Mineral oil, like silicone often gets vilified as a hair care and skin product ingredient. It cannot replace a deep conditioning oil like coconut oil, that has been shown in research to penetrate hair to the cortex level and help prevent protein loss. Mineral oil does not penetrate hair, according to that same research.
That however, does not mean that mineral oil should be avoided for hair or skin use at all costs. Just the opposite. It can be used effectively, sparingly and can have several uses for hair. It is more effective than natural sebum and vegetable oils in helping prevent moisture loss from skin and by extension in my opinion, hair, especially in conditions of low humidity.
This study, says just that about use on skin.
The Mayo Clinic concurs.
Information on mineral oil, well referenced as usual, from Paula Begoun.
And there is more. Mineral oil is classified cosmetically as antistatic. There are no restictions for use listed either.
It can be used lightly to help moisturize skin and does not clog pores.
What I am suggesting for use of mineral oil in hair care is that it can be used very lightly, as a finishing oil, on damp hair, to rehydrate it if the hair has lost moisture and help hold it in the hair, particularly during low humidity, winter conditions and it can help prevent static. Used lightly, it does not leave the hair sticky, greasy or stringy, the way other oils can after application.
It will not seal the hair from all moisture. No oil does that and silicone does not either. Moisture vapour can still penetrate hair when either of those ingredients is used, unless you layer everything on so thick that the hair shaft gets overloaded. A build up of too much conditioner without oils or silicone can do that, leaving ends in particular feeling dry.
The same reasons that make mineral oil not the best choice for a deep conditioning or treatment oil, make it a perfect choice as a grooming aid.
It may also, as an emollient and antistatic agent, replace the need for conditioner or a leave-in detangler, used exactly the same way, sparingly, but evenly throughout the hair. It should not take more than a few drops to do this, as the research on skin showed. Mineral oil obviously spreads easily. Used this way, it should not be heavy or weigh the hair down.
In the skin research study, at least two drops of the baby oil were applied to cover each skin test site. The oil was used in such a small amount to not be noticeable upon examination, in other words not look greasy. The four skin test sites were elbows, knees, heels and tibia. It was applied twice daily, once after first arising in the morning and a second time before retiring for the night. Wearing clothes or sleep wear would account for the need for a double application. Some of the oil would be rubbed off, especially from elbows, knees and heels. It should stay on the hair and not require more than one application.
Extrapolating from the skin research study, the reason vegetable oils need reapplying when used to oil hair as a grooming aid is because they are not as effective at preventing moisture loss from hair. Mineral oil should not cause the same problem or need to be reapplied after the first use.
Result? You need less oil and therefore build up and build-up as in residue should not be a problem. Mineral oil used this way should simply wash out of the hair easily, with your next shampoo. Mineral oil is not a drying oil.
Many cosmetic ingredients are synthesized with processes that use petrochemicals.
One bottle of pure USP or BP mineral oil/white (clear, no colour) baby oil would last several years used the way I have suggested using it, about two drops at a time. No reapplication of the oil would be needed until the next hair wash. Mineral oil cannot go rancid and has an indefinite shelf life, with no special requirements for storage.
That has less impact on the environment than going through several bottles of conditioner or detanger in one month of typical use for some people.
Pure USP or BP unfragranced mineral oil can be purchased at most pharmacies.
I used less than 3 drops of baby oil on dry, uncatnipped hair as opposed to damp hair. As I have said, my hair does not lack moisture with catnip use. The results were perfect. There was no dryness, heaviness, static, stickiness, greasiness or tangling. My waves were defined well and I had no stringiness either. I had good volume. Again as with the previous two times, the baby oil did not need reapplication between when I applied it after washing my hair and the next wash. I made sure that the baby oil was between my fingers before applying it, so I could finger comb and get it more evenly applied to the hair shafts. By between my fingers, I mean I rubbed my hands together, after the oil had been applied to the palm of one hand and slid the fingers between each other of both hands in an up and down motion. I wanted the "combing surface" to be fully oiled. This is how I applied it each time before.
I have tried this twice now, once over damp catnipped hair just to see how the mineral oil behaved, using two drops (my hair is naturally thin). My hair was not sticky, greasy, nor did it leave my hair stringy or tangled. With catnip, my hair is perfectly balanced, so my defined waves remained the same. I had a bit more volume. When I went back to using catnip alone after the next wash, there were no problems and my hair was just as conditioned and coloured as well as it is usually. This was evidence to me that the mineral oil had been washed out completely. My hair does not tangle with catnip use and I do not get static.
The second time, I used it on damp shampooed hair only, using just over two drops. My hair is not stringy, sticky or greasy and my waves are again perfectly defined, with no static and great volume. This makes the mineral oil a perfect choice for me to use when I do not have time to do an hour catnip treatment, not a replacement for catnip, as I rely on catnip for hair colour as well as conditioning. I am thrilled with the results. For a week my hair was not dry or tangled and I needed no reapplication of the baby oil. Catnip is all I normally use on my hair after washing it with shampoo. I apply it to wet hair, with excess water gently squeezed out first, in the shower as a colour/conditioning treatment. The extra moisture from having used the mineral oil on damp hair caused me no problems and would account for the extra volume.
________________________________________________I have been reviewing posts, blogs and information online regarding petrolatum and mineral oil in African-American hair care where these ingredients are staples. They are often used along with lanolin and more recently, with vegetable oils, like coconut oil. They can help reduce frizz because the products do reduce the amount of moisture vapour that enters the hair and they can help hold more moisture in the hair. Lanolin is a wax and petrolatum is greasy. They can be harder to remove and leave residues that build-up because of that.
However, mineral oil, while it can leave a residue just like any other oil, if it is used alone, in a small enough amount like drops and not too many of them, will not build-up or leave a residue because it can be completely removed from the hair with any shampoo that is cleansing or conditioner only, which emulsifies oils, in one wash.
What is a non cleansing shampoo? Shampoo with too many conditioning additives or weak cleansers, that will not remove natural oils enough, to get mildly greasy hair clean from natural sebum.
There is absolutely no reason why the mineral oil drop(s) should not help even severely damaged hair, from chemical abuse or heat styling, when used on the hair when it is damp. Damp hair is hair where added moisture (water) has not yet evaporated. Mineral oil helps prevent the water from evaporating.
Damaged hair is usually dry or lacking moisture. The cuticles have been compromised and cannot help hold moisture in the hair well, even if they are closed tightly with an acidic rinse. A light application of mineral oil, while it cannot mend the damage (nothing can), temporarily holds moisture in the hair and can make it both soft and shiny. With mineral oil being an emollient and antistatic agent, the hair is less stressed by friction as well and that helps prevent more damage.
If the hair's moisture level is good, the drop(s) can also be used on dry hair to help maintain it, in conditions of low humidity.
In conditions of high humidy, applying the drop(s) to dry hair with a good moisture level can help maintain that too, while helping to prevent moisture from the air causing frizz.
For any application of the drop(s), it is best that the hair not have a lot of build-up on it. It is not necessary to clarify the hair if it is not needed for the mineral oil/white (clear, no colour) baby oil to be effective. The drop(s) should not need to be reapplied between washes.