A long time ago, before the natural hair craze began in the world, grease was possibly the most popular moisture sealant for natural hair. I’m talking about Blue Magic, Ultra Sheen and Doo-gro. They worked well and the hair used to grow. Years down the line, the natural hair gang started to portray grease as something to run as far away from as possible. It was alleged that grease weighs the hair down as well as blocking hair pores, thereby leading to reduced hair growth. Grease was soon replaced with hair butters and creams that are supposedly lighter in texture and therefore moisturize the hair without leading to hair buildup.
I went natural about three years ago. Well, I had always been natural, but in 2016 I cut off all my split ends and heat damaged hair. I followed all the natural hair rules. Using organic oils and sulphate-free shampoos while avoiding petrolatum and alcohol-based products. All the rules. I was completely diligent. After about two years I sort of got tired and relaxed. My regimen was watered down from a six-hour process to one hour. I decided to follow the minimalist approach and reduced my products significantly.
One time I was completely out oils so I reached out to a jar of grease that I had never used before. I used water before putting on the grease. Because oil is supposed to seal in moisture, not be the moisture. The results were crazy, and I never looked back. My hair was super moisturized the entire week. I didn’t need to remoisturize mid-week as I usually did.
It got me thinking about the days when we would just use shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner and grease. Nowadays, most people have a whole basket of products because we’ve been made to believe that the more products we use, the higher the chances of length retention. The thing is, hair still grew back in the day and perfectly well. Why is it that we now suddenly need the most complicated hair regimen and a million products to help us retain length and volume?
Any marketer will tell you that if you’re trying to sell a product then it makes sense to portray its substitutes as the “bad guy.” Maybe this is the actual reason why grease suddenly became “illegal” in the natural hair world.
The main components found in grease are petrolatum and lanolin. Chemically, both lanolin and petrolatum (again, major components in hair grease) are able to lock in moisture very well.
Lanolin is a natural, waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep in order to protect the skin and wool from the harsh environment including dryness.
Petroleum, on the other hand, is a fossil fuel that is naturally occurring in sedimentary rocks in the earth’s surface.
Grease works perfectly in preventing water loss. It is used cosmetically for skin and hair. But here’s the thing when used on the hair scalp, it forms a barrier such that the moisture in the hair is sealed in. This is definitely a good thing. However, the problem comes in when the moisture runs out and the grease is still on the scalp. Getting rid of grease is extremely hard. You will need a proper sulphate-based shampoo. Grease does tend to hair down. It builds up and sits on the hair scalp.
Therefore, I would advise you to use grease on your hair shaft alone, don’t use it on the scalp. It works pretty well even with styling. I have tried twist-outs and braid-outs with grease. They last a much longer period and still retain the shine.
I don’t believe that grease is as bad for hair as it’s been portrayed to be. It’s a cheaper option and lasts much longer. Maybe we should stop listening to companies that have used product diversification as a strategy to lock out cheap products that can be used well on their own.
Here are a few recommendations I would give for those who choose to use grease on their hair:
Use water first before putting the grease on. Let the grease act as a sealant to moisture rather than as a moisturizing agent itself.
Get rid of the product buildup by using a proper shampoo at least once a week.
Do not use too much of the product. Limit the amount that you use so that you don’t have too much build-up.
Lastly, use grease on your hair shaft, not on your scalp. Getting rid of grease on the scalp is difficult.
My name is Laura Ayienga, a 25-year-old writer & marketer, experiencing the highs (not claiming the lows) of life. I discovered my passion for writing on this very blog back in 2019 and since then, I’ve been using it to express myself as candidly and authentically as possible.