Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/20/2022
If you had the chance to play in grandma’s bathroom as a kid, you likely remember a mountain of pill bottles, tins for band-aids and toothpaste brands that felt so comically old-fashioned they might have been fake.
Chances are, in all that bygone era, you remember seeing the contents of a small, blue-topped jar of a greasy medicated balm called Vaseline®, or petroleum jelly.
Vaseline has been used as a bit of a cure-all for many skin issues over the decades, but where it shines brightest is as a treatment to moisturize and soothe dry, cracked skin.
This is because the main ingredient in Vaseline, petroleum, can help to seal the barrier of your skin, keeping out unwanted substances.
So, what about dry, brittle hair? Can Vaseline help to repair and replenish your luscious mane, or are its benefits limited solely to your skin.
Currently, there’s only mixed evidence that Vaseline offers any benefits for your hair. However, due to its skin benefits, it’s possible that Vaseline may be a useful tool for caring for your scalp and treating many common skin issues that could affect hair growth.
Below, we’ve explained what Vaseline is, as well as why it’s so commonly used as a do-all skin care ingredient.
We’ve also looked at the scientific research to determine if Vaseline offers any benefits for your hair, and if so, whether or not it deserves a place in your hair care toolkit.
While it’s understandable to knock all the century-old salves and jars of medications inside your grandma’s medicine cabinet, petroleum jelly is surprisingly free of eye rolls.
Vaseline is a popular brand of petroleum jelly. Like many other personal care products, it’s made and marketed by the company Unilever, which owns a massive range of personal care, cleaning and beauty products.
While most of us picture Vaseline in a small, blue-topped container, over the years, Unilever has launched countless products under the Vaseline brand name, including skin creams, soaps and cleansers.
Some of these products contain the original petroleum jelly solution, while others are lotions and other products that use petroleum jelly in combination with other ingredients.
While Vaseline may offer some benefits for moisturizing your hair and scalp, there’s currently no evidence to suggest that it stimulates hair growth or provides any protection against issues such as male pattern baldness.
Male pattern hair loss -- that is, the receding hairline or bald patch at your crown you may notice in your 20s, 30s or 40s -- occurs as the result of a combination of genetic factors and the effects of a male sex hormone, or androgen, called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Most treatments for hair loss work by either blocking DHT production or stimulating hair growth by increasing blood flow to your scalp.
Currently, there are no peer-reviewed studies to suggest that Vaseline increases blood flow to your hair follicles or prevents your body from producing DHT. There’s also no reliable research to suggest that it improves hair growth in any other way.
This leaves petroleum jelly mostly in the realm of wishful thinking. However, this isn’t to say it’s devoid of benefits for your hair.
In fact, there is some evidence that Vaseline and similar petroleum jelly products may help with certain aspects of hair health, such as preventing dryness (a topic we’ve covered in much more detail below).
But as far as cold hard evidence goes, there’s nothing we can point to to show that Vaseline is a hair loss treatment or hair growth elixir. As such, it’s best to think of any claims you see online or hear from friends as unsubstantiated.
As for the substance itself, Vaseline is a compound of mineral oils and other ingredients. It has a lengthy list of potential uses, including as a topical product for relieving dry skin, allowing injured skin to heal, preventing chafing and even treating diaper rash in young children.
In fact, Vaseline and other generic petroleum jelly products are so helpful for cheap, simple skin care that the American Academy of Dermatology has entire guides dedicated to their effects.
A pea-sized amount of Vaseline can relieve dry skin, including the skin of highly sensitive areas like your eyelids or lips.
This thin skin benefits from the moisture protection effects of petroleum jelly, which can create a barrier, sealing existing moisture into your skin.
This is important, because moisturized skin typically has a stronger skin barrier -- a special layer of protection that shields off infectious bacteria, viruses and chemicals.
Using Vaseline in this way is easy. Often, just a small layer of Vaseline is enough to improve the strength of your skin and protect sensitive skin from the environment.
Vaseline can also prevent friction-based injuries, like chafing. This is especially helpful for young babies, of course, but anyone who deals with skin irritation from two body parts rubbing together (for example, cyclists) can benefit from the application of petroleum jelly on certain areas.
Here’s a fun fact. Instead of relying on expensive solutions, marathon runners use Vaseline and other petroleum jellies to prevent nipple chafing -- a real source of pain and discomfort -- during their races.
Petroleum jelly can also help with wound healing. It’s used by parents to reduce their children’s risk of developing diaper rash, as well as cuts, scratches, scraps and other common childhood injuries.
Not only can Vaseline provide relief from dryness and abrasion -- it also keeps injuries moist and prevents the wound from drying out. This can prevent a scab from forming and potentially speed up the recovery process.
