Does mineral oil really deserve it’s ‘evil to black hair’ image?
So what’s the deal with this oil anyway and why does it deserve our cold shoulder? Mineral oil* or liquid petroleum is a liquid by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline and other petroleum based products. It has a multitude of uses from cosmetics to lubricating machines in the food industry.
Mineral oil is of relatively low value so it’s little wonder that it also finds it’s way quite often into our hair products with all those companies trying to cut costs and all.
Mineral oil molecules are large compared to other oils and as such it is capable of holding in much more moisture into the hair by reducing the gaps that moisture is able to escape. Great right? Well, there’s more. The film that mineral oil creates on hair is occlusive which means that it prevents moisture leaving your hair but also prevents moisture getting in which is why it’s often included in pressing oils as it prevents frizz. It is also pretty good at curl clumping so sometimes its included in curl enhancing products. Sigh of relief, doesn’t sound all that bad now does it?
However, mineral oil is also a hydrophobe, it hates water so can only be removed with a surfactant and herin lies the problem. The majority of black hair care products will have mineral oil* or a derivative in them. The black women who buy these products are the same ones who believe that water dries black hair so avoid washing their locks until abolutely necessary which is usually in the region of once every 1-2 months. Ewww I hear you say? Well even some ladies who are kind of clued up about black hair care may not avoid water as they know that it will hydrate their locks so they choose to co-wash their hair with their mineral oil laden conditioners while shunning shampoo. Both scenarios lead to hair that breaks because it is deprived of moisture.
If you use mineral oil in your hair, you will have to use a sulphate shampoo to get rid of it every couple of days as the moisture percentage of your hair reduces. The problem is, washing your hair with the sulphate shampoo so often will mean that natural hair oils* will become a thing of the past and you are back in breakage city!