Petroleum used to be known as the number one moisturizer and is still found in many products made specifically for African American hair. Petroleum-based ingredients may also be marketed under the names “paraffin,” “mineral oil” or variations on these. Its benefits include making hair soft, shiny and healthy-looking and preventing frizz. Due to its low cost, its no wonder that companies continue to use petroleum, but, unfortunately, the oil is bad for both hair and the skin on the scalp.
Petroleum is not, as it’s fame states it to be, a moisturizer, rather a barrier. This means it holds on to anything already on the hair and scalp, which could include dirt, grease, sweat and skin cells. For the hair, this creates a dull look – quite the opposite of the advertised shiny outcome – and the skin is unable to breathe. When scalp is unable to breathe, the natural release of toxins from the skin is averted, which, in turn, results in the toxins being returned to the bloodstream or stored in fat cells.
Another factor of petroleum being a barrier is that, unlike moisturizers, it does not penetrate the shaft of the hair. Instead, it only coats the hair to make it look shiny. Hair that is healthy will naturally look shiny without needing to be covered in oil. Worse still, petroleum does not let moisture penetrate, so the hair becomes dry, leading later to breakage and other damage.
Furthermore, petroleum can only be removed with a surfactant, not water, and this strips the hair of its natural oils. Plus, its important to remove the petroleum, as any amount that remains on the head begins to block follicles and slow down hair growth.