Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mulling Over Mineral Oil

Ah, the ol' mineral oil debate. Some people swear by it, while others have declared fatwah on the substance. The debate has gotten pretty heated.

But what's the fuss all about? In a nutshell -- a VAST majority of hair products, especially for black hair, are made up mostly of mineral oil. Go ahead, check those product labels. Pink Oil, Perm Repair, MoistureMax... mineral oil -- also known as paraffinum liquidum -- is one of the first ingredients listed.

There are many who say mineral oil is bad for you -- that it coats the air, making it unable to "breathe" or take in any other nutrients; that it can build up, make hair brittle and cause breakage; that it can even cause cancer.

But to every point, there's a counterpoint. Those who swear by mineral oil say it keeps their hair shiny; it makes their hair feel moisturized; and that it doesn't build up too much, as long as you wash your hair properly.

So who's on the right side of the strand here? I used a little bit of my journalistic muscle (yeah, School of Communications!) and found an abstract of a study conducted by the research and development arm of a beauty company in Mumbai, India.

The firm compared the effects of coconut, sunflower and mineral oil on hair. The conclusion:
Among three oils, coconut oil was the only oil found to reduce the protein loss remarkably for both undamaged and damaged hair when used as a pre-wash and post-wash grooming product. Both sunflower and mineral oils do not help at all in reducing the protein loss from hair.
The scientists say the difference all comes down to structure -- molecular structure. The structure of coconut oil allows it to penetrate the hair shaft, making it stronger and helping to prevent damage. But the structure of both mineral and sunflower oil don't allow them to penetrate the hair, and so they can't help make it any stronger than it already was.

So for those of you who said that mineral oil simply coats the hair (kinda like a folicular Saran Wrap), you were right! But if you like shine, maybe mineral oil isn't that bad. It just isn't that good either. It won't kill you, but it won't help to make your hair any healthier than it already is.

As for me and my hair -- we only like molecularly-friendly oils. More coconuts please!


T Dot said...

You should try out some Castor Oil. It's thick and a little dab will do you, but I think it's my new go to oil. It keeps my dry strands moisturized. Which is no small feat.

Miss Marche said...

Yes! Castor oil gets rave reviews too. I have it, but I haven't tried it on my hurr yet. I think that will be next week's experiment. :o)

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