We’ve seen our fair share of wacky beauty trends and home remedies—from squiggle eyebrows to mayonnaise hair masks—proving we’re willing to give almost anything a try in the name of beauty. So when we discovered a bevy of Black women reaching for Vicks VapoRub (target.com, $4.99) on wash day we were definitely intrigued.
A quick YouTube search of “natural hair Vicks VapoRub” and over 35k results instantaneously appear. The first video touting Vick’s magical hair growth properties was posted back in March of 2016 by Atlanta-resident Jocquelyn Hill, who goes by Just Jocq on YouTube.
In a video titled “Awesome Tips & Tricks on How To Use Vicks Vapor Rub Part II,” a follow-up to her original post nearly a year prior, Jocquelyn explains several unexpected uses for Vicks, including hair strengthening and growth.
“Some viewers say they place it on their scalp and do a scalp massage, and that Vicks VapoRub on their scalp stimulates the hair follicle,” she shares. Jocquelyn goes on to explain exactly how one of her viewers does it.
“She mixes Vicks VapoRub, castor oil, and coconut oil and applies that to her scalp and hair. She says she’s retained and received a lot of hair growth from mixing Vicks VapRub and those items,” she says.
While it’s unclear if Jocquelyn’s tried it for herself, YouTube’s Black hair community quickly headed her viewer’s advice and began to use the unlikely hair growth solution for themselves. Videos by @MakeupMesha and @Kimera Yvonne have since received more than a million views combined in just under a year.
In her five-part-series Sonya uses Vicks, along with a few other products, on her teenage daughter’s newly natural hair. In the video the mom is seen applying the cream directly to the scalp in small sections, pre-wash and condition.
What’s most interesting is that Black women across hair type and textures, including both relaxed and natural, are singing Vicks’ praises. In her video @MakeupMesha, who has a relaxer, hair growth is undeniable. In a four week update she proudly shows off inches of new growth which she directly attributes to Vicks.
“My hair has grown like it’s been in full blown cornrows to the back. This is usually what I experience when my hair has been in a protective style for a while, this works pretty good,” she excitedly shares.
The average time reported by Vicks advocates to see significant hair growth is around 30-60 days. Patience and consistency seem to be the two most important ingredients, after the rub itself, to see results.
In almost all of the videos menthol, eucalyptus and camphor, which are found in Vicks, are touted for the hair’s growth and stimulation. Menthol is a compound known to clear pores of irritants so that hair can grow easily while eucalyptus and camphor are both essential oil that stimulate the hair follicles and improve circulation when applied topically.
However the petroleum in Vicks has some women weary of using it. “Because Vicks has petroleum in it, this is one product women don’t want to put on their hair. Me personally I don’t have a problem with petroleum, it’s one ingredient I really don’t have an issue with,” vlogger Kimera Yvonne shares.
Asked if he’d heard of this hair growth remedy, Dr. Carlos Charles, a New York City-based dermatologist who specializes in working with people of color, told ESSENCE he had not.
“While Vicks VapoRub is generally safe, a brief look at the ingredients list several oils that could potentially cause allergic or irritant skin reactions as with any topically applied product,” Dr. Charles warns.
So although rubbing Vicks on your scalp and hairline may work it’s probably best to proceed with caution, as both the doctor and many of the women on YouTube suggest. “Don’t leave it on for too long and make sure you don’t have any open scabs,” Sonya reminds.
While we have yet to try Vicks VapoRub on our scalp or hairline we can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of our fellow sisters.
Below are a few of the most viewed YouTube videos of Black women using Vicks VapoRub to grow their edges and natural hair for your viewing pleasure.