For this week’s Ingredient of the Week post I’m talking about mineral oil. If you’ve ever used Aquaphor, you’ve put mineral oil on your body. If you’ve ever used Aquaphor for chapped lips, you’ve even eaten it. So what is mineral oil?
If you missed the intro to this series, it explains what “safe beauty” is, and why it’s important. The quick version is that the FDA doesn’t regulate what chemicals brands put in their products and it doesn’t set standards for words like “natural” or “organic”. Basically, a brand could put “natural” on a container full of carcinogens if they wanted (and they often do). I caveat this at the beginning of every post not to scare anyone but to educate. You don’t have to switch everything you own to safer today. Just make small changes where it makes sense for you. After all, doing something is better than doing nothing, right?
If you’re completely overwhelmed right now, take a look at my skincare routine and my everyday makeup routine. Since most of the products we use fall into one of those two categories, it will give you an idea of some great beauty products to start with. Of course, if you have any questions, shoot me an email or send me a DM. I chat with you guys all day long about personalized recommendations based on your needs! If you want more, here’s a list of my favorite beauty products!
What to look for.
This one is really easy. It literally is labeled as is! It also has some different forms which I’ve listed below too.
White Mineral Oil
What is Mineral Oil?
Mineral oil is a by-product of petroleum. It’s created during the process of producing gasoline – yes, the stuff that powers your car or starts a fire! It’s colorless and odorless so it’s impossible to detect. There are various forms of mineral oil that range from unfiltered to highly filtered. Mineral oils that are untreated are the most toxic as they are carcinogens. The more refined it is, the less carcinogenic it is. In all likelihood, mineral oil isn’t the most toxic chemical you’re putting on your body. It’s just not good for it. And, it’s probably not helping you either. Keep reading.
Why do brands use Mineral Oil?
It’s cheap. Are you noticing a theme yet with these Ingredient of the Week posts? Generally speaking, cheaper products tend to be more toxic. Toxic ingredients are cheaper to manufacture (usually because the toxins aren’t filtered out). Mineral oil is also lightweight and helps reduce water loss from the skin. Does that sound like something you might want for dry skin? Exactly why they use it!
Which products contain Mineral Oil?
It’s commonly found in lotions, ointments, creams, and makeup products. Aquaphor, Petroleum Jelly, and Vaseline are just some of the many products that contain mineral oil. They also happen to be the ones that I’ve heard people mention they use the most.
What Mineral Oil can do to you.
Just like PEGs and retinol, the less mineral oil is filtered for toxic chemicals, the more harmful it is to you as the user. Since you as the consumer don’t know to what lengths a brand has gone to filter out toxins (unless they’ve made a public statement), it’s hard to get that peace of mind. Here are some of the side effects.
Nothing. That’s the problem! Mineral oil doesn’t actually do anything for your skin – it just sits as a layer on top of your skin protecting it from the atmosphere. Meaning, your chapped lips aren’t going to get any better. They’re going to stay status quo and you’re going to have to rely on Aquaphor over and over and over. Because it’s blocking water loss, it’s also going to mess with your body’s ability to sweat and cool itself off. It also makes your sunburns worse by locking in the heat which can lead to permanent scarring.
Acne. Since mineral oil clogs your pores (and doesn’t let water out), it is often the cause of acne. It’s like covering your skin with Saran Wrap. It traps bacteria in and voila! Whiteheads, blackheads, and zits!
Cancer. Okay, this one is scary. Untreated or lightly filtered mineral oils can cause skin cancer. There have also been links to skin cancer of the scrotum so watch out for your guys! Typically, the only people that need to be concerned about this work in industries with heavy machinery like metal working, automotive, etc.
Safe alternatives to Mineral Oil.
Since the majority of products that contain mineral oil are focused on dry skin, I’m going to share a general list of best lotions and oils. When it comes to your face, I’d recommend this face oil (it’s a miracle product you can read about here), this lotion for a lightweight solution, and this night cream for a more intense moisturizer (think during winter or for really dry skin)!
