My favorite AskKaren Vaseline-in-the-hair story was from Jennifer, a concerned mom, whose 3-year old wannabe stylist son rubbed Vaseline into her 9-month old's hair. After days of trying the frustrated mom still could not remove the Vaseline from her baby's hair. She finally wrote to me to tell me that "I have tried everything and I can't get it out. I've washed the hair at least a dozen times, but the baby's hair is still greasy. Is there anything I can use to get rid of this problem?"
That first Vaseline SOS hit my email box only to be followed by a steady trickle of interesting follow-up stories.
Heather wrote that her 2 year old popped open a jar of the greasy stuff and smeared it all over her face, hair and clothes. While the face and clothes could be reclaimed, Heather could not get the grease out of her daughter's new do.
One women wrote that she had recently gone through a type of skin surgery that required the constant use of Vaseline. She reported that as the petroleum jelly warmed from the temperature of her skin, it would melt into her hair line. She was unable to get the greasy residue out of her hair no matter what shampoo she used.
Luckily the news is good. Vaseline, which is composed of petroleum jelly (petrolatum) can be removed from hair. One of the most reliable removal methods involves cornstarch.
Apply a little cornstarch to the hair and carefully pat, (don't rub), it into the hair. The cornstarch will absorb some, if not all the Vaseline. After you apply the cornstarch shampoo it out with a good clarifying shampoo. Most if not all of the jelly should be removed with the first treatment. If not, repeat until all the product is gone. Be sure to use warm to hot water for the shampoo. Cold water makes the Vaseline worse.
If you are out of cornstarch you can try the baking soda/shampoo option. Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda and mix it with a regular baby shampoo. Pat the mixture onto the hair while it is still dry. Then add warm to hot water. This should help. Repeat until all the Vaseline is removed.
Although flour will work as a cornstarch substitute, it is not usually as effective. Flour may also tend to dry the hair out more than the cornstarch.
Keep in mind that after applying cornstarch, flour or baking soda, you hair may need some extra TLC and a good deep conditioning treatment.
I won't lie to you, applying cornstarch or similar powders is very messy. Be sure to apply the removal remedy in the bathroom where it is easy to contain the flying powder. Some people have reported great success standing in a dry bathtub and then apply the powder. Once they are finished they simply turn on the bath water and remove a lot of the cornstarch residue.
Other Options Besides Cornstarch
If you don't have cornstarch or don't want the mess or have tried cornstarch and failed, listed below are some other known remedies that have had some level of success although not as much as the cornstarch remedy.
1. Sit under a hood hairdryer or use a hand held blowdryer to soften the gooey mess. As the Vaseline is heated, it will become liquidified and can be more easily blotted with paper towels. The more of the Vaseline your remove before applying the cornstarch or similar powder, the better. If you prefer, skip the cornstarch step and after removing as much of the softened Vaseline from the hair and scalp, wash with a clarifying shampoo.
Why a clarifying shampoo? These formulas are designed to remove excess styling product or environmental build-up from the hair. They are also great for removing hair greases and pomades.
2. Blot off as much of the Vaseline as possible. Then slather with plain peanut butter. Some people have had better luck with this removal method than cornstarch. Others have reported that they had better luck with the cornstarch. If you are uncertain of the results, apply a small amount of plain, not crunchy, peanut butter to Vaseline infused hair that has been blotted with paper towels. Rub gently and then remove with a paper towel. If the peanut butter appears to do the trick, apply to the rest of the hair and finish with a shampoo using a clarifying product or one that advertises it removes grease and grime.
3. A GooBeGone or similar products will often help remove any Vaseline left after blotting the excess with paper towels. Try blow drying the Vaseline, blotting with paper towels and then applying a goo removal product. Some have reported success with a goo remover. Others have not fared as well.
Some other possible removal formulas include a beaten egg worked into the Vaseline smeared hair, rinsing several times with apple cider vinegar and rinsing with fresh lemon juice.
What Not To Use When Removing Vaseline
Although some people suggest the option of using regular dish washing soap on Vaseline infused hair, think long and hard before you try this option. Yes, you might get the Vaseline out a little quicker and it may be less messy, but the dish washing soap will also strip the natural oils from your hair along with the Vaseline leaving behind dry and stripped tresses. If you don't care what the potential collateral damage will be from using dish washing liquid, feel free to try it but I personally do not recommend it.
Whatever you do, don't panic. There are many worse things that you may need to remove from your strands. If you are willing to be patient and apply the removal remedies a few times, you will be able to remove all the gooey gunk that has settled into your strands.