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Much like combination skin where you’d experience an oily and dehydrated complexion, combination hair is defined by having either oily roots and dry ends, or a dry scalp with oily hair, which can make choosing the right haircare routine challenging.

With oily root and dry ends, skin is overactive, and the sebaceous glands are working in overdrive. Your hair gets greasy soon after washing or when dead skin cells build up, causing acne and even dandruff.

For those who grappling with dry scalp and oily hair, this occurs when the scalp’s sebaceous glands doesn’t produce enough sebum, losing key nutrients like triglycerides, fatty acids, and squalene. When the scalp receives lesser nutrients, it starts to flake.

Over-shampooing can also strip natural oils from the scalp, leaving it drier than before. Trying to manage a dehydrated scalp with the wrong or excessive products can in turn lead to oily hair.

It all starts with your scalp

What’s important to know is how scalp health affects your hair. Issues with the scalp – whether it is oily, dry or reactive and sensitive, can cause hair fall and slow down hair growth.

This is why it’s so crucial to balance the scalp microbiome, a cluster of both good and bad bacteria on your scalp. The scalp microbiome, when healthy and in balance, creates a hospitable environment for new hair to grow, and fights against toxins, irritation and damage.

When the delicate balance of this microbiome is compromised by factors like over-washing or product build-up, scalp ailments and discomfort will occur. The strands also become increasingly weak and dry.

Causes of combination hair

Beyond the condition of the scalp, your hair type can also play a part in causing combination hair. According to celebrity hairstylist Kim Robinson, who recently released a Hair Rejuvenation Formula range made specifically for Asian hair, most South-east Asians living in the region, especially those with long hair, tend to have dehydrated, brittle, overprocessed, and chemically treated strands.

“If they’re using heavy, silicone-based hair products, such as those made for Caucasian hair, the scalp gets coated and it might start to itch,” he says. This, coupled with the hot weather in Southeast Asia, results in frequent washing, which also increases the chances of an oily scalp and dry ends associated with combination hair.

Dr Georgia Lee, medical director and founder of TLC Lifestyle Practice adds that greasy scalp can also be exacerbated by lifestyle factors such as your diet and level of activity.

“Having dry ends can be caused by excess exposure to UV rays without proper care, and the overuse of devices such as flat irons, curling irons or hairdryers. Other lifestyle factors that contribute to one having combination scalp and hair include chemical processes such as excess colouring and perms – which may irritate the scalp, causing red spots and flaking.”

It isn’t the end of the world though. “With proper and specific care, your scalp condition can be managed to a certain extent. You just need to be informed of your condition so you know how to look after your hair properly,” says trichologist Maria Mazengarb at DrHair, and a member of the International Association of Trichologists.

Treating combination hair

Combination hair is not the death knell for good hair days. Knowing what type you have, and what to do, is half the battle won. And we know it’s not just about the products: Consider other areas such as your lifestyle and daily environment.

You may want to start by looking at your scalp condition, your hair type and hair health in totality. Ideally the hair products should suit the scalp and hair condition – and they don’t always need to be from the same range. Your hair type – whether it is curly, fine, long or wavy – should determine the product you use.

Use a scalp mask once a week to rebalance the scalp and regulate sebum production.

Charles Chong, hairstylist from Chez Vous

But first, it’s important to cleanse your hair and scalp. “Ensure proper daily cleansing, and use a gentle shampoo with an appropriate pH level that doesn’t overly strip oils from or damage the hair further,” says Maria.