For your body, I used to use a lotion but have recently found that just using body oil alone is more effective. This body oil absorbs really well and smells amazing. There are cheaper ones like the coconut oil from Advanced Clinicals but you get what you pay for. Meaning, it doesn’t absorb as well and it doesn’t work as well. If you’re going for a really inexpensive option, try regular coconut oil you get from the grocery store! You can use it all over your body!
Have you used Aquaphor before? Do you have any favorite safe beauty products of any kind? Leave your recommendations below – I always love getting new beauty tips!
I stopped using mineral oil on my face a while ago. I still find it hard to find bodylotions without the stuff that don‘t cost me 30$ – I use a sh… ton of lotion so this would end up being really pricey :-/
Try coconut oil!! From Trader Joes :)
Nicole Bassuk says
Arbonne never uses any mineral oil in any of their products!
kanchipuram Silk sarees says
Hiya- I know this is an old article but there are a could things here that are a bit muck-rakey and, I have the feeling that you’d appreciate an honest, researched update for your readers. :)
So, while I fully agree that “organic” and “natural” are nothing more than marketing terms, the FDA absolutely DOES regulate what can and cannot be added to food, drugs, and cosmetics. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 not only strictly regulates what manufacturers may use, it dictates what the label must include and how it must be included. (Size of text and whatnot.) The Code of Federal Regulations (21CFR, specifically) addresses both cosmetics and cosmetic labeling in general, and further addresses mineral oil by name in several additional subsections. There are very specific criteria that must be met for mineral oil to be qualified as “food grade” or “cosmetic grade”. The oil is tested as per ASTM-D 86-82. This can be found in 21CFR §178.3620. Mineral oil, when in cosmetics is considered a “skin protectant drug product” and not only is the purity of it regulated, but there is a max allowable concentration.
This is the law and it is enforced, but this does not mean that there are not people who take shortcuts resulting in (purposefully or not) adulterated products in the marketplace. This is why it is soooo important to research and trust the companies that you’re buying product from. I cringe at the hordes of uneducated DIYers buying whatever questionable ingredients on Amazon, only to turn around and put it in “skincare” and sell it on Etsy. I don’t believe the FDA regulates products on Etsy as they fall under a ‘craft’, but I am not sure. I just know that I don’t but any sort of body/ skin care, candles, essential oils, anything like that, from Etsy.
On the comedogenic scale, mineral oil actually rates a 0 (0-5, the higher the value, the more clogging) while coconut oil routinely scores a 4. (There is some debate on this but it is 3-5.) Cocoa butter is typically a 4 too. Fractionated coconut oil would be a better choice at 2-3, but my go-to is jojoba (2) or red raspberry seed oil (0-1). It is pretty difficult to draw a straight line between comedogenic score and likelihood that someone will break out, as there are a few other factors in play here, namely predisposition of oily skin. I would like to point out that when mineral oil was originally tested for the scale, a less-refined form was tested (for whatever reason) and THAT scored a 5. The test has since been repeated (2005) with the cosmetic grade, however public opinion never really got the memo and mineral oil is still widely thought to be pore-clogging. In other words, this is a hard one to research bc of all of the conflicting info that is out there.
For what it’s worth, Saran wrap (originally PVC and, in more recent years, LDPE) actually has both an OTR (oxygen transmission rate) and an MVTR (moisture vapor transmission rate) meaning that it is not the barrier to which you were alluding, in your analogy. ;)
All of this being said, I fully support your conclusion that it is a great idea to opt for something other than mineral oil. The company that you identify as being a safe alternative- Beauty Counter, is a FANTASTIC company and make shopping healthier so much easier. The message to stay away from mineral oil, should not be one of fear and harmful effects, so much as- exactly what you said- it is a cheap filler of a product that doesn’t have a ton of benefits. With so many amazing options out there, why would you ever waste your time with something so ‘meh’.
I hope this helps. My intention was not to call you out, but rather to provide support to ultimately is a solid conclusion and your admirable objective- helping women to make healthier, informed choices. Nicely done!
Sheri Weinstein says
Great article and very educational. There is so much toxic/synthetic ingredients in most beauty products out there! I am so sick of companies claiming to be clean, all natural, non toxic when they’re NOT! When you see water as the 1-4th ingredient, the skincare is NOT clean and is highly diluted! You can read my story here: http://sheriweinstein.com
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