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.
Use Grease With Caution
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:
Be Careful with Build Up
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 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.
This article was originally published in October 2011 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.