Is It Really Bad to Grease Your Scalp?

by Nicole Hollis of Hair Liberty

If you grew up in a traditional African American household, a jar of hair grease was never too far away. Oiling the scalp with thick grease was thought to be a staple of any good hair care regimen. Today, experts advise against oiling the scalp, but many African American women still believe that hair grease is a part of obtaining healthy hair. But is it really helpful? Or can it cause more damage than good?
Is all oil bad? 

One of the problems with oiling your scalp has to do with the type of oil used. Hair grease (examples include Bergamot, Blue Magic, Ultra Sheen, and TCB) is usually made of petrolatum, mineral oil, and/or lanolin. Those substances create a heavy barrier on your scalp and hair. When you oil your scalp with hair grease, it just sits on top of the skin, clogging your pores and hair follicles. This "grease barrier" also makes it difficult for water and other moisturizers to penetrate your hair and scalp. So, hair grease should definitely be avoided, but grease isn't the only reason to stop oiling your scalp.

If you are someone who applies oil regularly, it's probably because you're trying to moisturize your hair and scalp. It's true, your scalp does need to be moisturized (just like the rest of your skin), but you take care of that when you wash and condition your hair.

How do I get rid of dry scalp, then?

Often times, people put grease or oil on their scalp because they believe it will relieve a dry and flaky scalp. But according to Dr. Kari, a licensed trichologist, “If you are experiencing the symptoms of a dry or flaky scalp, it is more likely a result of an imbalance in your scalp’s pH or a dysfunction of the sebaceous glands.” Therefore, if you want to solve the problem of dry flakes, it’s best to apply something that will balance the pH of your scalp, which is not grease. You can use an apple cider vinegar rinse or a pH balanced shampoo and conditioner.

Give yourself a scalp massage instead

A healthy scalp is soft, flake-free, and not oily - just like the skin on your face. If you cannot break the habit of oiling your scalp, just shift your efforts from oiling to massaging. Massaging your scalp can slowly stimulate hair growth, especially in areas that have thinned due to tight hairstyles like weaves and braids.

Follow these easy steps:

Step 1: Start by avoiding products that contain large amounts (first five ingredients) of mineral oil, petrolatum, or lanolin.

Step 2: Replace hair grease with pure, natural oils like coconut, olive, avocado, castor, or jojoba oil.

Step 3: Use about 1 tablespoon of oil to lubricate the area of your scalp that you plan to massage. For an extra boost, add 2 drops each of rosemary, lavender, cedarwood, and thyme essential oil.

Step 4: Apply the oil, keeping your fingers planted and moving them in a circular motion. Just like when you get a light back rub or shoulder massage. Don't scratch!

Step 5: To stimulate hair growth, massage for 2-5 minutes daily or as often as possible.

Step 6: After your massage, wash hair as usual so that oil will not clog your pores.

This article was originally written in April 2011 and has since been updated for grammar and clarity. 

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