Hair Grease/Petroleum in Natural Hair - It's an Epidemic

in Jun 15, 2024

I’ve been coming across a lot of natural sisters using petroleum/mineral oil in their natural hair lately and I just can’t believe it. It’s like taking 3 steps forward by claiming, I am NATURAL. I am REAL and then taking 2 steps back by using this garbage called PETROLEUM that was created as a cheap filler in place of great natural ingredients to sell to blacks. Apparently people are only remembering the good part of the hair grease episode. The application by loving hands, because that indeed was the only good part of the petroleum revolution.

First, What is Petroleum?
(Chemistry / Elements & Compounds) a dark-coloured thick flammable crude oil occurring in sedimentary rocks around the Persian Gulf, in parts of North and South America, and below the North Sea, consisting mainly of hydrocarbons. Fractional distillation separates the crude oil into petrol, paraffin, diesel oil, lubricating oil, etc. Fuel oil, paraffin wax, asphalt, and carbon black are extracted from the residue.
Petroleum is a semi-solid substance that is composed of non-polar, water-repelling hydrocarbons. It is used widely in the cosmetics industry because it is cheaper to use as a filler ingredient than other oils. Petroleum is a common ingredient in hair care products that are formulated and marketed to ethnic markets. Because textured hair requires minor lubrication in order to remain pliable, ethnic shampoos and conditioners often contain this common ingredient. The most popular petroleum-rich hair care products on the ethnic market are hair greases and pomades, which are almost 100% petroleum or "petrolatum" by composition. Petroleum provides lubrication to the strands, but when used in excess, it can be detrimental to hair growth.

This definitely doesn’t sound like something I would want put into my hair or the hair of those I love.

Now let’s discuss the benefits of Petroleum.
Petroleum is an excellent lubricant and sealant for moisture within the hair shaft. It adds immediate softness and shine to the hair. When applied to hair strands, petroleum forms an impenetrable barrier that traps moisture in the hair. It is excellent at keeping moisture inside of porous, dry hair that would otherwise not be able to retain much moisture on its own. Petroleum forms such a strong barrier to water and other hair products that it is often applied directly to the scalp to protect and prepare clients for the use of harsh, lye-based chemical relaxers on the hair..

Now let’s discuss the negative effects of Petroleum
Petroleum works against effective hair growth in two ways. First, when applied to the scalp, petroleum-based products can clog the hair follicles. This clogging can lead to scalp problems like dandruff or sluggish hair growth over time. The scalp's natural oil, or sebum, also has follicle clogging potential, but petroleum exacerbates the problem. Most people apply petroleum to combat scalp dryness and flaking, but flaking and dryness result because there is a lack of moisture reaching the scalp. Deep conditioning products, not petroleum-based greases, are a better remedy for this problem.. Second, the barrier petroleum creates upon the hair shaft keeps additional, needed moisture from entering the shaft. Petroleum-based products will cause the hair to shine, but will not allow the hair to be effectively moisturized. Many people mistake the artificial shine petroleum imparts for healthy moisture. As users add more and more petroleum-based grease or pomade to the hair for "moisturization," the drier the hair will begin to feel. True moisture--water--simply cannot get into the shaft when layers of petroleum based products have built up on the strands. Because they repel moisture, overuse of petroleum-based products can lead to dryness and breakage which stunts hair growth.

Last but not least, let’s discuss the alternative                                                         Natural oils, like olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed oils and the list goes on, are great lubricant and sealant alternatives to petroleum-based products. Unlike petroleum, these products will leave a breathable film on the hair and are easily removed when lightly shampooed. If you decide to continue using petroleum based products and moisturizers on your hair, you should invest in a good clarifying shampoo for weekly use along with a deep moisturizing and great conditioner. Sulfate free conditioners are not effective at lifting petroleum from the hair.

So I hope this article has given you something to think about when you are deciding whether to buy a product containing petroleum, that will then be used for your hair. I don’t get it. I hear comments all the time about back in the day when I used to use that old petroleum based product, but people did we have a lapse of memory or something. I don’t remember people’s hair growing down their back like the growth that these natural diva’s are having today by using non-petroleum based products. I remember people with their edges missing or thin, brittle hair that was breaking out by the handful. Believe me, I do remember all those things, sitting in that chair, all that grease, getting burnt if I made the wrong move or if my auntie’s hand slipped, but today proves that was just the time and this is a new day. It makes you think about what scientist and cosmetologist used to say, that every hair has a final stop or growth stage and hair no longer continues to grow at a certain point. I say it’s a lie and I can take you to the beautiful natural hair sisters all over the world to prove it. Remember all my natural hair Diva's “Natural Hair is Beautiful”.

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