Whether you know it or not, you’ve been relying on mineral oil for decades. It’s in your baby oil, it’s in the ever popular Vaseline, and it’s even the main ingredient in the very expensive Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream (Are you paying a hefty amount for an overpriced tub of Vaseline? You decide!) While you’ve been led to believe mineral oil is safe to use on yourself, and even on young children, the question is, to what extent?
What is Mineral Oil?
Mineral oil is a colourless and odourless oil that’s made from petroleum, which means it’s literally the material leftover after petroleum has been distilled to produce gasoline.It’s long been used as a common ingredient in lotions, creams, ointments, and cosmetics. It’s lightweight and inexpensive, and helps reduce water loss from the skin.
Is it Natural?
While mineral oils used in cosmetics are derived from petroleum, which is made from the residue of plant and animal life (fossil fuels) , the mineral oils used in cosmetics go through such an intense purification to be made safe for the skin that there is hardly anything left of the original material afterwards. Doesn’t sound too natural, does it?
Is it Toxic?
Thankfully for us, a lot of research has been carried out in regards to the safety of mineral oils in cosmetics. The European Food Safety Authority has proven that purified cosmetic mineral oil is NOT toxic. The rumour that mineral oil can cause cancer is also untrue. If you’re still wary, you’ll be pleased to know that any form of mineral oil applied to your skin only stays on TOP of your skin, and is not absorbed into your bloodstream. This is a plus point for people with extremely dry skin, or skin conditions like Eczema, because the mineral oil forms a layer of insulation which makes it difficult for moisture to evaporate, helping dry skin recover quickly.
And for those of us who are afraid that this exact sealing affect will cause acne, good news; mineral oil does not give you spots. It does not block your pores and does not trap the sebum your skin produces. This is because Skin does not breathe and only receives oxygen through your bloodstream. The fact that it’s safe, it’s incredibly moisturising as well as inexpensive, is probably why mineral oil has been used in lotion, creams, ointments and the like for decades. But is this necessarily a good thing?
Mineral oil in it’s ‘purest’ form has a tacky and thick consistency (Vaseline for example), and does not feel pleasant on the skin. Thinner forms of the oil, which are nicer to use, will not work as effectively and hydrate the skin less. And if you thought there’s no such thing as too much hydration, we’ve got some news for you; over-hydration is real. Mineral oils trap moisture so well that your skin ends up becoming TOO moist. While at first you’ll feel like your skin is glowing and moisture rich, eventually your skin will become dependant on the mineral oil and a vicious cycle will start; your skin quickly dries without cream and you find yourself having to apply more and more.
Products with mineral oil form such an effective layer on the skin that sweat bubbles could even form! Scientifically known as Milaria Rubra, people who sweat easily, work in warm environments or do intensive physical training run the risk of these liquid bumps forming on their skin due to sweat being trapped underneath a layer of mineral oil and not being released properly.
Which brings us to our next point. Products with high concentrations of mineral oils do NOTHING except hydrate. They have no other benefits, no anti- oxidising properties or soothing ingredients. So if you’re using a cream with “ liquid petroleum,” “paraffin oil,” or “white mineral oil” as one of it’s main ingredients, it’s best to switch to a cream with other active ingredients and to just layer a mineral oil product on top, so it works more effectively and stops all the good stuff from evaporating off the skin.
It’s also important to note, while purified mineral oil is not toxic and almost no particles absorb through the skin, a recent study has found that hydrocarbons (linked to cancer) from mineral oil could be retrieved from body fat and breast milk. However, there’s no need to panic as the study couldn’t prove whether they were there due to food, inhalation of polluted air or by cosmetic products, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
While mineral oil rich products are flag-bearers of hydration, we should only be sticking to products that make your skin stronger, more beautiful and more enduring. It’s best to ditch all the mineral oil heavy cosmetics in exchange for organic skincare products with more natural ingredients that are organically derived and are better for your skin, your pocket and also the environment.
Disclaimer: All Conatural Skincare Products are 100% Mineral oil free! Conatural is the leading organic skincare brand in Pakistan.