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October 31, 2011

Should I Really Use Grease on My Natural Hair?

Hair Liberty's Nicole Hollis, our Resident Curl Chemist, is answering your most urgent hair questions. Got one for her? Email me at nikki@curlynikki.com using "Hair Liberty" in the subject line and she may answer your question right here on the blog.

Q: Should I really use grease on my hair?


A: Grease is usually a combination of petroleum (cleaned up sludge from the earth) and mineral oil (even cleaner, liquefied sludge from the earth). Petroleum-based products come from the same Earth that we pollute everyday with factory run off, pharmaceuticals, household chemicals, etc. Questions about the safety of mineral oil and petroleum in cosmetic products come from concern that they may not be clean enough after coming from such a dirty place. The petroleum and mineral oil used in medicinal creams (Neosporin, for example) gets cleaned much more thoroughly than the stuff used in hair products.

That being said, it’s important to remember that hair is dead – meaning it’s not connected to your blood supply after it emerges from the hair follicle. If you’re concerned about the safety of petroleum-based products, start by not using any on your lips. Most lip balms and glosses are petroleum-based and you end up swallowing the majority of what you put on. That’s much worse than putting petroleum on your (dead) hair.

You should use whatever works to keep your hair from breaking and help you achieve the styles you like. If grease makes your hair look and feel good, you should use it, but keep 2 things in mind:

1. Be careful about the grease you choose, especially if you have fine hair. It’s not just the ingredients that matter, it’s the recipe too. You’ll know the grease is too heavy if you have to work to create volume/fullness on your finished style. Anything that leads to more manipulation should be avoided. Fine hair also doesn’t do well when you put a lot of weight on the strand. If you notice your hair breaking even when you know it’s moisturized (e.g. within 24 hours of a fresh wash), it could be the extra weight from the grease.

2. You need to shampoo your hair once a week (more if you work out). The best long term routine includes washing with a gentle shampoo once a week. Momma did have some things right back in the day. The routine was shampoo, condition, water, grease, repeat. Grease attracts more dirt than other products and it can easily build up and clog the cuticle layer. Clogged cuticles prevent the hair from reaching its optimal moisture level which will make it more breakage prone than ever.

You should also know that silicone serums were created to give us a better alternative to grease. Although grease works very well as a sealant, it’s heavier than other products and it attracts more dirt. If you have very fine hair or acne prone skin, you should choose a silicone serum instead.

Hair Liberty (def): The freedom to rock whatever style you want, whenever you want. Curly, straight, natural, relaxed, whatever! Free yourself! For more info, visit www.hairliberty.org

16 Chime in!:

Anonymous said...

I have fine 4b hair. Silicone serums dried it all the way out.

A small amount of mineral oil-based pomade or lotion, applied to barely-damp (almost-dry) hair, gives me volume and softness for days. I actually don't have to apply anything else.

And let me just put this in now: Like a lot of black women, I grew up with grease...but NO, my hair wasn't down my back as a kid. Far from it! (In fact I knew very few black girls growing up with hair down their back.) As an adult, length retention came with low manipulation, not with products (grease or anything else).

Anonymous said...

I see someone is really trying to convince themselves (and others) that grease is the way to go.

Terri said...

I use it in the winter. Not on my scalp though. No harm here. It's actually better on my color treated hair

~Poeticlyspkng said...

I must say that I have no plans to buy grease when shea butter/coconut oil works for me. While my sisters hair did ok with grease growing up, my hair was a mix of medium/fine and it often felt heavy. The same occurred when I was relaxed. I spent money on EXPENSIVE greases and got the same results. I remember the breakouts and my pillow cases becoming heavy from grease. So, that is one band wagon I won't be boarding! But if it works for some- go forth and conquer!

Kiki said...

I'm not a grease fan but hey, if it works for you I say go for it. Nicole is right, hair is dead so using grease on your HAIR is one thing, using it on your SCALP is another. I personally don't like how oily my hair feels when using grease and it makes my hair too dirty too fast. I could apply one day and 3 days later, I'm scratching gunk off my scalp.

Sophie said...

Was the opening to this supposed to be tongue in cheek? We get plants from that same ground we pollute too... I study pollution in agriculture so I know that that land is polluted as badly as any! I think people like grease because it's a good sealant. I busted out some blue magic in desperation during a dry winter, and it worked for me *shrug*. I look for natural sources to really rely on because my hair is more easily weighed down, but we're exposed to chemicals all the time. Many people inadvertently consume lots of chemicals every day (plastics, makeup, chemical dusts) so I think being mindful is all you can do.

Anonymous said...

