Are you confused about using mineral oil in skincare? Because you are not alone dear.
Whether it’s because mineral oil is a by-product of petroleum, or because it’s an occlusive (we’ll explain in great detail what this really means) ingredient, people interested in adding products that contain mineral oil in their daily regimen will inevitably come across negative information about mineral oil.
The real question is how much truth is there in all the negative info circling online? Is mineral oil really bad for your skin?
On one side, its proponents will argue that it’s safe, natural, non-comedogenic, and effective, while others will say that mineral oil makes dry skin dryer and oily skin breakout, so they simply write it off as completely useless, without any long-term benefit.
The ongoing debate never ends because the information on both sides can be true.
How can that be?
Well, mineral oil can help and protect your skin as easily as it can make things worse.
It’s all about knowing how it really works, what are its properties and when it’s a good idea to use it on your skin.
Read on to find out the answers to all these questions.
Mineral oil is a colorless and odorless, light mixture of higher alkanes from a mineral source. More specifically, it’s derived from petroleum, as a by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline.
Don’t let the association with petroleum scare you.
Although there are several grades of mineral oil when we use the term “mineral oil” in the context of skincare we are referring to the “Cosmetic Grade Mineral Oil”, which is the only one that can be and is used in cosmetics.
For practical reasons, we’ll continue to use the term “mineral oil”, but you should have in mind that we’re always referring to CGMO (cosmetic grade mineral oil).
To be turned into cosmetic grade mineral oil and used in cosmetics, the ingredient undergoes a strict purifying process that removes all toxins, impurities, and chemicals that might be potentially dangerous. In spite of the fact that it’s still considered a controversial ingredient by so many people, for a very long time mineral oil has been used as a common ingredient in lotions, creams, ointments, and other cosmetic products.
Companies use mineral oil because of its main(and probably only) ability to prevent moisture loss. People that argue against the use of mineral oil for skin usually undermine the ingredient because it doesn’t have many other purposes. However, its simplicity can’t really be considered a disadvantage.
Another reason why mineral oil is so popular in cosmetic products is that it’s really cheap. This has led a lot of people to question the companies’ motives and whether its widespread use has more to do with its cost rather than it’s helpfulness in helping you get that flawless skin.
You can find mineral oil in many skincare products, including sunscreen, lotions, diaper creams, lip gloss, under-eye creams, moisturizers, and deodorants.
To really understand mineral oil and its impact on skin we’ll take a look at its most specific features and how they shape its effectiveness and potential consequences on the skin.
The opponents of using mineral oil in skincare come to such lengths that some even say it’s cancerogenic. And, this is the only aspect of the use of mineral oil where there’s no need for debate because its critics are completely wrong.
According to Chemical Safety Facts, mineral oil is a chemically stable ingredient with a long history of safe topical applications.
The FDA (U.S. Food And Drug Administration) allows the use of mineral oil as an active ingredient in over-the-counter (OTC) skin protectants and ophthalmic moisturizers, as well as, some other drug product categories.
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), after assessing the scientific evidence, identified mineral oil as safe to use as a cosmetic ingredient.
Finally, the Cosmetics Directive of the European Union categorizes mineral oil as a skin protectant and approves its use in cosmetics and personal care products.
If you are still skeptical about it, let us remind you that baby oil is, in fact, made of mineral oil. So, if it’s safe for baby skin, then it’s surely safe for adult skin too.
Just a little disclaimer here, we’re not saying mineral-based baby oils are good and beneficial for infants, but rather we’re stating the fact that they are safe to use.
Mineral oil is an occlusive ingredient which means it produces an almost impenetrable layer on the skin in order to lock moisture in, as well as keep bacteria and other pollutants out.
Occlusive products create a very thin film over the skin, which locks in moisture, and prevents transepidermal water loss.
Mineral oil won’t absorb in the skin, due to its large molecular size, but rather it will stay on the surface on the skin and play its protective impenetrable-barrier role. For people living in very cold and harsh climate conditions, this protective quality of mineral oil becomes an amazing advantage. People will dry skin can also benefit greatly, if they use correctly, which will explain in detail further in the text.
