Are you confused about using mineral oils? Because you're not alone.
Whether it’s because this oil is a by-product of petroleum or because it’s an occlusive ingredient (we’ll explain what this means later - don’t worry), people interested in adding mineral oil to their daily regimen will inevitably come across negativity surrounding it.
The real question is, why is the skincare community so divided? Are mineral oils really bad for your skin? Are you better off sticking with trusted skincare products?
It’s all about knowing how it works, its properties, and when it’s a good idea to use it on your skin.
Keep reading for all the answers.
Mineral oil is a light mixture of higher alkanes from a mineral source that's colorless and odorless. More specifically, it’s 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 this oil, we're referring to the “Cosmetic Grade Mineral Oil” (CGMO), the only one that can be used in cosmetics. For practical reasons, we’ll continue to use the term “mineral oil,” but remember that we’re always referring to CGMO.
In order to be suitable for cosmetics, this ingredient undergoes a strict refining process that removes all toxins, impurities, and potentially dangerous chemicals, making it a stable compound. Although it’s still considered a controversial product by many, highly refined mineral oil has been a common ingredient in lotions, creams, ointments, and other cosmetic products for a long time.
Companies use this ingredient because mineral oil helps prevent moisture loss. People who argue against using it for skin care usually highlight that there aren't that many other benefits of mineral oil. However, its simplicity can’t be considered a disadvantage.
This highly refined ingredient is so popular in cosmetic and skin care products because it's cheap. This has led many people to question the companies’ motives and whether its widespread use has more to do with its cost than its helpfulness in getting flawless skin.
Many skincare products and cosmetics contain mineral oil, including:
Liquid makeup removers
To understand this oil and its impact, we’ll take a look at its most specific features, its effectiveness, and potential consequences on human health.
Some critics say mineral oils are cancerogenic. However, there’s no need to debate this because it’s completely incorrect. According to Chemical Safety Facts, mineral oils are chemically stable with a long history of safe topical applications.
The FDA (U.S. Food And Drug Administration) allows the use of this oil as an active ingredient in over-the-counter (OTC) skin protectants and ophthalmic moisturizers, as well as some other drug product categories.
After assessing the scientific evidence, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) identified it as safe to use in cosmetics.
Finally, the Cosmetics Directive of the European Union categorizes mineral oil as a protectant and approves its use in cosmetics and personal care products.
If you're still skeptical about it, let us remind you that baby oil is, in fact, made of mineral oil. So, if it’s safe for babies, it’s surely safe for adults 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 that they are safe to use.
This highly purified oil has occlusive properties, meaning it produces an almost impenetrable protective layer to lock in moisture and keep bacteria and other pollutants out. Occlusive products create a thin film over the skin, which locks in moisture, and prevents transepidermal water loss.
Mineral oil won’t absorb due to its large molecular size, but rather it will stay on the surface of the skin and play its protective impenetrable-barrier role. For people living in very cold and harsh climate conditions, the protective quality of this oil becomes an amazing advantage. People with a dry or textured complexion can benefit greatly if they use it correctly, which we'll explain later.
Unfortunately, for people with an oily skin type, this causes a problem. The barrier will trap the excess oil inside the pores, which can lead to inflammation.
Mineral oils won’t draw in moisture, and they won’t technically hydrate the skin. Rather, they help to maintain the hydration that already exists in the skin tissue.
This is why the general advice for using mineral oil is to always apply it on damp skin or only after you’ve hydrated your face with other skincare products.
The rumor that mineral oil is comedogenic and clogs pores is not true. Mineral oil can’t clog pores because its molecular size is simply too big to penetrate the skin barrier.
This oil will simply sit on the skin's surface and prevent water loss. However, people with oily and acne-prone skin will probably dislike the feeling of it since it will make their face 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 in the pores. This is why it gets a bad rap for clogging pores. However, if you don't already have an oily complexion, there's a low likelihood that this oil will cause breakouts.
The general rule of thumb is that mineral oil is good for people with dry and rough skin who want a smoother texture. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case. This ingredient can be good and bad for your face, depending on how you’re using it and your skin concerns.
If you’re using it on a wet and damp face, the oil will lock in moisture and prevent your skin from drying out. Additionally, if you live in a cold environment, this ingredient will prevent low humidity and arid weather from affecting your skin.
If you have dry patches and apply mineral oil directly, it will probably feel good, but that feeling will be short-lived, and after a couple of hours, your face will be drier 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 prevent hydration.
This is why it's important to know how to use it correctly.
One of the good things about this oil is that it’s the least irritating cosmetic ingredient and a wonderful choice for people who suffer from extremely sensitive skin.
Applying this product will create a thin protective film over the skin’s surface that will stop external contaminants from penetrating. That's right - mineral oil helps pollutants, allergens, and other irritants stay away, meaning fewer allergic reactions.
Mineral oil and oily skin don’t go well together. Although, the oil itself won’t clog your pores the fact that it traps moisture inside under the skin barrier can be disastrous for acne-prone skin. As a result, your face will continue to create more of an oil build-up, potentially leading to breakouts. And because it doesn’t absorb into the skin and only sits on the top layer, it will create more unwanted shine.
The answer depends on your skin type and your needs. There’s no reason to fear mineral oil-based skincare products or pure mineral oil. They won’t harm the skin barrier function and cause an adverse skin reaction. At the end of the day, this ingredient is considered safe - so don't write it off completely!
That said, there are far better options that might fit your skin health needs, such as Misumi's Clear Skin Duo Kit. This amazing kit will clean your face, get rid of dead skin cells, reduce redness and inflammation, and help you reach that perfect complexion.
While there's nothing dangerous about pure mineral oil, mineral oil-based products enriched with moisturizing ingredients, like vitamin E oil, retinol, aloe vera, zinc, green tea, or argan oil, bring a lot more advantages and results.
Because cosmetic products that contain mineral oil are completely different, they should be judged on their overall qualities and uses. We recommend staying away from products with pore-clogging ingredients and trying a patch test before using them to avoid an adverse skin reaction.
Unfortunately, pure mineral oil only has a short-term effect and won't keep your skin moisturized for long. But, when combined with other ingredients, it can help you with specific skin issues and get you more long-lasting results.
Cosmetic mineral oils are 100% safe and free from toxic substances.
But when it comes to the effectiveness of mineral oils, everyone is different, and there will always be an ongoing debate between people with positive experiences versus those with negative ones.
Taking all the information science has provided, here’s a little summary of whether we recommend mineral oil as an addition to your skin care routine.
Consider Using it if You:
Don't Use it if You: