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The top 5 myths about mineral oil part 1

We often see the advice that people should avoid mineral oil at all costs. This idea is propagated by numerous “natural” companies. Well, this advice is just bogus. It’s not based on any scientific studies. Mineral oil is a perfectly fine ingredient and has been used in cosmetics for over 100 years.

Here are the top 5 Myths that companies tell people to make them afraid of mineral oil. In part 2 we look at why “natural” companies would be trying to scare you.

Mineral Oil Myths

1. Mineral oil is contaminated with carcinogens. While it’s true that some petroleum derivatives contain carcinogenic materials (like some polycyclic aromatic compounds) the mineral oil that is used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry is highly refined and purified. It’s purity is even regulated by the US FDA and other international regulatory agencies. There is absolutely no evidence that cosmetic grade mineral oil causes cancer. And there has been plenty of testing done to ensure that fact. We could find no published reports in any of the dermatological or medical journals indicating a link between mineral oil and any forms of cancer.

2. Mineral oil dries the skin and causes premature aging. Mineral oil works as a barrier between the skin and the air. It acts as an occlusive agent which prevents water from naturally leaving your body through your skin. It will not dry out your skin or cause premature aging. Quite the contrary. It will provide moisturization.

3. Mineral oil robs the skin of vitamins. Since many vitamins are oil based, people assume that mineral oil will pull them out of your skin. There is no legitimate scientific evidence that this is true. Mineral oil has no effect on the vitamin levels in your skin.

4. Mineral oil prevents absorption of collagen from collagen moisturizers. Collagen in your skin lotions and moisturizers is too big to actually penetrate your skin. Therefore, mineral oil will have no effect on whether the collagen gets absorbed or not.

5. Mineral oil causes acne. In some people, mineral oil can exacerbate acne problems. However, most people will not experience any problems.

So, if it is not for safety concerns, why would companies be telling you to avoid mineral oil? We’ll look at that in part 2 of our series on mineral oil.

{ 50 comments… add one }

  • maggie October 12, 2014, 2:46 pm

    My mother always used mineral oil to cleanse her face. she has always had the most beautiful skin.

    Then, she would use witchhazel rose water afterwards.

    Then, an excellent moisturiser (Revlon)

  • Maureen Martin March 22, 2015, 9:31 am

    Every esthetician and dermatologist I’ve ever worked with has told me the opposite. They said avoid mineral oil! It’s cheap to use that’s why it’s popular. I’d rather spend a few more $ and get a product that contains rose hips, jojoba, avocado, hemp seed, argan, sea buckthorn seed, coconut oils in it. The oils I listed and many more will not only hydrate, but will add vitamins, essential fatty acids, anti oxidants, anti inflammatory properties, etc to the skin. Mineral oil can’t do that! Before it was made “safe” to use on our skin & hair it was primarily used to lubricate machinery. I’ve been avoiding it for years and always will. e

    • Randy Schueller March 22, 2015, 9:49 am

      There’s no doubt that essential fatty acids are good for skin. However, they don’t moisturize as well as mineral oil. The idea that mineral oil is bad because it’s used to lubricate machinery is a logical fallacy. (Water is bad because it’s used to clean garage floors, right? Do you see how that approach doesn’t make sense?)

      • markvturner April 3, 2015, 2:10 pm

        I recently discovered that petroleum jelly is great for lubricating bike parts. Why buy a whole bottle of machine oil, when I can just use a small dab of something I already have lying around?

        (btw, don’t use machine oil or any industrial oil on your skin. It’s mineral oil, but it’s not purified nearly as well as mineral oil meant for skin)

      • Chris July 5, 2016, 12:06 am

        That’s absolutely not true Randy.

        Fatty acids hydrate, and nourish, all the skin because the entire body uses them. Mineral Oil only prevents moisture loss, it doesn’t add moisture or nourish the skin like FA’s, and only does so locally (where applied).

        This is an obvious post by someone who has skin in the game when it comes to big brand cosmetics. As such, the natural market hurts your livelihood, and it no surprise you would try to disregard it. Your whole career has been about formulating stuff for big companies CHEAPLY. No issues with that except when you try to pass your pseudoscience off as fact.

        In case folks don’t think he has skin in the game, here’s part of his resume via LinkedIn:

        • Randy Schueller October 4, 2016, 5:10 pm

          I just realized I never responded to Chris’s comment. I stand by my earlier statement that EFAs are not good enough moisturizers to use instead of occlusives like mineral oil. (They are good in combination, to be sure!)

          By providing my LinkedIn profile I guess Chris is trying to incriminate me because in the past I worked for “Big Beauty” companies. That hasn’t been the case since 2012 so I certainly have no vested interest in how well those companies do. I could care less what products people buy. I just don’t like to see people fall for all the beauty misinformation that’s out there and get ripped off.

    • Bryan September 17, 2015, 6:04 am

      Estheticians are not scientifically trained so their opinions are irrelevant to this discussion. Indeed, most of them are as susceptible to unverified Internet rumors as anyone else. As for your dermatologists, did any one of them give references? Simply put, there is NO scientific evidence linking cosmetic grade mineral oil with cancer, despite many studies. I say that as a Medical Research Analyst after searching Medline. Can you provide any peerreviewed evidence to back up your claim?

      Finally, your concern of mineral oil lacking nutrients is largely irrelevant. First, people who use mineral oil alone use it solely as a moisture barrier. Their skin is not lacking in nutrient. But more importantly, most people use mineral oil as an ingredient in lotions and creams — all of which contain plenty of other dermatologic nutrients. Certainly much more than those “natural” oils you cite.

      • J. G. Pedroso February 14, 2016, 10:55 pm

        The person you replied to never once said (or “claimed”, as you accused her/him of) that cosmetic grade mineral oil is linked to cancer.

        It would be awesome to know why you believe you can say what is irrelevant or not to an individual. That ONE individual doesn’t use oils solely as a moisture barrier. The person was just comparing vegetable oils to mineral oil.

        • Aj March 17, 2016, 8:54 pm

          Shut up.. You spent all that time typing that retort and had nothing valuable to add to the convo smh way to go champ!

    • Nicky April 15, 2016, 4:57 pm

      I am here because of the panacea Coconut Oil. I made eye makeup remover with Coconut Oil, Cetaphil Cleanser, and water. I also used it a couple of times to remove coverup and my face broke out like a 14 year old! I would appreciate a proper non comedogenic ingredient to use. I’ve read conflicting reports. I’m just not interested in buying premade products if I can make my own. I do love Witch Hazel though!

    • Holly October 4, 2016, 4:55 pm

      People who repeat or make up bogus facts and then regurgitate them with arrogant confidence really burn me up. Did you really do the research to find out that mineral oil was originally used to lubricate machinery. NO! It just sounded logical to you. You are wrong. It was never used to lubricate machinery. It was actually the other way around!
      Mineral oil and petroleum jelly are actually very pure and gentle, they are hypoallergenic and they have a rating of zero on the scale for being non-comedogenic (the lower the number the least likelihood that the oil will clog pores and cause pimples). Actually, Coconut Oil has a very high rating for comedogenity, meaning if you are prone to break-outs on your skin you probably should not apply coconut oil to your face.
      Petroleum Jelly is actually a byproduct of the oil drilling process. It was called “Rod Wax” and the oil drillers used to apply it to their wounds on their hands, as a healing agent. The jelly and the mineral oil are just purified versions of the rod wax. It was never used to lubricate machinery; It is primarily used for health and beauty products. Did you ever wonder why baby oil is almost 100% mineral oil?
      Why don’t you take some effort and do your research instead of making up facts or repeating the hype that the expensive pyramid scheme natural beauty industry promotes.

  • Md kennedy May 5, 2015, 1:41 pm

    I agree that mineral oil is not bad for your skin and is an effective moisturizer.BUT, do we really want to be supporting the petroleum industry and their Eco-destroying activities any more than we have to? I’ll stick with fair trade shea butter and olive oil from my neighbor’s olive trees (I am so lucky!)

    • DawnB November 21, 2015, 7:37 am

      You do realize the hypocrisy of your statement about supporting their eco-destroying activities, do you not? Reread the article, as it’s clear you skimmed it. Unless you were able to magically have your comment appear by some sort of telepathy, sans electronic device, it’s safe to say you also actively participate in those eco-destroying activities. You cannot set a boundary for what is/isn’t necessary.

      • Mimi August 7, 2016, 4:33 pm

        Why don’t YOU reread the comment from Md Kennedy? Literal quote:
        “… do we really want to be supporting the petroleum industry and their Eco-destroying activities any more than we have to?”
        Pay special attention to: ‘ANY MORE THAN WE HAVE TO?’

  • Blanche May 15, 2015, 4:55 pm

    Mineral oil works great for my sensitive skin. It’s non-comedogenic and doesn’t irritate when near my eyes, problems I’ve had with most plant-based oils, I’m sorry to say. I love it in my homemade creams.

  • Una Blogga May 25, 2015, 12:01 pm

    Well… I’ll trust the science-y folks over at EWG.org. It’s kind of their mission to bring us the most up to date and unbiased facts.

    I do like the Latin and super sexy spelling of “mineral oil…” Paraffinum liquidum, sounds so safe and silky smooth. Like rubbing transfats all over and then deep fat frying yourself to a delicious golden modified, with just a sprinkle of archaica for better marketing and “because…” Glad to see you didn’t throw that in. But don’t worry, you can keep using it. We’d rather you didn’t, for your own good, especially when there are safer and saner alternatives out there, but… so many chances, so few methylation cycles…


    • Michael December 15, 2015, 6:59 pm

      You do know that EWG has said some dubious things, right? Like their feelings on Vitamin A? Have you even tried clicking on any of the links that EWG supplies as proofs of their scientific vetting of ingredients? Here’s the first one they list on Vitamin A (they rate it a 9) — http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7971717

      It says vitamin A is effective and good for the skin and that the skin metabolizes it well. Don’t be lazy and go for what a group of people think just because they market it to you. And worse still, don’t try and basically chide people who are actually more informed then you and don’t have an agenda. You do know that EWG has lobbyists and private donors (aka and agenda), right? Proof: http://www.undueinfluence.com/ewg.htm

      Please do some research and have people earn your trust. I don’t always like what these guys have to say but damn do I respect the science they put in.

      To be fair — Randy, you didn’t cite any studies for your discussion which is kind of discrediting.

      • Randy Schueller December 15, 2015, 7:03 pm

        That’s fair criticism, Michael. We wrote this quite a while ago but that doesn’t excuse any sloppiness in terms of citing our sources. Thanks.

        • Michael December 17, 2015, 2:59 pm

          You guys definitely continue to improve and it is great to see; I really appreciate the effort you and Perry put in. The blog is a fantastic resource and I look forward to the knowledge I consistently glean from it. Keep up the great work!

    • Em April 29, 2016, 8:25 am

      Una Blogga — I generally like EWG, but to echo what Michael said, they aren’t doing a very good job with respect to mineral oil. If you look at the sources they cite, it’s pretty clear that at least some of them are discussing industrial (rather than cosmetic) uses of mineral oil. For example, the source they cite for “Human immune and respiratory toxicant or allergen – strong evidence” is the AOEC (www.aoecdata.org). But if you go to that website, the exposure code for mineral oil (060.07) includes mineral oil, mineral oil mist, paraffin oil, petrolatum liquid, and white oil. So no only are they not differentiating refined and unrefined mineral oil, they’re lumping it in with a bunch of other oils. What you want to know is the safety data for refined mineral oil that’s approved for cosmetic use, and that’s not what EWG is looking at.

  • Jake September 23, 2015, 1:19 pm

    Does mineral oil effect the absorption of ingredients into the skin? For example: Allantoin or Lactate.

    • Randy Schueller September 23, 2015, 1:58 pm

      We’ve never seen any data to suggest that’s the case.

      • Kris January 16, 2016, 8:45 am


        I was under that impression as well; that since Mineral Oil is an occlusive (and an effective one at that), it will impede the penetration of oils, butters (i.e. Shea), or serums one might apply on top of it. Thereby not allowing the nutrients to be absorbed by the skin…

        Specifically I had wanted to use a Vitamin C serum after using Albolene to remove makeup, but was concerned the water in the serum would simply be repelled, evaporate, & take the Vitamin C with it. Is that accurate?

        Thank you-

        • Randy Schueller January 16, 2016, 12:42 pm

          No, Kris, that’s not true. Some of the test used to measure the penetration of ingredients is done from a base that contains occlusive agents like mineral oil. Also, vitamin C does not evaporate with water. It would stay behind on the skin even if the water does evaporate.

          • Andrea Dodd March 15, 2016, 6:15 pm

            Hi Randy. I’ve been looking on line to come up with vit c facial cream lotion serum or anything. It’s repeated vit c will evaporate and lose potency. I bought absorbic acid and have vit c vitamins. Any thoughts? Thanks 🙂

          • Randy Schueller March 16, 2016, 8:30 am

            Vitamin C does not evaporate however it can be hard to stabilize.

  • Catherine February 17, 2016, 5:58 am

    What are your thoughts on baby/mineral oil being a xenoestrogen?

    Thanks Cath

    • Randy Schueller February 17, 2016, 7:10 am

      I’ve never heard of this and it doesn’t make any sense scientifically.

  • Robert Nevoa March 4, 2016, 8:33 am

    Thanks for your cool information, some products for the face contain mineral oil as the first ingredient like Olay and some oils like almond and avocado oils for the skin- i mostly use these oils for the next because when I get older i don’t want to start getting creepiness on the neck, but virgin olive oil does make my face shine which i like and it locks water too, and thus i hardly break out with pimples nor anything, but i mostly avoid the sun and take vitamin D3

  • Jennifer March 13, 2016, 2:31 pm

    It’s interesting to me how the “dangers” of mineral oil have surfaced in tandem with the demonization of the crude oil industry itself. People should question the authority of their sources more. Skepticism–such a forgotten skill.

