Mineral oil is a colorless and odorless oil derived from petroleum (a natural substance extracted from the earth) that helps your skin retain moisture. It is an occlusive agent, which increases moisture levels by providing a physical barrier on the skin to prevent trans-epidermal water loss (moisture loss). It is commonly used in a wide variety of cosmetic products for its moisture-sealing properties, but it has gotten bad reputation from claims that it suffocates the skin and clogs pores to how it can introduce carcinogens to your body. Regardless, you will often find it in many skincare products especially the ones for babies.
Here are some myths and facts regarding mineral oil:
MYTH 1: It is not safe and can cause cancer
FACT: It is true that some petroleum derivatives are carcinogenic, however, mineral oil for skin care purposes (pharmaceutical or cosmetic grade) are highly purified compared to industrial grade mineral oil. Its purity is regulated by international regulatory agencies. By removing harmful impurities and carcinogens associated with lesser grade mineral oil, it becomes completely safe and perfectly healthy for skin. Speaking of impurities, even plants have to be purified f before they can be put into a cosmetic, just like mineral oil. There is absolutely no evidence that cosmetic grade mineral oil causes cancer. Additionally, mineral oil is very stable and has a long shelf life, unlike natural oils, which can go rancid and create potentially irritant compounds.
MYTH 2: It can clog your pores and cause acne
FACT: Mineral oil is one of those ingredients that sit on top of your skin, as the molecules are too big to be absorbed into or get into the pore lining where clogging happens. In a study published by the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, cosmetic grade mineral oil was found to be non-comedogenic. If you have oily skin, you may not like products with mineral oil because of its greasy and heavy feel; if you have dry and sensitive skin, it is a fantastic ingredient for you! While plant-based alternatives like Coconut oil, Jojoba, and Argan oil also work to seal in moisture, they’re more likely to cause irritation; mineral oil is inert so these types of reactions will be very rare.
MYTH 3: It prevents the absorption of collagen
FACT: Another misconception about mineral oil is that the occlusive barrier it creates will not allow the collagen present in some skincare products to penetrate the skin. But collagen molecules are too big to penetrate the skin anyway so mineral oil has no effect on them at all.
MYTH 4: It dries the skin and causes premature aging
FACT: This is false as mineral oil acts as a barrier between the skin and the air thereby preventing water from leaving through the skin. The upper layers of the skin cells are surrounded by a lipid matrix that acts as a barrier to water loss, but changes in weather, frequent washing, etc. can cause disruptions in the skin’s natural barrier so mineral oil helps support that natural barrier to prevent excess water loss.
Bottom Line: Mineral oil is an effective, safe and inexpensive moisturizing ingredient.
PHOTO CREDIT: PMQ