“Mineral oil or liquid petroleum is a by-product in the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline and other petroleum based products from crude oil. It is a transparent, colorless oil related to petroleum jelly (also known as "white petrolatum"). Mineral oil is a substance of relatively low value, and it is produced in very large quantities. Mineral oil is available in light and heavy grades, and can often be found in drug stores.
What is mineral oil’s purpose in cosmetics? It is a main ingredient in many eye creams, body moisturizers, liquid makeup, heavy facial night creams and moisturizers. (Notice the line above that says “a substance of relatively low value”. That means it is an inexpensive ingredient to put into products.)
- It provides what is called “slip”, or the ability for your fingers to massage it around without it disappearing quickly.
- It is occlusive, which means it prevents anything from either entering or leaving the pores.
- Does it moisturize skin? No, that is not it’s function. It is used to provide an occlusive seal over the top of your skin, and leaves an oil barrier sitting on top. Its molecular structure is too big to penetrate the skin.
- It is the primary ingredient in baby oil; with some of that sweet fragrance added we love to smell on babies. It can prevent diaper rash by keeping wetness away from your baby’s skin.
What do moisturizers do? Your skin contains natural moisture factors which are responsible for keeping the skin moist and pliable by attracting and holding water. In dry climates such as Colorado, moisturizers are very important. A moisturizer should increase the water content of the stratum corneum and attract moisture to the skin.
Does mineral oil cause acne? Technically it is not considered to be comedeogenic. However, it is oil, and most people with acne already have a full dipstick when it comes to excess oil. It creates a barrier on top of the skin which does not allow blackhead/whitehead debris to get out of the pores, and thus prevents acne from clearing.
Does it improve the area around the eyes? It may keep you from having that “crepey” look around the eyes, but it only seals in moisture, it does nothing to reverse or prevent aging. If your eye cream has mineral oil in it, it will probably be at the top of the ingredient list. You may be paying $50.00 for a dab of mineral oil worth less than five cents.
What are better alternatives? Products that contain vegetable oils like grapeseed, sunflower, safflower and avocado can be very effective in combating dry skin.
- Plant oils can be absorbed into the skin and are much more natural. Choose products with shea butter, avocado oil, and aloe vera to soothe and moisturize dry skin.
- Eye creams need antioxidant vitamins as the main ingredient to combat aging.
Do you really want skin care products that contain a by-product of gasoline production? That statement alone should be enough to convince you to stay away from the long lines at the gas pump when looking for good skin care. The description on the bottle is primarily marketing. Always check the ingredient list in a product before you purchase.