What is Combination Hair and How Can You Manage it Best?

Apr 16, 2024

Your ultimate guide to mastering combination hair

Ever felt like your hair is having an identity crisis? If your roots don't seem to be on the same page as your ends, it can feel like you’re dealing with two different hair types at once—oily at the scalp and dry or even brittle towards the tips. Combatting this situation comes with hair care confusion when figuring out the right products for the perfect routine that addresses both issues without making them worse.


What you need is a deep dive into your hair’s psyche, and you’ll get that here. We've got the insights and tips you need to bring balance and harmony back to your locks. Keep reading to demystify this hair type, understand why it happens, and learn how to turn a tricky situation into a hair care routine that works for you.


Defining combination hair

Combination hair that’s both oily and dry might sound like a paradox, but it's a reality for many and happens easier than you think. Your scalp is like a mini oil well, providing natural hydration and moisturizing oils that, when balanced, keep your hair shiny, smooth, and healthy. But when your hair is damaged, the ends could easily be mistaken for straw or hay—dry, brittle, and desperate for moisture, and your natural oils just won’t cut it. This duality defines combination hair, setting it apart from uniformly oily or dry hair types.


This hair type typically showcases oily roots, thanks in part to an enthusiastic production of sebum (your scalp's natural oil), coupled with ends that are dry, damaged, or just plain parched. It's a common scenario, especially for those with longer locks, as the natural oils struggle to travel all the way down the hair shaft, leaving the ends high and dry.


Another variation of combination hair includes a dry, flaky scalp with oily hair mid-shaft to ends, which can be even more challenging to treat. Navigating this mixed hair type requires careful balancing of oil control at the scalp with much-needed hydration for the mid lengths and ends.


Causes of combination hair

Several factors can contribute to this double-act hair type. Genetics often play the leading role in determining your scalp's oil production levels and your hair's natural texture and porosity—the hair's ability to absorb and retain moisture. Texture and porosity determine the condition of the hair's cuticle layer and influence moisture retention.


But there's more to the story. Environmental factors like humidity, pollution, and even the weather can sway your hair's balance, tipping the scales towards oily, dry, or a mix of both. Your lifestyle and hair care routine are also key players. Overwashing, while tempting when your roots look like the bottom of a pizza box, can strip your scalp of its natural oils, prompting an overproduction in response, while the ends of your hair get drier with every wash.


Heat styling, harsh chemical treatments, and even the humble hair tie can contribute to wear and tear, especially on the more vulnerable mid lengths and ends. As you can probably tell, it's tricky to balance this hair type, which means matters can get worse if you don’t take the right steps.


Daily care and maintenance


Mastering combination hair care centers on finding the ideal balance between controlling excess oil at the roots and delivering essential moisture to the ends. By getting up close and personal with your hair’s needs, you can create an effective daily routine and handle combination hair like a pro for fresh roots and silky ends. 


However, creating the best outcome for combination hair involves more than just daily routines. You’ll need to call on the big guns—specialized treatments and upkeep techniques that target the distinctive needs of your scalp and ends for ongoing maintenance. Closely observing your hair's reaction to tweaks in your routine will also help you effectively tame your hair—just like a good therapy session.


Here's how to optimize your daily hair care routine to meet the unique needs of combination hair. Consistency is crucial here, so don’t give up.


Smart shampooing and conditioning 

Opt for a mild, sulfate-free shampoo that cleanses the scalp without stripping it dry. Consider shampooing the roots more frequently than the ends, focusing on the scalp to remove oil buildup without dehydrating the lengths of your hair. 


Use a lightweight, hydrating conditioner, but apply it mid-shaft down to the ends, avoiding the scalp. This helps prevent the roots from getting too oily while giving your ends the hydration they crave. On days when your roots are feeling extra oily, a spritz of dry shampoo can absorb that oil, adding volume and freshness without a full wash.


Tend to your scalp 

Don’t forget your scalp—a healthy scalp is the foundation of healthy hair. Scalp treatments that exfoliate and nourish can help regulate oil production and remove buildup. Ingredients like salicylic acid gently exfoliate, while aloe vera and hyaluronic acid can provide soothing hydration. Using a weekly balancing scalp treatment can help regulate oil production—choose products containing tea tree oil or witch hazel for a balanced scalp surface.


Nourish your ends 

Incorporate a leave-in conditioner or hair oil on your ends after each wash, targeting the driest spots for moisture and environmental protection. Once a week, indulge your ends in a deep conditioning mask that's rich in moisture but won't weigh your hair down. Look for masks with natural oils and butters that can penetrate deeply into the hair shaft, revitalizing dry ends without overwhelming your roots.


Lightweight leave-in treatments or serums can offer daily nourishment to your ends without requiring a rinse. They can seal in moisture, protect from environmental stressors, and keep your ends soft and manageable.


Use the right tools and products


Always use a heat protectant spray before styling with heat tools, or better yet, opt for heat-free styling techniques to avoid drying out your ends. Switching to a silk or satin pillowcase can lessen friction, reducing tangles and breakage as you sleep, and loosely braiding or tying your hair can offer additional protection against tangling.


Regular trims

For combination hair, regular trims are non-negotiable as they both prevent split ends from progressing up the hair shaft, reducing tangling and breakage, and maintain the hair's shape and volume, making styling more effective. 


Trimming every six to eight weeks ensures your hair stays fresh and manageable day-to-day. Although trims don't directly influence growth from the scalp, they play a crucial role in preventing breakage, helping your hair retain length and maintain better health overall.


Styling tips for combination hair

Alright, let's get down to the nitty gritty of styling that fickle combination hair. You've got oily roots and dry ends, and it feels like they're never on the same page, right? With a few clever tricks up your sleeve, you can keep both parts happy and looking fab.


Embrace the texture

First up, work with your hair's natural texture rather than against it. Got some waves or curls? Perfect! Let them shine. Textured styles can cleverly disguise those oily roots while giving your dry ends a break from the heat. A little curl cream or mousse can go a long way in defining those locks without weighing down your roots.


Updos and braids for the win

When in doubt, updos and braids are your best friends. They're like the Swiss Army knife of hairstyles for combo hair. A loose bun or a casual braid can stylishly keep those oily roots under wraps while flaunting your ends in a way that looks intentional and chic. Plus, they're perfect for those second-day hair situations.


Dry shampoo is your secret weapon

Short on time? Who isn’t. Let's talk about how much of a lifesaver dry shampoo is (we’ve all Googled “how many days in a row can I use dry shampoo?”). If you have oily roots, a quick spritz can absorb excess oil, giving you an instant volume boost. Just be sure not to overdo it—a little goes a long way. And it's a great way to extend the life of your style without another full wash.


Keep it loose

Tight hairstyles can stress your already dry ends, so think loose and breezy. Loose ponytails, gentle waves, or even half-up, half-down styles can keep things looking fresh without any extra strain. Plus, they have the added bonus of making you look effortlessly put together.


Embracing the balance

Wrapping up, managing combination hair doesn't have to feel like walking a tightrope. It's all about balance—keeping those roots in check while loving on your ends. From choosing the right products to embracing protective styles and giving your hair the TLC it deserves with regular trims and treatments, you've got this. With a bit of patience and the right routine, your hair can look its best every day. Ready to elevate your hair care game even further? Lauren Ashtyn's collection has everything you need to keep your combination hair looking fabulous. Dive in and discover your hair's true potential with Lauren Ashtyn.