Unfortunately, for people with oily skin, this is a great problem since the barrier will trap the excess oil inside the pores which can lead to increased inflammation.
I used the term “lubricating” instead of “moisturizing” because I believe it provides a more correct description of how mineral oil works on the skin.
That is, mineral oil won’t draw in moisture to the skin and it won’t technically hydrate the skin, but rather maintain the moisture and hydration that already exists in the skin tissues.
This is why, the general advice for using mineral oil is that you should always apply mineral oil on wet or damp skin, or only after you’ve hydrated the skin with other skincare products.
The rumor that mineral oil is comedogenic and will clog your pores is not true. It’s impossible for mineral oil to clog the pores because its molecular size is simply too big to get into the pores and penetrate the skin.
So, that saying “it will suffocate your skin” it’s not correct.
The mineral oil will simply sit on the surface on the skin and do its job in preventing moisture loss, which is a good thing.
However, people will oily skin will probably dislike the feeling and look of mineral oil on their skin’s surface since it will make their skin look even more shiny and greasy.
The problem is this: because it’s so good at retaining whatever your skin produces inside, it can lead to more breakouts by trapping excess oil to buildup in the pores.
The general rule of thumb is that mineral oil is good for people with dry skin, but unfortunately, things are not that simple and this ingredient can be good and bad for your dry skin depending on how you’re using it.
If you’re using it after taking a bath, on wet and damp skin, the oil will lock the moisture inside the pores and prevent your skin from quickly drying out. Additionally, if you’re living in a cold environment, this ingredient will prevent the low humidity and arid weather to affect the skin and dry it.
If you have dry skin and apply mineral oil directly it will probably feel good, but that feeling will be short lived and after a couple of hours, your skin will be more dry than before. This is because the oil doesn’t have any hydrating nutrients to feed your skin, and the protective barrier that it forms will just keep moisture from getting to the skin.
This is why is important to know how to use it correctly.
One of the few good things known about mineral oil is that it’s the least irritating cosmetic ingredient and a wonderful choice for people that suffer from extremely sensitive skin. When you apply the mineral oil on the skin it will create a thin protective film over the surface that will shield external contaminants from penetrating the skin. Pollutants, allergens, and other irritants will stay away from your skin.
Mineral oil and oily skin don’t go well together. Although, the oil itself won’t clog your pores and won’t irritate the skin, the fact that traps the moisture inside the pores can be really disastrous for acne-prone skin. The skin will continue to produce more oil that will buildup inside the pores underneath the mineral oil.
Additionally, because the mineral oil doesn’t absorb into the skin, it will create more shine that’s unwanted for already shiny and greasy skin.
The answer depends on your skin type and your needs, but there’s definitely no reason to be scared of mineral oil-based products or pure mineral oil for that matter since it won’t hurt or damage your skin. At the end of the day, it’s regarded as safe and one of the least irritating ingredients so it shouldn’t be written off completely.
With that being said, it should be noted that there are far better options out there that might fit your needs and work a lot more effectively toward your purposes.
While there is nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘dangerous’ with the use of pure mineral oil, mineral oil-based products enriched with beneficial ingredients for the skin like vitamin E oil, retinol, aloe vera, zinc, green tea or argan oil bring a lot more advantages and results.
Because formulated cosmetic products containing mineral oil as one of many ingredients are a completely different story they should be judged on their overall qualities and uses.
Unfortunately, pure mineral oil has only a short-term effect on the skin since it doesn’t nourish it. But, when combined with other healing ingredients it can actually help you with specific skin issues, as well as get you more long-lasting results.
Cosmetic grade mineral oil is 100% safe and free from toxic substances. So, you don’t need to worry about those rumors.
Now, about the effectiveness of mineral oils, what we should all understand is that everyone is different and there will always be an ongoing debate between the people with positive experiences versus those with negative.
Taking all the information science has provided us, here’s a little summary for whether you should consider adding mineral oil in your skincare routine.
You should consider using mineral oil in your skincare routine if you:
You shouldn't use mineral oil in your skincare routine if you: