Petroleum In Black Hair Care: The History, Myths, and Facts

Petroleum In Black Hair Care: The History, Myths, and Facts

By Manhattan Grey

With the increasing popularity of natural hair and the use of all-natural, vegan, cruelty-free, and fair traded products comes the great debate of what is and what isn’t good for Black hair. In our blog post Check that label! We mentioned forms of Mineral Oil as being one of the culprits. With that came feedback from our Black Grey Hair community which led to an open conversation about The difference between Mineral and Petroleum oil, inspiring us to create a new Shea Butter & Rosemary formula, giving you the choice to use a petroleum-free option still keeping the original formula for those who have grown to love it.

But is petroleum oil really as bad as the rep it gets in the natural hair community? Let’s get into it with some history, facts, and myths about Petroleum oil and why it’s not for everybody.

Petroleum oil is the OG of Black Hair Care

Madame CJ Walker's original hair formula lists the first ingredient as Vaseline, and guess what the main ingredient of Vaseline is? You guessed it! Petroleum Jelly (oil) Our ancestors didn’t have many options when it came to grooming so we naturally used what we could get our hands on and made do. As history proved, Madame CJ was on to something and the results well...they’re history. People were so devoted and loyal to her Wonderful Hair Grower and Glossine Pressing oil that it made her the first Black Millionaire in America.

From there, Black Haircare companies began to understand the importance of using “Hair Grease '' to keep our scalp moisturized, hair shaft strong, and protected from heat damage. It was essential for the growth and maintenance of Black Hair. The original Manhattan Grey hair pomade is in a way an homage to the basics our ancestors came up on.

Petroleum Oil does Not Clog Your Pores, It Protects Them

Petroleum oil is heavy in structure, in some forms it is a thick, grease-like substance. Its slickness creates a barrier on your hair that coats it and protects your hair shaft and pores from outside dirt, debris, and chemicals. From a scientific standpoint, the molecular structure of petroleum is far too large to clog hair follicles. Another plus... bugs hate petroleum oil. Remember that old myth about how black folks can’t get ticks or lice? It’s not really a myth for those who “grease” their hair and scalps and Petroleum oil are to thank.

Petroleum Oil Is (Low-Key) Plant-Based

Petroleum is naturally found in the earth. It is made from microorganisms from below the earth's surface. Its makeup is plant-based and contains no animal
products. However, it often gets a bad rep because of how it’s manufactured and marketed. Some companies who use or make Petroleum oil cannot claim vegan due to their testing on animals so others are grouped in with them. In our case, Manhattan Grey’s formulas are 100% vegan. At its core, Petroleum Oil is as natural as other plant-based oils like Shea Butter which is found in our alternative pomade Shea & Vitamin E formula. We’ve given you options so that you can choose the right formula based on your individual hair type.

Petroleum Helps Preserve Your Products.

A little-known fact about Petroleum is its ability to keep bacteria out. Although not proven to kill all bacteria, studies show that a large majority of bacteria cannot live in petroleum or petroleum-based products.

Petroleum is Moisture-Rich

As we mentioned above, the one item in the black community that is a staple and is always useful is vaseline which is essentially petroleum jelly. It is a piece of history because with little resources we needed a multifaceted product and found it in Petroleum jelly which has been used on Black skin and hair for  decades. It easily retains moisture by creating a barrier and locking the glow in.

From being historically relevant to having hidden bacteria and insect-killing properties, Petroleum seems to be more lit than we knew it to be. Still Petroleum oil or jelly in products is not one-size-fits-all. Some may find that it is too heavy or does not work well with their individual health, hair, or style goals.

This is why Manhattan Grey provides a full line of products to choose from. The decision to provide a petroleum-free option came directly from our community and as we grow we will continue to choose greytness by listening and creating the best in Black Grey hair care based on your needs.