“Vaseline does not promote hair growth,” says Kindred, adding that it can cause seborrheic dermatitis (a form of skin irritation that includes dandruff), in which the skin becomes red, itchy, and peeling. On the face, Vaseline can lock in moisture and make dry skin hydrated and dewy, but Kindred says that on the scalp, it can create a moist environment in which the yeast that causes seborrheic dermatitis thrives. “In my experience, if someone suffers from dandruff, Vaseline will camouflage the flaking or peeling while making the condition worse with just a few daily applications,” she says.
Vaseline “may be good for dry facial skin, but I don’t recommend it for the scalp because it can block hair follicles,” says David E. Bank, dermatologist and founder of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery. in Westchester County, NY
Vaseline isn’t the only thing that can do this. Sweat, sebum (a waxy, oily substance naturally produced by glands in the skin), and product buildup (like dry shampoo or hairspray) can all build up on the scalp. The easiest and most economical way to treat scalp buildup is with a salicylic acid shampoo, says Cambridge, Mass.-based dermatologist Ranella Hirsch. “People see the word ‘shampoo’ on the label and quickly rinse it out, when they really should be using it as a scalp treatment.”
Another option is a clarifying shampoo, to be used every 15 days to reduce buildup.
“The main concern with using Vaseline on the scalp would be folliculitis,” says Christina Boull, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Minneapolis. “If someone is prone to this disease, which is a yeast or bacterial infection of the hair follicles, using petroleum jelly could make it worse by trapping the infection.” Severe cases of folliculitis can lead to permanent hair loss.
Although a popular beauty tip on TikTok, petroleum jelly is equally useless for hair growth on other parts of the body, such as eyelashes and eyebrows. “Different hair areas, such as eyebrows, eyelashes, face, and scalp, do not respond to ‘hair shock’ to promote new hair growth,” Bank says.