What Are the Dangers of Mineral Oil?

By Nicole Crawford

There is a heated battle regarding mineral oil dangers. Before you choose your side, be sure you know what is really dangerous about mineral oil and what is myth.

Most lotions and moisturizers contain some form of mineral oil.


Mineral oil is refined crude oil derived from petroleum. It is colorless, odorless and has low flammability. Mineral oil should be kept in a cool, ventilated, dark room in an enclosed container.


Mineral oil varies in type depending on its level of refinement. The mineral oils found in cosmetic products are highly refined. Unrefined or mildly treated mineral oils are often used in automotive oils and fluids.


Besides its cosmetic and automotive uses, mineral oil is also used in cooking. As noted at Chow.com, it makes a great nonstick coating for baked food items and is often used to oil cutting boards. Mineral oil is also an excellent laxative.


The primary turf of the mineral oil battle is the cosmetic industry. Many consumers had been led to believe mineral oil is a carcinogen that causes dry skin and premature aging. Other myths about mineral oil include that it causes vitamin deficiency and acne.

The Facts

Highly refined mineral oil is not a carcinogen. Untreated and mildly treated mineral oil has been proven to cause cancer, as noted in "Report on Carcinogens." Inhalation, skin contact and ingestion should be avoided at all costs.