I think people should use what works for them. As for me if all blogs post about are using grease to me that is just boring. I could of got that info from my mom who tells me I need to use grease on my nappy head. I prefer hearing new information because I'm a seeker of new and the latest.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a scientific based look at "grease". From her first description of mineral oil and petroleum, I won't lie, I was like "Ewwww." Does not sound as pretty as the story of where shea butter comes from. But I just live by the creed, "Know what you are putting on/in your body and on your hair (after all, your hair is pretty darn close to your scalp and skin)." If after research, you are fine with it and are willing to take the risks, go ahead. Just be educated. And thanks to the poster who pointed out that many of us grease babies (who grew up with grease used on our hair) did NOT grow up with hair down our back. That argument just about annoyed the crap out of me when I saw other posters use it. Hair grows because that is just what it does. Grease, and hardly any other product for that matter, will make your hair grow. Certain techniques can help with length retention, such as moisturizing and sealing. I think the golden attribute of grease is that it really seems to seal in the moisture well for so many people. I wouldn't know personally, but that is what so many claim. As for me and my head, shea butter anyone?

Anonymous said...

I love that she mentioned that hair is dead! Thank your for saying that, as I think many people truly forget that little fact. We should care more about what we eat, rather than what we put on some dead hair! If you want to use hair grease, go for it! On the other hand, if you prefer using natural oils, go for it! Do what is best for you and your own hair! Why is this even debatable? Natural hair Nazis need to allow other naturals to make up their own mind, without all the bullying and negativity! One's natural hair journey is very personal. No one is trying to push hair grease on anyone. But, naturals need to know all of their available options.

Anonymous said...

the crude oil from which mineral oil and petroleum is derived is naturally occurring...as naturally occurring as the shea butter you're using.so mineral oil and petroleum are natural products...

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 9:58 PM: You're right! Petroleum based products are natural because it comes from Mother Earth.

Nonia said...

Agree with Anonymous October 31, 2011 12:48 PM

Everybody's mother, grandmother, great-granny and so on knew about, used and abused grease so this is OLD news. I can find more info on a 30 year old jar of Dax than most new products combined! With all the new start ups struggling for face time and adventures in new formulas to discover, why oh why is petroleum and mineral oil getting more than it's 15 minutes?

Anonymous said...

Idunno. Back in the day we used Royal Crown, Dixie Peach, HairRep etc., and my natural kinky 4c hair NEVER grew. We wore natural braids, roller sets, press-n-curls, etc. but we were ALWAYS SHORT HAIRED. No dooky braids ever sprung from my scalp. We used Prell, Flex Balsam, Creme of nature, and it was the same old thing - day after day.

I tried the grease last week on my twistout - used Giovanni Direct as my leave in and applied an African Pride natural pomade. I chose this brand because the Blue Magic was sold out. Hmmmmm, I wonder why?

Aside from the herbs, it was fragrant and applied smoothly, but I still got tangling and SSK on my twist out 'fro over the next two days.

Final conclusion, grease weren't my friend then, and I'm not going to put my hair through the drama like I did with that infernal Tangle-teazer.

HTH

Anonymous said...

One product doesn't guarantee hair growth. If your body is healthy, and you don't damage your hair and maintain the ends (however you do it), then you will see length progression. If one product did it all, we would all be using it, no? That's why we all have to figure out our own regimens on our own. Take what you can use from the info provided and discard the rest. At the end of the day the name of the game is "Do you, boo".

Anonymous said...

Interesting, I have recently seen the Natural Hair Nazis phrase used before. Natural Hair Nazis or not. I am into natural hair and choices that are best for my hair just as much as what I place in and on my body. My concern is that petroleum which is in most hair grease is not the healthiest choice. Yes "back in the day" our grandmas, mamas, used it and we used it, but we know more now than we did "back in the day". What we do know is that contaminents from petroleum have been found in the tissue of breast cancer patients. What we do know is that about 60% of what we put on our bodies, including what's applied to our hands to put on our hair, is absorbed directly into our bloodstream. Let's be aware and be more educated about the effects of ingredients in our hair products as well as our food and body products before we decide to jump back into using what was good "back in the day". Rhetorical question: Why is it that it's considered bullying when someone disagrees with another's person view on "Hair Grease". SMH

SparkApCider said...

Use what works for you. I only promote the knowledge that what works for many of the folks that vid may not work for you. Do not turn yourself into a product junkie, moving further away from your baseline of what worked for you. Some hair is finer, and grease weighs it down. But for those who need protection, and are wondering why they can't retain length through dry thick tresses...you may need to evaluate oil vs grease.

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