I’m so weary of the attacks on cosmetic ingredients by people trying to get a leg up on their competition.  This is about petroleum products; petrolatum & mineral oil.   When all or parts of the EWG’s dirty dozen are cut and pasted onto websites, “petroleum-free” is among them.

I often wonder what the big deal is about mineral oil or petrolatum?  Does anyone personally know someone who was injured?   Where are the reports?  Has it damaged anyone’s skin?

VASELINE, doll, cosmetic myths


Petroleum is not synthesized.

It’s refined- a process that many “natural” ingredients go through.  Just as Shea butter that’s partially hydrogenated to increase the melt point, or filtered to remove insect parts and small pebbles.  I guess that’s OK, but refining petroleum products to purity is not.  Funny how the organic folks berate it, although it’s one of most useful (after refining), natural class of chemicals that mother earth has made.  If petroleum products are made by nature, why not consider them “natural”? (maybe not sustainable, but they are natural!)

So why the hate?  I wish I knew.  Why did petroleum derived ingredients fall to the bottom of the barrel of public opinion?

Is it about the non-renewable aspect?

Or is it because there are still scare stories that cosmetic grade petroleum products contain poly- aromatic hydrocarbons? (NOT TRUE)

Or is it herd mentality; the ones that follow site like the EWG?

1895 Robert Chesebrough discovered petroleum jelly.  He noticed that the residue from the oil drills appeared to help heal cuts and burns.  Petrolatum was used to cover open and poorly healing wounds.  Until antibiotics were available, the only possible method for curing gangrene was maggot therapy, in lieu of amputation.  Maggots were put on wounds to chomp on the necrotic tissue- along with the microbes causing gangrene.  Petroleum jelly has the ability to block water, and create a barrier to the environment which can be full of germs and dirt.  It kept the wound from drying out and expedited healing.

  • Mineral oil is not occlusive. At best it is semi-occlusive.  It doesn’t smother the skin.  Skin doesn’t breathe.  Your lungs do.
  • There is no nutritional benefit.  However,  the skin doesn’t absorb any nutrients from the topical application from vegetable oil either.
    It’s used in several industries including food preparation and serves as the base ingredient in many topical pharmaceutical ointments containing active ingredients.
  • From a dermatological perspective, mineral oil and petrolatum are used as vehicles for patch testing other materials for allergy and irritation because they are so non-reactive on the skin.
  • It’s an FDA monographed skin protectant when used at a specified percentage.
  • I prefer Abyssinian oil or Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides but that does not mean that mineral oil is the evil incarnate.