by LaRetta Ann Taylor
I remember when using a hot oil treatments was considered the
?deep conditioner? that was supposedly the miracle remedy for dry or damaged hair. But do they really work?
First let?s break down and examine the process of using a Hot Oil Treatment. First we wash our hair and then the hot oil treatment is applied. According to the chemistry of oil, by nature it does not mix with water. As a matter of fact, oil repels water. Add to that the molecular structure of oil which is just too big to penetrate into your hair shaft. So the oil can not get to the hair because the oil is being repelled by the water and the oil is literally just sitting on the surface of some of your hair.
To further complicate the matter, we put a plastic cap on our hair after we apply the oil which further draws out moisture. To understand this concept, think about when you go into an enclosed steam room. The steam makes us sweat, drawing out ?moisture? from our bodies, much like that plastic cap is doing when the moisture inside the cap heats up. Some of this moisture converts to a gas state not benefiting our hair at all. While a bit of the oil mixture may adheres to the hair, most of it gets rinsed down the drain.
So where did this oil aka ?grease? practice come from? The African American relationship with oil and butterfat goes back to our everyday survival during enslavement. Early black Americans knew oils did not evaporate. Oil stayed on the surface until rubbed off. This was perfect for protecting whatever it was applied to. Black people began to erroneously apply oil directly to the hair and the scalp which clogs the hair follicle. Manufacturers followed our lead in the duplication of this cultural behavior.
When oil is applied to dry hair it does coat the cuticle of the hair shaft, which is the outer layer of your hair but is not being absorbed into your hair. The test for this is to run your fingers through your hair a few hours after oil is applied and check your hands. We also think that our hair is ?soaking up? the oil, but check your pillow cases, headrests and hair scarves to see where the oil is really going. Now here is where the real problem comes in when you apply oil to dry hair. The oil act as a barrier actually preventing hydration, repelling needed moisture thus resulting in dehydrated, dry and brittle hair.
This leads us to another misnomer that black hair is dryer than other textures, this is simply not true. It would not be dry if we gave it what our natural hair texture really craves which is MOISTURE to flourish. Ever notice how much easier your hair is to comb while it is wet? Moisture lubricates and hydrates our hair strands. Since we cannot walk around with water spray bottles, an excellent alternative is a professional conditioner with moisture retention properties that has a good balance of protein (important for strength and elasticity) and preferably of food grade quality. Your hair will stay moisturized longer and be more manageable.
Oil?s true place in our hair care regime is to use it as a styling aid to maintain control and sheen on the hair only (not the scalp) rather than as a conditioner. But be cautioned here because oil can buildup on the hair causing dehydration if not shampooed and clarified off of the hair regularly. Oil can be a good complement to your natural hair management system if used sparingly and only AFTER a moisture treatment.
article taken from July's More Hair! News: