The Dangers Of… Petroleum/Mineral Oil

21 Apr

Petroleum/mineral oil can be found in many hair and skin care products. Especially those marketed towards black/afro textured hair and skin. What is this ingredient and what are it’s effects on our hair and skin?

Also known as petrolatum, petroleum jelly (Vaseline), soft paraffin, white paraffin, or even mineral oil.

Petroleum is not a “moisturizer,” but rather a “barrier” which means that having no moisturizing properties of its own, it reinforces and seals the moisture into skin provided by other sources. For instance, if after applying water to your skin, you coat it with a layer of petroleum, you will have effectively sealed in some of the moisture from the water into your skin, along with whatever was already residing on your skin, oil, sweat, etc.

Petrolatum is listed as a probable human carcinogen in the European Union’s Dangerous Substances Directive and is linked to cancers such as breast cancer. It is toxic to the nervous system and depending on manufacturing processes can contain many harmful contaminants such as PAHs.

PAHs, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are common contaminants in petrolatum, also called petroleum jelly and sold under well-known brand names like Vaseline. Petrolatum is found in one of every 14 products on the market (7.1 percent of the products assessed by EWG), including 15 percent of all lipstick and 40 percent of al baby lotions and oils. FDA restricts petrolatum in food to no more than 10 parts per million, and requires petrolatum used in food packaging or drugs to meet impurity restrictions for PAHs.

But the agency allows any amount of petrolatum of any purity in personal care products, many of which are applied directly to the lips and swallowed.

Among the studies linking the petrolatum impurity PAHs to breast cancer is a Columbia University study in which researchers found that the breast tissue of women with breast cancer was 2.6 times more likely to contain elevated levels of PAHs bound to DNA (called DNA adducts) than the breast tissue of women without breast cancer (Rundle et al. 2000). The National Toxicology Programs finds that some PAHs are reasonable anticipated to be human carcinogens, and the State of California lists a number of PAHs as carcinogens in its Proposition 65 program.

You will find petroleum (crude) in pharmaceutical drug products, hair and skin care products, female vaginal sanitary products, baby care products, auto industry supplies, and even foodstuffs.

Mineral Oil
A derivative of crude oil (petroleum) that is used industrially as a cutting fluid and lubricating oil. Mineral oil forms an oily film over the skin to lock in moisture, toxins and wastes, but hinders normal skin respiration by keeping oxygen out. It blocks the pores and the skin’s natural respiration.

Mineral oil is known for not absorbing water. It has been used as a brake fluid for cars, bicycles and airplanes. As a very cheap material, the cost benefit is great because mineral oil is very plentiful.  Mineral oil is also used to clean kitchen, utility and ceremonial knives and swords.

John Hopkins University named mineral oil in cosmetics and moisturizers as the number two cause of aging. The first being direct exposure to the sun.The result is premature aging and increased health risks.

Mineral oil may also cause allergic reactions and dryness. It traps dirt and bacteria and blocks the absorption of vitamins/minerals/botanicals that may be in a product.

Mineral oil is popular with manufacturers because it is inexpensive and makes skin smoother and softer to the touch and more attractive to the eye. Unfortunately, the damage that is being caused behind the scene makes it an undesirable ingredient in any skin care product.

Thanks to companies like Johnson’s (Johnson & Johnson), unconscious parents are putting petroleum on their precious new baby’s skin, causing the skin to become hard and dry.


Replace Mineral Oil with natural oils that are derived from foods, i.e. olive oil, almond oil, wheat germ oil, grape seed oil, sunflower seed oil, rose hip seed oil, apricot kernel oil, jojoba, and/or coconut oil to name a few.

Replace Petroleum Jelly based products with natural butters such as Shea butter and Cocoa Butter.

Wax based products are also good such as beeswax or vegetable waxes including olive wax and almond wax.

Here is a link to a website that sells many oils, butters, bees and vegetable waxes.

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Posted by on April 21, 2010 in Hair Care, Mineral Oil, Petroleum, The Dangers Of...


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