I don’t know about you, but growing up for me seemed to be all about hair grease.
Grease was pretty much the only product that was applied to my hair apart from shampoo.
My mum would use it all over my hair in order to ‘moisturize’ it, and it appeared to do the trick. Once applied, my hair didn’t look dry and even had lots of shine.
But was it really moisturized?
Let’s look to some facts.
Grease can’t penetrate into the hair shaft
For hair to be moisturized, it needs to receive hydration inside the hair shaft.
Grease can’t do this.
Firstly, grease can’t offer hair hydration; only water can do this. And secondly its molecules are often too big to penetrate inside the hair shaft.
What ends up occurring is that grease gives the appearance of moisturized hair without the hair actually receiving any moisture.
I know from my personal experience my hair was chronically dry and the grease my mum applied did nothing to hydrate it, which is why it broke so much and I suffered from short hair syndrome.
I believe this myth is particularly damaging as it can contribute to locking us into short hair syndrome, which is what happened to me.
Let me give an example.
The grease trap
A child has dry hair, and to combat this, the mum uses grease to ‘moisturize’ it.
The grease does nothing and delivers zero moisture, but it does leave the hair shiny, making it look moisturized.
Over time, the hair will look dry again, so more grease is applied to ‘moisturize’ it.
And so the cycle repeats, with the hair never getting any of the crucial moisture it needs.
The result is dry and brittle hair that is prone to breaking.
I think this is particularly dangerous because:
1) The mum thinks she is doing the right thing and as a result may blame the breakage on the child’s hair.
2) The child may internalize that she has ‘bad’ hair, because even though she sees her mum looking after it, it still doesn’t grow and breaks all the time.
3) The hair will actually get drier because grease is an occlusive agent. This basically means that not only does it lock and seal dryness into the hair, it also creates an external barrier and stops any moisture from entering in.
These three reasons make grease a triple threat to dry hair.
Water is the answer
The best ingredient to moisturize dry hair is water.
Water-based products, or water itself, consist of molecules small enough to penetrate the hair shaft and deliver their thirst-quenching benefits to the hairs core.
Even so, people with afro hair have avoided using excessive water on their hair because they think it makes their hair dry.
But that’s only because they are not following up with an adequate product to seal in the water. If water is not sealed into the hair, it will dry out quickly, returning the hair to its original dry state (the grease trap)
You see, water does not stay in the hair on its own; it has to be sealed or locked in.
So what we must do is moisturize the hair with a water-based product, then use a heavier, non-penetrating product like an oil or a grease to seal it in.
It is not that grease has to be avoided like the plague. It can actually work in some circumstances, but it’s important to know when to apply it and for what purpose.
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