Mineral oil is a colorless and odorless liquid created as a by-product of making gasoline. It’s commonly added to skin care and hair care products as a moisturizing agent because it’s cheap to manufacture.

Many articles on the internet claim that mineral oil may negatively affect your health. However, mineral oil is FDA-approved for topical use in cosmetics, and there’s no evidence that it’s unsafe. Research has also deemed it safe to use.

There is one caveat: Exposure to the type of mineral oil used in an occupational setting may increase your risk of developing cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, people whose jobs regularly expose them to mineral oil (for example, certain manufacturing jobs) are at a higher risk for developing nonmelanoma skin cancer.

However, unlike the type of mineral oil such workers are exposed to, the mineral oil in cosmetics is highly purified and doesn’t have the same health risks.

In this article, we’re going to look at mineral oil’s potential benefits for your hair. We’ll also compare mineral oil to other types of oil commonly used in hair care products.

Most of the research on mineral oil examines potential benefits for skin health. Research on its benefits for improving your hair health is limited.

Does mineral oil reduce hair damage?

Oils used in hair care products are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water. Applying mineral oil to your hair may reduce the amount of water your hair absorbs and minimize swelling. Repeated swelling and drying can damage your hair.

If you want to see whether mineral oil benefits your hair, try applying about a tablespoon of mineral oil to your hair and combing it through. After about 10 minutes, shampoo it out.

It’s a good idea to limit this application to a maximum of twice per week.

Does mineral oil reduce tangles and fizziness?

Research has found that mineral oil may help moisturize your skin. Some people think it may also help moisture your hair by creating a barrier on the surface of your hair that water can’t penetrate.

Applying mineral oil to your hair may help reduce tangles and prevent your hair from breaking by acting as a lubricant. Anecdotally, some people also claim that it helps them prevent fizziness by reducing dryness.

Does mineral oil treat dandruff?

Mineral oil may help with dandruff by keeping your scalp moist.

To reduce dandruff, try applying mineral oil to your scalp and leaving it on for an hour. You can then brush out your hair and wash the oil out with shampoo.

Does mineral oil kill head lice?

A 2016 study compared the effect of a mineral oil shampoo to a pyrethroid-based pesticide traditionally used to treat head lice. The researchers found that mineral oil could be an effective alternative with fewer potential side effects.

To use mineral oil to kill lice, saturate your hair with the oil and wrap your head in a towel overnight. Then wash the oil out.

One treatment may be enough to kill the lice, but you may want to try this treatment again after a week.

Does mineral oil increase hair growth?

Some people claim that mineral oil may increase hair growth, but there’s no evidence to support this claim.

Mineral oil is often referred to as baby oil when used in cosmetics for babies. It’s most commonly used as a skin moisturizer. There’s no evidence that it’s dangerous for babies. In very rare cases, it may trigger an allergic reaction.

It’s not a good idea to leave mineral oil somewhere where a baby might consume it.

Research has found that using cosmetics that contain mineral oil is generally safe. Side effects are generally mild and may include the following:

  • Allergic reaction. Allergic reactions are relatively rare. Symptoms might include redness, swelling, itching, or a rash.
  • Scalp irritation. Some people report scalp irritation after using a product containing mineral oil.
  • Eye irritation. If you get mineral oil in your eyes, it may cause irritation. It’s a good idea to rinse your eyes right away.
  • Acne. Mineral oil doesn’t generally cause acne. However, it may lead to breakouts in some people.

Does mineral oil cause cancer?

There’s no research suggesting that the mineral oil found in cosmetics causes cancer. Mineral oil undergoes vigorous refining and purification before it’s used in these products.

Mineral oil exposure in the workplace is linked to the development of nonmelanoma skin cancer. In particular, it’s linked to scrotal cancer. People who work in the following industries are at the highest exposure risk:

  • engine repair
  • automobile manufacturing
  • airplane manufacturing
  • production of steel products
  • copper mining
  • newspaper and commercial printing

Several other oils besides mineral oil may be able to help you improve the health of your hair. Some of the most common options include:

Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains a type of medium-chain fatty acid called lauric acid, which may be beneficial to hair.

Although research is limited, one 2003 study examined the potential benefits of coconut oil compared to mineral oil and sunflower oil. Coconut oil prevented protein loss better than the other two types of oil.

Coconut oil is also commonly used to moisturize hair and skin.

Olive oil

Olive oil is one of the most common oils used in hair care products. It contains three chemicals thought to soften your hair: oleic acid, palmitic acid, and squalene.

Many people claim that olive oil helps them prevent dry hair and give their hair a shiny sheen. However, most of the evidence that olive oil can improve your hair health is anecdotal.

Argan oil

Argan oil is extracted from the argan tree that’s native to Morocco. It contains antioxidants, like vitamin E, that have been linked to improving hair health.

One study found that the high antioxidant content of argan oil was able to protect against sun damage for the skin. This benefit may extend to the hair as well. The oleic acid and linoleic acid in this oil may also help moisturize your hair.

Mineral oil is commonly included in hair and skin products as a moisturizer. Mineral oil used in cosmetics undergoes rigorous refinement and purification to ensure its safe for human use.

Mineral oil may have hair care benefits, but more research is needed to be sure.

Allergic reactions to mineral oil are rare. But if you want to try mineral oil on your hair, apply it to a small section of your skin first and wait 24 hours. This way you can see how you react to it before using it on your hair.