Vaseline can make your hair prettier and it can make your hair worse
Fine hair is usually associated with oily hair, but my hair tends to be dry. Even before I started brushing my hair regularly last year, it was brittle, dull, and prone to breakage. Although I have quite a bit of hair, its thin, delicate texture has long made me envious of my friends for having thick, voluminous waves. So I was intrigued when I heard that many Consumer Reports readers had commented on an article I wrote earlier about facial massages, as people with dry skin apply petroleum jelly or other oils to their skin . Reviewers are extolling the incredible hair growth properties of Wipe. Many believe that applying petroleum jelly to the scalp and hair promotes hair growth, hydrates the hair shaft, and turns lackluster curls into enviable curls. Hair “knotted” is far from a new trend, says Cesana-Jinderry, a Columbia, Maryland-based dermatologist and founder of the Kinderry Hair and Skin Center. Generations of African Americans “called this ‘oiling the scalp’ or ‘oiling the hair'”. This is thought to soothe a dry scalp, calm irritation, and promote hair growth.
However, before embarking on a new hair adventure, I decided to do my research and talk to the experts. The results of hair plucking are a bit mixed, but ultimately you shouldn’t do it if you’re hoping to grow more hair from your head. Applying petroleum jelly directly to the scalp won’t have this effect, and it can cause a whole host of other frustrating problems.
While petroleum jelly has many benefits, if you want your hair to grow faster, you may want to consider another treatment.
Why Applying Vaseline Won’t Promote Hair Growth
“Vaseline doesn’t promote hair growth,” says Kindry, adding that Vaseline can cause seborrheic dermatitis (a skin irritation that includes dandruff), where the skin becomes red, itchy, and peeling. On the face, petroleum jelly locks in moisture, making dry skin hydrated and shiny, but on the scalp, Kindred says, it can create a moist environment in which the seborrheic dermatitis-causing yeast thrives . “In my experience, if someone suffers from dandruff, petroleum jelly can mask the scaling or flaking while making the condition worse after a few uses a day,” she said.
“Vaseline may be good for dry skin on the face, but I don’t recommend using it on the scalp,” says dermatologist David E. Bank, founder of the Westchester County Dermatology, Aesthetic and Laser Surgery Center in New York, N.Y. Because it may clog hair follicles.
Vaseline isn’t the only thing that does this. Sweat, sebum (a waxy, oily substance naturally produced by glands in the skin), and product buildup (such as dry shampoo or hair spray) can all accumulate on the scalp. The easiest and cheapest way to treat scalp buildup is to use a salicylic acid shampoo, says Ranella Hirsch, a dermatologist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The key is to let it stay on the scalp for a while – 5 minutes,” she says. “People see the word ‘shampoo’ on the label and quickly rinse it off when they really should be using it as a scalp treatment.”
Another option is a clarifying shampoo, which you use every 15 days to reduce build-up.
“The main problem with using petroleum jelly on the scalp is folliculitis,” says Christina Bull, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Minneapolis. “If someone is prone to this condition, a yeast or bacterial infection of the hair follicle, the use of petroleum jelly may make the situation worse by inducing the infection.” Severe folliculitis can lead to permanent hair loss.
While petroleum jelly is a popular beauty tip on TikTok, petroleum jelly is equally useless for hair growth elsewhere on the body, such as eyelashes and eyebrows. “Different hair areas, such as the eyebrows, eyelashes, face and scalp, do not respond to ‘twitching’ and cannot promote any new hair growth,” Bank said.
A Better Solution for Faster Hair Growth
“Ideally, the first step is to see a doctor, who can check you out and check the lab,” Hirsch said. “Some causes of hair loss may be related to underlying medical causes,” such as thyroid dysfunction, recent medical conditions, or pregnancy.
Over-the-counter Rogaine and prescription Propecia are the best solutions for encouraging hair growth on the head, Bank said. Hirsch agreed, adding that Rogaine can be used by all genders, except those who are pregnant.
“Pro tip: Rogaine is available in both women’s and men’s versions, with (of course) a 40% pink tax on the women’s version,” Hirsch said. “They’re the same — save you money.” Hirsch adds that biotin and most supplements are popular but largely ineffective hair loss treatments.
Beat your hair, not your scalp
Punching “really improves dry hair,” says Kindere.
Similar to a face swipe, it works to seal moisture and oil into the hair shaft. Dry hair is brittle and more prone to breakage than healthy, hydrated hair. And hair that breaks at the end obviously doesn’t grow as long as hair that doesn’t break, even if it doesn’t come out of your scalp at an accelerated rate.
Apply petroleum jelly over your leave-in conditioner for maximum hydration, Kinder says. “A leave-in conditioner moisturizes the hair and fills holes in the hairline for stronger, more bouncy hair. Vaseline or petroleum jelly coats the hair and prevents dryness,” she says. She adds that this can make the hair heavy, which may or may not be desirable, depending on the style.