The Truth About: Mineral Oil In Skincare (Is It Really That Bad For You?)

The list of ingredients that we're now told to avoid within our cosmetics is getting longer and longer. Sulphates, parabens, formaldehyde, mineral oil... But why is mineral oil, being such a common ingredient, put on the naughty list and widely documented as being bad for your skin? A colourless and odourless bi-product of the oil refinery process, mineral oil is often added to ingredients because it's readily available and cheap; the main benefit it offers is to reduce water loss in the skin by 'trapping' it on the surface, which is why it's included in many skincare and body products that claim to moisturise or hydrate. It's included in anything from cleansing oils, face creams and body lotions and often listed within ingredients as a derivative of petroleum. Mineral oil has definitely been getting a hard rap in the last few years from beauty experts and cosmetic enthusiasts, but is it really that bad for your skin? And why does it have such a bad reputation in the first place?

On its own mineral oil offers no direct benefit to the skin; it has no hydrating qualities and doesn't inject moisture, only trap what's already there and prevent further loss from the surface. However, this means if there's a lack of moisture there to begin with (excessive dehydration) then you're basically screwed: mineral oil will prevent the skin from absorbing essential moisture from its surroundings and naturally rehydrating itself to perform at its best. Vaseline is recommended to be used on freshly inked tattoos, helping to protect the design from becoming infected or healing ineffectively; this is simply because Vaseline creates a barrier and allows the healing process to develop as efficiently as possible. This is how effective mineral oil (or other petroleum derivatives) is at creating a barrier on skin. Do you really want a coat of Vaseline on the surface of your face? (Read the truth about petroleum jelly here if you're interested in more info.)

Although skin doesn't 'breathe' and can't be 'suffocated', excessive amounts of mineral oil can prevent it from performing effectively; the skin also receives its oxygen supply via the blood stream, so this is more of a nourishment and hydration issue. As a natural side effect, mineral oil is also comedogenic; this means it can block pores and cause blackheads or acne, as the skin can't rid itself of bacteria or dead skin cells. If you suffer from breakouts or are prone to acne, it may well be worth ridding your cosmetic repertoire of any products that contain mineral oil to ensure your skin has a fighting chance. The substance will sit over the surface of skin and prevent the natural 'shedding' and renewal process that rids itself of dead skin, bacteria and anomalies that can cause big ugly spots. In order to minimise blocked pores that become infected and result in pimples, the skin must be able to regenerate as easily as possible - mineral oil simply hinders this process.

In 2015 we now have so many better alternatives to mineral oil that don't cost a fortune to include; in my opinion a lot of companies continue to use mineral oil because it's cheap as chips and bulks out a product. If you continually use products with mineral oil in over time then the result could be dry, tender and flaky skin as the surface level can't attract and therefore retain moisture. However, mineral oil doesn't 'suffocate' skin cells as is widely reported, nor will it 'poison' cells because it's so closely related to petrol.  Many 'natural' companies choose to pick on ingredients and identify them as bad for you as a way to promote and push their organic alternatives, so it's important to make purchasing decisions that are right for you and your skincare routine.

Are you concerned about using mineral oil, or is it just another ingredients that's been getting a bad rep?

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  1. I remember your article on vaseline, no wonder hairdressers use vaseline on the hair line to stop dye from coming into contact with the skin! I am definitely paying more attention now as my skin is super dry as it is!

    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

  2. Anonymous17.9.15

    Great article!! I suffered with terrible acne until I started researching the ingredients in my products and the on common one was mineral oil i stopping using anything with it in about 4 years ago and my skins been clear of acne since! My husband however can use any old moistener with mineral oil being a high ingredient and never breaks out! Interesting huh!!

  3. Really great article. Really concise and informative. It is nice to have it explained why it is bad and the mechanisms behind it rather than it just being on the so called naughty ingredients list. Will need to take a closer look at my skincare regime!

  4. i didn't knew many of these points ... informative.

  5. Mineral oil can be the sensitive skins friend.
    I am currently using a Laroche Posay cleansing milk which is full of mineral oil and my skin has never looked better.
    However I am aware of what a cheap ingredient it is so I wouldn't buy a high end product if it's main ingredient was mineral oil.

  6. I love how you explain things clearly without the scaremongering that can come with some ingredients. :) x

  7. Anonymous17.9.15

    Brilliant article, would love to know what the general consensus is on hydrogenated polyisobutane? I always avoid mineral oil (i have acneic skin) but no one really talks about this one.

  8. Anonymous21.9.15

    PLEASE do not use Vaseline on a new tattoo - it traps bacteria and can make the skin blotchy!

  9. Thanks so much for this well informed article. I've heard all the scaremongering in regards to mineral oil, but never has it been put in quite so easy to understand words. It's certainly a product I do avoid ( and now I'm far better educated as to why!) but there is a few products in my cabinet that do contain it and do perform well when I use them on occasion, Avene for example. They are not things I use daily, or even weekly, but just at certain times.
    The Beauty Bloss

  10. This is such a good well written and balanced post I think mineral oil gets picked on too much and even though I don't really use it often it doesn't deserve to be demonised. I still use vaseline on my lips as its the only things that really works for me.


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