Vaseline may even inhibit scar formation -- or at least limit the size or depth -- and prevent some wounds from getting itchy. In some cases, it can be used without antibacterial ointments, as long as the wound is cleaned on a daily basis.
Add the ability to rehydrate and care for your nails to the list and Vaseline truly does start to feel like a do-all product. It can even cut down on wear and tear on your hands and nails, provided it gets used regularly.
One thing it is decidedly not good for? Acne. If you’re prone to acne breakouts, Vaseline can be a contributor to breakouts. Have acne-prone skin but chapped lips? That’s a decision you’ll have to make on your own.
Instead of relying on Vaseline for acne, you’ll get far better results from acne-focused treatment products, such as our Customized Acne Cream for Men.
Okay, the moisturized skin benefits sound good, and maybe you’re considering keeping a jar of Vaseline on hand for just such emergencies. But what about your hair? Can Vaseline offer any real benefits for your hair like it does for your skin?
Vaseline and petroleum jelly are considered occlusives -- substances that physically block the loss of water through your skin, or transepidermal water loss.
Occlusives are great at preventing chapped lips from becoming more chapped, and they usually include waxes and other ingredients that are commonly found in lip balm and other products for creating a protective barrier.
Well, there’s an argument to be made for their ability to do this for hair, too. Hair damage, after all, is primarily caused by the deterioration of the armor-like cuticle of your hair, which happens as it’s damaged by friction, heat or other external sources of harm.
Hair damage is increased when your hair is dry -- something that happens when the natural oils coating the cuticle (which help to protect it from friction) are washed away or are unreplenished after you wash your hair with shampoo, for instance.
Petroleum jelly may be able to act as a stand-in, protecting your hair from water loss and extra friction in a similar way. Research indicates that petroleum jelly is approximately 170 times as effective in preventing water vapor loss as olive oil in skin.
The idea behind this, of course, is that if it can work that well on your skin, it should also work in your hair.
However, petroleum jelly is a greasy substance, meaning it may cause your hair to feel heavier, oiler and less appealing to the touch. To avoid this change in texture, it’s important to use a light hand with Vaseline -- for example, a pea-sized amount is usually more than enough.
Thanks to its ability to hold moisture inside your skin, Vaseline also works well as a treatment for scalp conditions caused by dryness.
For example, research published in the journal American Family Physician suggests Vaseline as an emollient for removing scales, which can develop as a result of common skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis.
Thanks to its weight and ability to hold your hair in place, Vaseline can also double as a simple, convenient replacement for styling gel and other waxy substances used to hold your hair or get frizzy hair under control throughout the day.
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Although Vaseline may offer benefits for your hair and scalp, it’s not the only option available for keeping your hair looking and feeling its best.
In fact, there are numerous other hair care products that can provide better results than Vaseline when it comes to improving your hair’s overall health, stimulating hair growth and preventing the common signs of hair loss.
A good quality shampoo. The right shampoo will gently wash away sebum and keep your hair and scalp clean, all without causing allergic reactions or giving you overly dry hair.
Our Hair Thickening Shampoo is formulated using saw palmetto to promote hair growth, volume and moisture while keeping your scalp healthy.
The right conditioner. Conditioner restores your hair's thickness and fullness, making it essential if you have hair that’s become thin, dry or brittle due to over-washing with your regular shampoo.
Our Thick Fix Conditioner uses niacinamide to help support healthy hair growth, all while giving your hair a smooth texture and optimal fullness.
Hair loss medications. If you’re beginning to lose hair, Vaseline isn’t very likely to help your follicles recover. Instead, you’ll get the best results from evidence-based hair loss medications such as minoxidil and finasteride.
Used daily, these medications can stop hair loss and stimulate real growth over the long term, helping you enjoy a fuller, thicker head of hair throughout your life.
In addition to using the right products, taking care of your hair is all about practicing healthy hair care habits. Our list of men’s hair care tips shares simple techniques that you can use to reduce damage and avoid itchy skin, hair shedding and other common problems.
While Vaseline and similar products that contain petroleum jelly may help with dry hair, there’s no reliable scientific evidence that Vaseline slows down, stops or treats hair loss.
So, does Vaseline still deserve a place in your medicine cabinet? Of course. Not only can this versatile product potentially help with locking moisture into dry hair -- it can also double as an easy-to-use, convenient styling tool for when gel or wax isn’t available.
Add the many benefits of Vaseline for keeping your skin hydrated and there are lots of reasons to give Vaseline a place in your medicine cabinet and personal care routine.
As for treating hair loss, you’ll get better results from using evidence-based, FDA-approved hair loss medications like minoxidil and finasteride than by relying on Vaseline and products that are made with natural ingredients.
We offer these medications online as part of our range of hair loss treatments for men, with our Hair Power Pack combining several powerful products for fighting back against pattern hair loss and maintaining your hair throughout your life.