Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Mineral Oil – Proof is (not) in the hair

Mineral oil is vilified on many natural hair care sites but I often wondered where is the proof? The reasons given range from the simplest, ‘It is terrible for your hair,’ to more detailed reasoning such as robbing your hair of moisture or coating your hair in a film etc.  

Well, the science is here! Mineral oil does not penetrate into the cortex of hair (Journal of Cosmetic Science pg 169-184,2001). This is because the oil does not have an affinity for protein (meaning it is not attracted to protein). 

It also prevents water from getting into the hair shaft and may I quickly add that this is NOT necessarily A BAD THING. Hair that takes up a lot of water and then loses it again can undergo what is known as ‘hygral fatigue’. 

The hair actually becomes weaker due to the swelling and de-swelling (Analogy – how many times can you stretch a rubber band until it breaks?). Damage can be sustained to the cuticle and cortex which becomes an even greater problem during combing or manipulation. 

Therefore, mineral oil is not entirely bad (offering some protection against porosity) but certainly is not great (not penetrating the cortex and preventing water entry to parched hair). This is especially true if you compare it to the simply wonderful all singing, all dancing coconut oil.

19 comments:

  1. so... should we use it or avoid it?

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  2. Hi mellowyel - In my opinion, we should seek alternatives since there are oils which are significantly more beneficial to our hair compared to mineral oil.

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  3. okay - i was going to throw out all of my mineral oil products before i saw your blog, and i was just making sure that was the way to go. thanks!

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  4. great piece!
    i avoid it completely mostly b/c i don't want it on my scalp, but i have seen a few successful naturals seal w/ mineral oil/petroleum with no problems. they just keep it away from the scalp but it's just easier to tell people to avoid it, especially since there are much greater oils!

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  5. I guess it must help avoid shrinkage. The length might stay longer if it keeps humidity outside of the hair. And also, how long can moisture be sealed in. Does it not evaporate after a while? Do i need to avoid sealing in moisture if i want to stretch my hair and want to minimize shrinkage for few days ?

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  6. I recently saw a rediculious and somewhat upsetting post on mineral oil and petroleum jelly lumping them in as petro chemicals and then suggesting that the proplong use of these chemicals causes cancer and other various illness. They didn't say which petrochemicals were thought to cause this and if so what the proof is which leads one to think its the mineral oil and petroleum jelly. Well little black childrean aroud the word should have two heads by now if that were true. I HATE SCARE TACTICS. Also these products do not absorb so as long as not put on the scalp I see no harm but YES better alternatives! This is wh i love this blog so much.

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  7. @anonymous - Thanks for checking out my site. I usually don't post commentary from other blogs but your comments were interesting to me. I guess I should do a more detailed post on mineral oil. It is actually a pretty standard oil in the beauty industry since it mixes very well and is quite light.

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  8. ok...i have a question...are you saying that when you wash with shampoo you should add coconut oil to protect it from hygral fatigue.
    Are should i say how to do you incorporate coconut oil so that it protects the hair from hygral fatigue?
    thanks

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  9. I was looking at all these hair videos and they were saying mineral oil and petroleum are bad for your hair so i stopped using any hair product that contained those ingredients for two in a half months. My hair grew longer and healthier. I have now decided that i will start using products that contain mineral and petrolum after i get my micro braids taken out in April. I am not going to listen to all the people saying mineral oil and petroleum is bad for your hair. Cuz those products make my hair feel silky and smooth with no breakage,damage, or split ends.

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  10. very interesting post. Every time i read another post i learn something new almost every time! which leads to more quesetions..lol i'm sorry if i'm overwhelming you with my questions...I really do appreciate the time and effort you put into your work/research.

    I have so many questions because i am currently transitioning from relaxed to natural. I am 19 months post relaxer so i am trying to understand the needs of my 2 very different hair textures.

    so my question is, given the info on mineral oil, can mineral oil or vaseline help to prevent large amounts of chlorine/ sea salts from penetrating the hair. I ask this because i worry about the drying/damaging effects of chlorine/salts on my hair when i am at the beach or pool.

