I thought today we could talk about petroleum/mineral oil and why it has such a bad reputation in the natural hair community. There are many interesting misconceptions out there about petroleum/mineral oil. First, let’s take a look at the definition of mineral oil.
WHAT IT IS MINERAL OIL AND WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Mineral oil is a colorless and odorless oil that’s made from petroleum. Is is a by-product of the distillation of petroleum when gasoline is produced. It has also long been used as a common ingredient in lotions, creams, ointments, and cosmetics. It is a lightweight, inexpensive and helps reduce water loss from the skin by blocking the pores on our skin and scalp.
So there you have it. Mineral oil is a by-product of gasoline distillation and it is widely used in a variety of beauty products. I share two theories on why mineral oil has a bad reputation.
As a whole, our society is a lot more health conscious than we used to be. Sometimes our obsession with finding the healthiest products leaves us a little vulnerable to clever marketers. Do you think twice about buying products with sulfates and silicones? That is no accident. If marketers can paint a certain ingredient as the bad guy, they can easily get you to give up your trusted Miss Jessie’s Buttercream for a new product made without that ingredient.
If marketers can paint a certain ingredient as the bad guy, they can easily get you to give up your trusted Miss Jessie’s Buttercream for a new product made without that ingredient.
The most dangerous of claims made about mineral oil is that it contains carcinogens. It is true that some petroleum by-products contain carcinogens, but the mineral oil that’s used in the cosmetic industry is refined, purified & regulated by the FDA. This and a host of other negative claims about mineral oil really have no factual basis.
2. COMMON NATURAL HAIR PRACTICES
Mineral oil is an occlusive agent it creates a barrier that seals off your hair and skin from air and water.
Now, let’s travel back in time pre-natural hair explosion. At this time a vast majority of products for black women’s hair contained mineral oil. For example, products such as Blue magic and Pink moisturizer. This was a period where many black women were primarily heat styling or relaxing their hair. Back then it made sense to use mineral oil heavy products since water was the enemy to our hairstyles.
In the present day, the occlusive nature of mineral oil could be problematic for women who like to re-moisturize their hair often between washes, since mineral oil locks water out. Also, the barrier mineral oil creates is not so easy to remove. It requires washing the hair with a shampoo containing sulfates. Again, potentially problematic for naturals who primarily use gentle cleaners such as sulfate free shampoo or co-wash cleansers.
My final thoughts on the topic are as follows. If your favorite natural hair products contain mineral oil, and you are happy with the results they produce then there is no reason to stop using them. I would just keep in mind the occlusive nature of mineral oil and structure your hair regimen accordingly.
What do you all think about mineral oil? Yay or Nay??
If you’re interested in learning more about the most popular synthetic and natural ingredients listed in hair products on the market today, buy our product ingredient dictionary!