment in the run up to dyeing your hair to get it feeling strong and supple.

Do not put any products on it after you have washed it! It needs to be clean and free of anything that might compromise the color.

Can you dye sweaty hair?

Just like with grease or dirt, it’s not a good idea because a sweaty scalp will prevent the dye from taking hold. Just wash it!

Can I dye my hair if I haven’t washed it in a week?

The answer is, well, yes and no. It all depends on your hair type.

If you have thin hair that really absorbs grease and grime, then maybe not so much. But if you’re blessed with thick locks, you might just get away with it as the dirt won’t penetrate your hair as much.

If you have a lot of product buildup, however, it may not work as well for you because the oils in your hair will just make the color stick to the surface and not penetrate down into your strands.

It’s also important to note that if you’re going longer than two weeks between washes, your scalp can get irritated and start producing more oil which may lead to breakouts.

BUT why risk it? If you don’t want patchy hair color, wash your hair a couple of days before you hit the salon.

Why do salons wash your hair after coloring?

Is it to get all of the dye off and out of my hair, or is there a deeper reason?

Most people think salons wash your hair after coloring to rinse out the excess dye – but actually, there’s more than meets the eye!

Washing your hair after it’s been colored is also a good time to apply toners.

Toners are used to counterbalance the effect of red, yellow and brassy tones for a more natural look. Purple or blue shampoos can be used to cool your color, and glosses add shine and depth to create a lustrous look.

So it’s not just about rinsing out your hair dye, it’s about applying those magic potions that make your hair look on point!

Parting words.

Alright, let’s wrap this up! We’ve been through the thick and thin (and greasy) of it all, and now you know the deal with dyeing greasy hair.

Just like a heart-to-heart chat with your bestie, we’ve given you the real scoop.

Clean hair isn’t just a preference; it’s your ticket to that even, gorgeous color you’re dreaming of. So, next time you’re gearing up for a color change and your hair’s got a bit of a slick situation, just hit the pause button.

A quick wash will set you up for success. You’ve got this!


  • Nicola Freeman, Creative Director & Content Lead
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    With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during lockdown for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!