Mineral oil is an extremely common ingredient in personal care products from moisturizers to foundation to lip balm, and it is also an ingredient in a myriad of hair products. Baby oil, for example, is made entirely of mineral oil. Unfortunately, the use of mineral oil in so many products has more to do with its cost than it's helpfulness in helping you maintain clear, healthy skin.
Before the invention of synthetic oil, mineral oil was predominantly used as a mechanical lubricant. According to the Environmental Working Group, mineral oil is derived from petroleum and may be contaminated with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Mineral oil aggravates acne and negatively impacts skin function, causing it to age prematurely. This oil is a common ingredient in anything that requires a smooth gliding action, and may be listed under different names, including petrolatum or paraffinum.
Mineral oil acts as a moisturizing agent only to the extent that it keeps the area of skin that it is applied to moist. While most moisturizers include important nutrients that support the fragile-and always aging-facial skin mineral oil provides no nutrients whatsoever. It actually seals off your skin, preventing it from breathing.
Your skin is the body’s largest organ, and it works together with the kidneys to rid the body of toxins. However, your skin needs to be able to breathe to perform these functions. Kim Anderson, a health care consultant to Arbonne International, states that “mineral oil coats the skin like plastic wrap, disrupting the skin's natural immune barrier and inhibiting its ability to breathe and absorb the 'natural moisture factor' (moisture and nutrition).” In addition, mineral oil attracts needed moisture from cells deep inside your skin. This means that cell renewal is slowed, collagen breaks down, and the connective tissue is destroyed. Normal cell development is slowed down and the skin ages prematurely when skin cells are robbed of moisture.
There are other serious health concerns connected to mineral oil. Applying it to your skin repeatedly can cause various negative hormonal effects, including ovarian dysfunction, endometriosis, miscarriages, and damage to the immune system, Anderson states.
Mineral oil can be useful in sealing the skin off from outside particles. On your face, this can lead to pimples and blackheads. But in other, less sensitive areas, petroleum jelly can be useful to keep a patch of skin dry while it heals. Products that contain petroleum jelly, for example, can be used to protect a baby's skin as diaper rash heals.