Ditch the Hair Grease; Is an Oil-free Routine Right for You?
A Little Hair Story
Back in the day, before there were tons of products on the market to choose from, black folks used petroleum vaseline as an all purpose product. We greased our scalps, we put it on our faces, we soothed chapped lips, we greased our legs and we put it on our babies bottoms.
Over the years, mineral oil and petroleum-based products were specifically designed for black folks hair for use as pressing oils and pomades. It allowed the hair shaft to be lubricated so that the p.ressing comb could more easily glide through our hair. Plus, they provided a high, glossy shine while sitting on top of the hair shaft. In addition to that, there’s one more benefit for anyone who sported/still sports a press and curl — it hinders reversion.
Fast forward to today. There are soooo many excellent products on the market to choose from without resorting to the stuff our mother’s used in our hair. Consider products with essential oils, which are plant-based abstracts. They’re more expensive. Takes a lot of plant material to make one ounce of an an essential oil. Cutting to the chase, the difference between an essential oil, mineral oil and petroleum oil (you know, the stuff associated with gasoline) is that essential oils can permeate the hair and diffuse, thus, allow hair to take in moisture. Mineral and petroleum-base products CANNOT do this! They weren’t/aren’t meant to do that anyway. Remember, an added benefit to using this stuff in pressing creams and pomades is that it blocks out moisture and prevents reversion.
Also consider that essential oils can and do provide a whole array of healthful benefits that mineral oil and petroleum oil simply do not/cannot have. I’ve listed a few essential oils and associated health benefits below:
Basil: Oily hair … promotes growth
Clary sage: All types of hair … dandruff treatment
Lavender: Normal hair … Scalp treatment for itchiness, dandruff, and even lice!
Lemon: Oily hair … treatment for dry scalp, dandruff, lice, and underactive sebaceous glands
Myrrh: Dry hair … Treatment for dry scalp, dandruff, lice, and underactive sebaceous glands
Patchouli: Oily hair … Dandruff treatment
Peppermint: Dry hair … Promotes hair growth
Rose: Fine hair … Soothes scalp
Rosemary: Oily hair … Dandruff treatment; promotes hair growth
Tea tree: Oily hair … Treatment for dry scalp, dandruff, lice, and underactive sebaceous glands
Ylang-ylang: Oily hair … Dandruff treatment
Lanolin is Also a Good Choice
Although not an essential oil, lanolin, which is a manufactured byproduct of sheep’s wool, is also a permeable oil that is sometimes found in hair products. However, its use as an ingredient is not as prevalent as it used to be because it’s more expensive than mineral oil to produce. Since I’m waaay to lazy to make my own products and too cheap to go the essential oil route, I will occasionally purchase a product that has lanolin in it. In minute quantities, my hair really responds well to this type of oil.
Do No Harm To Thine Hair!
Will mineral or petroleum-based products harm your hair? Well, if you consider the fact they don’t allow your hair to take in moisture then well, yes, I would say they definitely promote dry hair and dry scalp. Can this do harm? Absolutely. Dry hair is brittle hair, which breaks easily. And nappy hair is inherently dry and certainly doesn’t need more help in the breakage department, so if you are having extra issues with dry hair (e.g., permanent coloring, just transitioned etc.), using these products can exacerbate the problem. So if your goal is growth and retaining length, then you can see how you could possibly be making yourself work harder than necessary to achieve your hair goals.
You say you’ve found some petroleum or mineral oil products that have essential oils mixed in, isn’t that good enough? Well, my best guess is that the petroleum and mineral oil would tend to negate the benefits of any essential oil mixed in.
Now don’t shoot me… Most of the time, I don’t use oils at all…
So here I am, playing up the virtues of essential oils and lanolin, and if I can help it, I don’t even use them in my hair. The reason? I inadevertantly found out that my hair responds well to moisturizers that don’t have oils in them. Plus, I don’t like oily hair…never have. So other than products with just a little bit of lanolin, my products are virutally oil free, and I absolutely love it.
Sure, there will always be people who continue to use these products with seemingly no problems. But again, just remember, if you’re experiencing dry hair, you’re not likely to be a nappy that can use grease and get good results.
Plugging Non Sulfate Products
In addition, try switching to a non-sulfate shampoo and a natural product-based conditioner. Sulfates are very harsh cleansing agents found in most shampoos that are very good at degreasing your hair. But if you stop using all that gunk, you won’t need to use anything with sulfates in it. JASON and Aubrey brand all natural shampoos work well for me. I also like Nature’s Essential Hair Care products. They’re available in stores like Wild Oats and Whole Foods. These aren’t the only brands out there, they’re just the two that I happen to use and like. In the absence of grease and oils, I can usually just rinse all the moisturizing product out of my hair, before I even apply the shampoo. And I only do one pass with the shampoo. Once I stopped using sulfate shampoos and organic conditioners, my hair immediately responded. I had no idea my hair could feel like this. It feels like cotton and in comparison to how it felt prior to the switch, it is now very soft, supple and pliable. It’s definitely less dry, and it seems to be less tangled. I am also seeing less hair in my brush and fewer broken coils on the floor.
Try It, You Might Like It
So my advice is to give it a try. You could go the no-oil route like me and see what happens. Or, if you must use oils, I’d rather see you use essential oils or lanolin rather than mineral oil or petroleum-based products. Experiement. See if you can find something that works for you. If you don’t like the results you get, then you can always go back to using your DAX. (I do still have a can of this stuff…lol). But chances are, you may just end up loving your hair and throwing that DAX, Doo Gro and all those other petroleum and mineral oil-based products in the trash.
Oh and one more thing to consider. If petroleum and mineral oil-based products were so great, why are there hundreds on the market, and thousands of black folks running around with broken off, dry hair that retains absolutely no length? This alone should make you wonder how good this stuff is for your hair.
If you’d like to learn more about essential oils, Motowngirl has some information on her site. Click here to read more…
Pictured above: Aubrey Organics Glycogen Protein Balancing Conditioner formulated for all hair types and Nature Essential Hair Care non-sulfate shampoo. Soft and Beautiful Botanicals Lite Cream Moisturizer was one of my staples last winter before I discovered that it contained mineral oil. That’s when I started paying closer attention to the ingredients in my products.