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What is wrong with Mineral Oil used in cosmetic products?

First I have to tell: in my opinion nothing. The idea that Mineral Oil used in cosmetic products is an artificial chemical substance that will cause for example cancer and clogging up of skin pores is a myth created by certain Natural Product companies who use scare tactics to highlight the natural aspect of their products. Not suprisingly sometimes things that are good can get a bad reputation that’s undeserved.  Such is the case with mineral oil, a harmless and beneficial ingredient that’s used in many skincare product, but has been linked online and in magazines to all kinds of terrible things. I think it’s time to set the record straight on mineral oil, and why the negative rumors are simply untrue.

What is mineral oil?

Mineral oil or paraffin oil is a liquid by-product of refining crude oil to make gasoline and other petroleum products. This type of oil is a mixture of colorless, savourless, transparent compounds. It is a substance of relatively low value, and produced in very large quantities. Mineral oil is available in light and heavy grades, and can often be found in drug stores. It is widely used in cosmetics because it rarely causes allergic reactions and it can’t become solid. Studies have found mineral oil and petrolatum (a semi-solid form of mineral oil more commonly known as Vaseline) can assist wound healing, and amoung the most effective moisturizing ingredients available.

Is mineral oil an unnatural substance?

One of the biggest misconception of mineral oil, that it is a guilty, artificial, unnatural substance. According to the Wikipedia petroleum is a fossil fuel derived from ancient fossilized organic materials, such as zooplankton and algae. So it has been formed under the surface of the earth by a natural process for millions of years.

What about the environmental concerns?

Some people argue against the use of mineral oil, citing concerns that process it takes to extract it is damaging to the enviroment, and that it is a non-renewable resource. First, mineral oil is not a resource. It’s a byproduct of the petroleum industry. No one is drilling for oil to use for moisturizers. Mineral oil is extracted and purified from the petroleum refining process that occurs within other industries. This is actually no different from how coconut oil (or other plant oils) is extracted, purified and processed into cosmetics. Thus, if this is your main concern it’s more helpful to stop driving your vehicle, heating your home, cooking with gas, traveling by airplane, using anything packaged in plastic (or typing on a keyboard) etc., all of which are primary reasons petroleum is refinied.

Is mineral oil contaminated?

Mineral oil approved for use in cosmetics only remotely related to the oil that is used in the production of gasoline. This food grade mineral oil is highly purified: it does not contain impurities that harm skin in any way, nor does it contain any carcinogens. This substance can also be digested although it is not recommended to swallow a lot of it as you get a stomach ache – the same kind of stomach ache you would get if you digested too much olive oil. Speaking of impurities, you may be suprised to learn that plants are subject to contaminants as well. Plants come out of the ground, with insects, worms, mold, fungus, bacteria, and other contaminates that must be purified (or removed) off before they can be put into a cosmetic, just like mineral oil. In fact if you saw how most plants look (or smell) before they undergo this purification, I bet you’d never want to use another natural product again!

Is mineral oil the foe of sensitive skin?

Just the oposite: it is the friend of this skin type. Mineral oil has very positive effects on your skin especially if you have very sensitive dry skin. This substance decreases the amount of water that naturally escapes from our skin, because it protects the skin’s natural barrier. It also provides other advantages of using on the skin; and these are hydratation, protection, moisture creation and working as a healing agent.

While plant-based alternatives like coconut, jojoba, and argan oils also work to seal in moisture, they are more likely to cause irritation (allergic contact dermatitis). Mineral oil is more inert in that it would be very rare for any type of reaction to happen in the skin.

Finally it is not a mistake tha Johnson&Johnson use the seemingly dangerous mineral oil in their baby products. Babies have the most sensitive skin.

Can mineral oil clog pores?

Another question that crops up is wether mineral oil is bad news for acne-prone skin. If it’s so moisture-retaining, then couldn’t it also clog pores and open the floodgates for pimples?  Despite its greasy feel, mineral oil can’t clog pores as it cannot penetrate skin – its molecular size is simply too big to get into the pore lining where clogs happen! Instead mineral oil remains on the surface of skin, where it does the most good – although those with oily skin may not like how products with a high amount of mineral oil feels or looks on their skin.

More than just a few actually use this claim as a selling point claiming that our skin needs to breathe and is responsible for releasing toxins from the body. Fact is that we don’t actually breathe through our skin – that is a commonly blown up myth. Our skin also only plays a very minor role in detoxifying our system. Most of our detoxification is carried out in the liver and toxins are generally disposed of in the urine.

Is it cancerous?

This is the most scary concern. It’s important to emphasise again that the mineral oil used in cosmetics is not the same as the crude form used int he automotive, railroad, and aviation industries. And, for good reason. The untreated kind is a known human carcinogen. In beauty products, on the other hand, it’s highly refined – stripped of cancer causers such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. But, in some online communities, people still worry that tarce amounts of these chemicals may pose a health risk. However, research hasn’t backed up the concerns.

The bottom line

To sum up, mineral oil you find in skin care products is perfectly safe, and even better – very good for your skin, especially if it’s dry or sensitive.

(To sum up, not only perfectly safe to use mineral oil on your skin, it is very advisable if you have sensitive skin that needs moisturizing.)

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