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?
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.
Mineral oil has also been proven within clinical studies to have
negative hormonal effects on the body, blocking the action of oestrogen
and having a link to cancer – although I’m no scientist, I’ve no doubt
that using a cleansing oil that contains mineral oil will have no impact
on your hormones whatsoever. Unless you’re covering yourself on a daily
basis over a time period of 100 years, it’s doubtful any of us will
‘consume’ enough quantities to make such a difference; this is just
another example of scaremongering that needs to be taken with a massive
piece of salt.
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 wise purchasing decisions that are right for you and your skincare routine.
Are you concerned about using mineral oil within your skincare routine?
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