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  11. before perming your hair was the thing to do lots of people in the black community had mineral oil and petroleum used on their hair and their hair was longer and healthier, so how is it that now these products are taboo. when it was then thing to have your hair pressed and curled every two weeks i saw a lot of sistah's with longer and healther hair than i see now. people need to think for themselves and not let the industry think for them. these products don't do any more damage to your hair than the damage you are doing to it by listening to people tell you what you shouldn't be doing to keep your hair moisturized. our mothers and grandmothers didn't have to go online to find out how to grow black hair naturally (while using these products that have all of a sudden become taboo within the black community). just think about it (for yourself without the opinion of someone eles) was your hair really in worse shape when our parents were doing it and using these products or is it in worse shape now that we are going online and asking what we should be using when the real issue is that once we started doing our own hair we abused it ourselves. let's stop second guessing ourselves and think for ourselves for once and do what feels right to us even when it comes to something as small as using a product for our hair that we have been using for hundreds of years. power lies with the one who weilds it. stop letting other people think for you and think for yourself. are you so unsure of yourself that you have to ask someone else what you should or should not be using on your hair after you damaged it by your own means or are you willing to go back to the basics if it worked for you in the past but you screwed it up yourself left to your own decisions regarding the hair that grows on your head? chill...it's not that deep. you can use all of the products that are recommended and stop using the products that are considered taboo. if your hair is going to grow it will grow and if it is going to break off and remain short and brittle, it will be what it is. come on sistahs and stop stressing over the small sh*t. if you're attractive you're attactive whether your hair is short or long. love yourself.

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    1. I agree with you. My dad has always used products that contain mineral oil and before his scalp was severely damaged from trying to get a relaxer and having it left in too long, his hair grew by leaps and bounds. Actually his hair still grows just not as long as before. However recently I started experiencing hair breakage and decided to give it a go with baby oil, I figure what the heck do I have to lose? I needed something fast that was practical to take on vacation because I do not want to hold my family up over my hair. But it is a very stressful issue. I think with all things, we are all different and have different needs. If mineral oil worked for you before and your hair was healthy regardless of length, then there is no need to change now. I am happy to have found a great detangler for my hair!

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  12. I will let your expletive slide there anon. Just this once lol

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  13. @ Anonymous who posted 8 January 2011 at 04:13. Knowledge is power. I don't think it is a matter of not being able to "think for yourself" when you hear about all this new information and reflect on it. As more research is done, we discover more about the products we use. We want to do what is best for our hair...what is the harm in exploring different options. As I am currently re-growing my natural hair, I want to make sure I am using products that will help and not harm it. Even if the difference in benefit between using mineral oil/petrochemical free products versus those with these chemicals is only 15%...10%...or even 1%...I am always looking for the best option for my hair. Further, as this idea of mineral oil/paraben/petrochemical free products is a relatively new one...who knows...we may start to see a trend of even longer hair for black women and children in the future.

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  14. When I started caring for my hair again (which hasn't been that long), as most people do, I looked online and bought a bunch of fad products that promised hair growth. As I did more research and took advice from the naturals on youtube and popular blogging sites, I read contradicting articles like: the mineral oil and petrolutum and shampoos and such and got so confused.
    I then started to read the ingredients and realised in my excitement of fully embracing my 'fro I'd bought a lot of products that most of the bloggers and vlogger said to stay away from.

    I decided that I would look into why they were bad to discover they blocked moisture. I didn't want to waste the products I'd already purchased so I use them.

    I use water as my main moisture, then I usually use Extra Virgin Olive Oil as a seal, BUT then I'll use a mineral oil/petrolutum on top.

    That way I feel like I've sealed the moisture (water) with EVOO I have in my hair already, and the use of greases (petrolutum) blocks more from coming in; because i find if my hair has too much moisture it gets kinda dewy and gets real soft, like my hair will come out more (Plus I live in England and it rains a lot...)

    It also keeps the stray hairs of my braids clamped for longer and also kinda shields my hair, from the dust that gets in it.
    I know people say that it attracts dirt and that may be true, but I use the 'drying' shampoos (shampoos with laureth) so it's not like I'm leaving it in all the time (i use grease maybe twice a month and wash my hair weekly.
    I kinda feel like it lessens breakage and the single strand knots i get.

    And lastly using the greases help me, because my hair always comes undone quickly from twists, braids, cornrows, and the 'good/recommeded' oils I also use, usually makes it that much easy for the twists and braids to come out, so i slick it down with this.

    My hair has definately grown a few inches, though, I'm too scissor happy and trim a lot.

    (^_^)v

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  15. Would you recommend applying mineral oil before shampooing to prevent hydral fatigue if we've had adverse reactions to other natural oils (coconut, olive, etc.)?

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    1. No, oils that penetrate are more effective. I would recommend that you try to shorten your washing and drying time as much as you can.

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