There is so much buzz surrounding mineral oil. Somewhere you might have heard that it's useful for your skin. Elsewhere you might have heard that this product is too dangerous to be applied on your skin. If you are in confusion whether to buy petroleum-based products or not, fret not. We have it covered for you.
Products containing mineral oil (Aquaphor, Petroleum Jelly) are many people's go-to products when their skin is dry, red, and chapped during winter. Therefore, it becomes necessary to collect all information about a product before using it.
First of all, let's find out, what is petroleum/mineral oil?
What is Mineral Oil?
Mineral oil is a clear, odorless oil that is derived from petroleum. It comes in different grades, ranging from the technical grade – which is used to lubricate car engines and equipment – to a highly purified cosmetic grade which is often found in many of the skincare products you might have in your house.
Mineral oil and petroleum jelly are both by-products of petroleum refinement and both are considered petrochemicals. Some popular products containing mineral oil that you probably have in your home include Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, Aquaphor, moisturizers, sunscreens, etc.
Is petroleum/mineral oil harmful? Should we avoid skincare products with them?
Petroleum and mineral oil are polarizing.
Some of you already avoid them like the plague. Just the fact that they're derived from crude oil is off-putting if you strive for beauty products made of pretty things like essential oils and beeswax,
others buy them based on their performance. Also, everybody's heard stories of somebody's grandma who applied nothing but petroleum jelly all her life and had no wrinkles at the ripe old age of 93. Surely these ingredients must be okay, right?
Well, it's a NO. You know petroleum and mineral oil are non-natural in origin and it is capable to cause a lot of harm when applied on your skin. Research says that one must avoid these ingredients as much as they can now, for good. Which is more difficult than you might think, seeing as the stuff is in so many skincare products.
Here are a few reasons as to why petroleum and mineral oil should be nowhere near your skin:
Petroleum and Mineral Oil can't be metabolized:
Petroleum and mineral oil comes with different grades which are widely used in skin care products and provides satisfactory benefits. Still there exists a reason as to why we should be worried regarding its use on our skin. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Women's Health reported:
"There is powerful evidence that mineral oil hydrocarbons are the greatest contaminant of the human body, amounting to around 1 g per person." It might sound too little, but trust me it's a lot.
This stuff gets in our bodies just from using beauty products, and once it's there, it doesn't leave. This means that few components of mineral oil (which is in many cosmetics) are toxic, and once they get into the system they do not metabolize.
Petroleum and Mineral Oil do not nourish your Skin:
Petroleum and mineral oil are occlusive, which means that they form a barrier on your skin. This does lock moisture. But in absence of enough moisture, there is no chance of progress.
Furthermore, these agents don't allow moisture to be absorbed from the atmosphere as other emollients can, nor will they allow absorption of the other beneficial ingredients that are in your skincare products. They're cheap filler materials and that's why they're so ubiquitous in beauty products. Why would you use them when you have n number of options available in the market?
Thus, instead of petroleum or mineral oil, you can use coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, vitamin E, or cocoa butter. All these components are very gentle on your skin and offer a wide range of benefits too.
Apart from these, petroleum and mineral oil have carcinogenic and occlusive properties which makes it more harmful. Not even this, it is also linked to estrogen dominance making the matter even worse.
Petroleum and mineral oil are carcinogenic:
Petroleum and mineral oil are carcinogenic, which means that they have the potential to cause cancer. Carcinogens are divided into 2 groups. Untreated or mildly treated mineral oils as Group 1 carcinogens to humans, while highly refined oils are classified as group 3, meaning that they are not suspected to be carcinogenic, but still available information, is not sufficient to classify them as harmless.
People can be exposed to petroleum and mineral oil amidst their workspace by breathing it in, skin contact, or eye contact. There is a legal limit for mineral oil exposure in the workplace as 5 mg/m3 over an 8-hour workday or 10 mg/m3 an 8-hour workday. Levels of 2500 mg/m3 are indicated as extremely dangerous.
However, current toxicological data does not contain any evidence of irreversible health effects due to short-term exposure at any level; the current value of 2500 mg/m3 is indicated as being arbitrary.
Cosmetics containing mineral oil shouldn't be used for lip care because of their toxicity.
Occlusive in nature:
Petroleum and mineral oil are occlusive—meaning they seal off the skin from air, water, or anything else getting in (or out). Wherever they're applied, they form an invisible film on the surface that blocks the pores and the skin's natural respiration process. Blocked pores mean trapped dirt and oil—leading to blackheads, pimples, whiteheads, you name it. You might as well cover yourself in Saran Wrap.
Another important thing to remember, you should never apply petroleum or mineral oil-based products on a sunburn. Because they form a seal, they'll lock in the heat into your skin, making the burn worse, not better. It could even lead to permanent scarring.
Petroleum and Mineral Oil are Linked to Estrogen Dominance:
Estrogen dominance is a common condition in which sufferers have a high ratio of estrogen, with little to no progesterone to balance its effects in the body. Chemicals known as xenoestrogens are found in petroleum-based skincare products. It is one of the biggest culprits—and their action may be much more potent.
We already know that these products and their contaminants build up in the body, so it stands to reason that long-term exposure might exacerbate hormonal imbalances. And we really can't afford to take any risk as it's the matter of our skin.
To conclude, I would say that you should avoid skincare products made of petroleum and mineral oil as much as possible.