Petroleum and Mineral Oil are two ingredients that are extremely polarizing in our Industry.
The "greenies" among us already avoid them like the plague; while those people suffering from painfully dry skin swear by the barrier effect of Mineral Oil and Petroleum, saying it creates a protective layer on the skin.
Sure, there's no arguing that these two ingredients do just that (create a barrier on the skin); but, is that what your skin really needs? Is it really addressing the cause of the dryness and imbalance in the skin?
It's virtually impossible to find a big-brand cosmetic product that don't contain at least one of these two ingredients, if not both. Have a look in your bathroom cupboard - how many of your products contain Mineral Oil or Petroleum? Okay, so you can turn a blind eye and continue using them... or you can argue that surely these ingredients must be okay, since they're in so many products these days?
Well, yes and no. Personally, I've always kinda sat on the fence about using Mineral Oil and Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline). I can recognize that they can be useful in some instances - like using them as a barrier with eyelash tinting. I'm also aware that I've used lip balms & lipsticks that contain these two ingredients.
However, I must admit that these days I am starting to feel really torn about their non-natural origins. Maybe I'm just becoming a bit more aware of what I put in and on my body (with so much information readily at our fingertips!). I think that once you become informed, it's hard to continue to use them, knowing they offer NO nourishment or health benefits at all. Like the saying goes: "Do your best until you know better. Then when you know better, do better". This goes for what you put in and on your body, every day.
I did some research on Petroleum and Mineral Oil recently, and what I found made me want to avoid these two ingredients as much as I can. Trust me, this is WAY more difficult than you might think! Mineral Oil and Petroleum is in SO many products we use daily - face & body moisturizers/ creams, sunblock, lipsticks, lip balms, baby oil (yes, baby oil!! and Bio Oil) and of course, Vaseline... and Paw Paw Ointment (YES!).
Here are some of the ways they might appear on your product labels:
- Mineral oil
- Liquid paraffin
- Paraffin oil
Here are my three main reasons why I think petroleum and mineral oil should be nowhere near your skin:
1. Your Skin Can't Metabolize Mineral Oil and Petroleum
Let's start by looking at where Mineral Oil and Petroleum comes from.
Petroleum is a naturally occurring liquid oil found beneath the surface of the earth. It's made of rock minerals, making it different from plant and animal oils. The word petroleum comes from the Latin words petra (rock) and oleum (oil), and so literally means: Rock Oil. Petroleum is considered an organic compound because it is formed from the remains of microorganisms living millions of years ago. But, don't be confused thinking that it is an organic ingredient in skincare and cosmetics. It is one of the three main fossil fuels, along with coal and natural gas.
Petroleum, like all fossil fuels, primarily consists of a complex mixture of molecules called hydrocarbons (molecules containing both hydrogen and carbon). When it comes out of the ground, it is known as crude oil, and it may have various gases, solids, and trace minerals mixed in with it.
Through refinement processes, a variety of consumer products can be made from Petroleum. Most of these are fuels: gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, kerosene, and propane are common examples. We also use Petroleum to make lubricant grease; and it is a raw material for synthetic chemicals. Chemicals and materials derived from petroleum products include plastics, pesticides, fertilizers, paints, solvents, refrigerants, cleaning fluids, detergents, antifreeze, synthetic fibres, and off course, cosmetics.
Mineral Oil is a by-product of the distillation of Petroleum to produce gasoline; and have long been used as a common ingredient in cosmetics and beauty products (as well as a raft of other things!). Mineral Oil is clear, odourless and light-weight. It's also extremely cheap to use in cosmetic and skincare products, making it a very popular ingredient with big-brand companies.
There are different grades of petroleum and mineral oil, and those used in beauty and cosmetic products are generally described as the "purest" and most refined. However, "pure" doesn't make them healthy to use... we should still be concerned. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Women's Health reported: "There is strong evidence that mineral oil hydrocarbons are the greatest contaminant of the human body, amounting to approximately 1g per person."
The researchers removed fat specimens from 142 women who were undergoing C-sections, and collected milk samples from them post-delivery. Scarily, they found that both the fat and the milk were contaminated with mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons. The study finished with: "The increase in MOSH (mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons) concentration in human fat tissue with age suggests an accumulation over time. Cosmetics might be a relevant source of the contamination."
So the bottom line is that both Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline) and Mineral Oil CANNOT be digested by your skin. And contrary to what most people believe, it will find its way INTO your body (it doesn't just create a barrier as we've been led to believe). Once it's in your body, it doesn't leave... it builds up and accumulate over time. Yikes!
2. Mineral Oil and Petroleum Don't Allow Your Skin to Breathe
Petroleum and mineral oil are "occlusive agents" - meaning they seal off the skin from air and create a complete barrier. This prevents water or anything else from getting in (or out). When applied to skin, they form an invisible film on the surface that blocks the pores and the skin's natural respiration process.
Anyone who's even slightly acne-prone should hear alarm bells ringing right now. Blocked pores means trapped dirt and oil - leading to blackheads, breakouts, millia, you name it... These two ingredients are HIGHLY comedogenic.
The barrier that petroleum and mineral oil creates on your skin can also create a warm, moist environment for yeast and fungus to grow. A 2000 study in Pediatrics found that extremely-low-birth-weight infants treated with petroleum jelly were more likely to develop systemic candidiasis.
Also very important: NEVER put Petroleum or Mineral Oil based products on a sunburn! This is because they form a seal on the skin. They lock in the heat into your skin, making the burn worse, not better. They also interfere with the skin's own natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dryness and chapping. It could even lead to permanent scarring. The only reason cosmetic and beauty companies try to convince you they're good for you, is because these two ingredients are CHEAP!
3. Mineral Oil and Petroleum Won't Nourish Your Skin
Okay, so there's no argument here that Petroleum and Mineral Oil form a barrier on your skin. We understand that they "lock in" moisture. But what if there's not enough moisture in the skin to start with? Are you really making progress and helping the skin? Is it going to help restore the skin's balance?
Mineral Oil and Petroleum don't allow moisture to be absorbed from the atmosphere, like other emollients can. They also prevent the absorption of other beneficial ingredients that are in your products.
Let's face it: Mineral Oil and Petroleum are cheap product fillers! They offer absolutely NO nourishment to your skin! Why would you settle for cheap and nasty.... when you can choose ingredients that are WAY more beneficial for the skin?
So, what ingredients are better options if you're going to give Mineral Oil and Petroleum the wide berth?
Instead of Mineral Oil or Petroleum, you can choose any of the following:
- coconut oil
- olive oil
- jojoba oil
- vitamin E
- shea butter
- cocoa butter