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Is Mineral Oil Safe?

Many people use mineral oil as a home cure for a wide range of issues. However, there’s a large group of people that chooses to avoid it at all cost as lately this ingredient got a lot of bad press. Who’s right and whos wrong?

What it mineral oil?

Like its relative petroleum jelly (Known as Vaseline), mineral oil is a byproduct of the refinement process of crude oil. Yes, the same oil used to make gasoline for our cars!

It’s colorless and odorless, inexpensive and used to be very popular, before the “natural era” of today.

While impurities in untreated or lightly treated mineral oil are carcinogenic, these are removed when mineral oil is further refined to be used in products for skin care and general use.

Is it bad for the skin?

Like petroleum jelly, mineral oil is an effective occlusive. This means that it forms an oily layer on the skin that acts as a barrier between the environment and the skin. Therefore it’s a very common ingredient in moisturizers along with other skincare products. Some people even use mineral oil directly from the bottle to treat dry skin.

“Baby oil” as we all know from the drugstore shelves is just a perfumed version of mineral oil. A 2012 article on diaper rash in U.S. Pharmacist noted that mineral oil is an effective and safe emollient protectant for diaper rash. However, it suggested that the oil shouldn’t be allowed to build upon the skin without cleaning it off and reapplying to prevent skin irritation.

What about the common belief that mineral oil clogs pores and therefore leads to acne and blackheads? Mineral oil is supposed to be noncomedogenic, meaning it does not clog pores, and it has a low allergic potential, but there’s a caveat. It depends on how purified the oil is. The more contaminants, the more it will clog your skin’s pores.

flithy hand picking black crude oil from the ground
Crude oil in its "purest" form. Impurities can cause serious health problems.

Since mineral oil is available in many different purification grades, there still is a risk where the oil being used was not properly purified, leaving impurities that are proven to cause health risks. Why take that risk? A report by the National Toxicology Program stated that “Untreated and mildly treated mineral oils are known to be human carcinogens based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans.”

It is true that cosmetic grade mineral oil is more purified than the regular grade but there is always the potential of contamination and in that case, the oil is not safe.

Also, mineral oil is not considered natural. It is a heavily processed version of crude oil and therefore can no longer be called natural.

Today, in the natural cosmetic industry there are many natural substitutes to mineral oil, enjoying both the benefits and the fact that they are completely safe.

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