  • Carolyn March 19, 2016, 2:57 pm

    I will go with the studies, and the studies with rats links it to cancer, especially breast cancer in women.

    • Randy Schueller March 19, 2016, 3:34 pm

      Do you have a link to those studies? I’d like to share those with our audience.

  • Marilyn April 10, 2016, 11:38 pm

    I’ve made my own skin creams for 20 years with all natural ingredients like Shea, Rosehip, etc. and they’ve always worked for me. And then I got Rosacea all over my face and neck. I tried every concoction I could. A made a toner that calmed it but till I used a serum sample with paraffinum mineral oil ..along with a load of other ingredients I’ve avoided in the past, and guess what, it worked ! Within 2 days my Rosacea was a lot less angry, and on a good path to healing. I can be convinced by good science. I like natural and organic but science saved my sons life so I’m thankful for it!
    And for the guy who wondered about putting Ascorbic or citric acid (vitamin C) in his cream, just letting you know that it’s not a bad preservative for your cream but rather harsh on the face. Ester C palmitate is a better choice but I haven’t managed to find any except in marketed creams.

  • Barbara | Creative Culinary April 22, 2016, 6:42 pm

    I’ve made a product I call Wood Butter that is a combination of mineral oil and beeswax and I recommend using it for wood kitchen products; I’ve used it for butcher block as well as wooden spoons and bowls. While many have loved it, it seems every couple of months someone has to leave a comment about using something better since they won’t use mineral oil. The one today was for fractionated coconut oil. What I just read said it will take a long time to go rancid but that does infer that it will deteriorate.

    Your thoughts on using mineral oil that is used on goods that come in contact with food? I have tried to share it’s not been considered harmful but every time I get one of those comments I’m back at it; found your site and thought I would ask your opinion.

    • Randy Schueller April 23, 2016, 7:54 am

      Mineral oil is approved for use in food processing equipment. As long as you’re using a food grade version I don’t see any problem.

  • andrianak2 April 23, 2016, 2:22 am
    • Randy Schueller April 23, 2016, 7:56 am

      The report you linked to shows that UNTREATED and MILDLY TREATED mineral oil is known to be a carcinogen. The grade of mineral oil used in cosmetic is highly refined and has been shown to be safe. That’s like linking to a report showing contaminated water can make you sick without acknowledging that purified water is perfectly safe.

  • PaintedGirl June 18, 2016, 5:16 pm

    I wish I found this article a long time ago. Currently I use mineral oil and sometimes tea tree oil to treat my very inflamed, over reacting, allergic, acne prone skin. It took me so long to realize that the lack of moisture in my skin was crippling my skin from keeping bad things out. I had to learn this basically by trial and error. You would think an oil would block your pores and make your face more greasy but it does the opposite for me. I think we all have to keep in mind that everyone has different skin types and that there are a lot of companies out there trying to sell you something. There is a lot of misinformation on the internet so try different things and see what you like. I just want to let you know that my issues are under control by focusing on keeping more moisture in my body not by buying some magical expensive product. Good luck with your skin and if you do want to give baby oil a try it right after your shower. 🙂

  • kay abrams June 23, 2016, 8:49 pm

    i am on oxygen and used nivea and the 2nd ingredient is mineral oil. will i catch on fire with oxygen.. How do i get it off my skin

  • Niki June 27, 2016, 11:09 pm

    Hi there! I am so happy to find your website! I am a graduate student, currently earning (someday….) my PhD in organic chemistry. I am also a cosmetic and perfume enthusiast (I hope to get into this field soon!!) and an acne sufferer. I noticed that it was mentioned that SOME people with acne do not react well to mineral oil. I too have heard for many years that it clogs your pores but I’ve noticed the comedogenicity ratings to be low. In my opinion I’d rather use a refined synthetic than a natural ingredient with variable composition and potential allergens. Can you point me to some literature on adverse reactions to mineral oil in acne sufferers? My skin is extremely sensitive and I seem to always be in the minority when it comes to skin maladies. Many thanks.

  • Genny August 13, 2016, 1:34 am

    I have been warned about mineral oil, and I think the fact that it is an artificial by product of something we use on machines is reason enough not to put it on our skin!! Hello world! Nevertheless, if it felt better than anything else i wouldn’t care…however the contrary is true. I cannot stand the feeling of it on my skin! I literally have to wash it off my skin because it feels like an immediate moisture sucker. I hate the feeling of dry hands so when I put on a moisturizer that eliminates the little moisture I had left then I became a very unsatisifed costumer of that cheap product!

    • Randy Schueller August 13, 2016, 7:35 am

      If you don’t like the feel of it, that’ fine. But don’t spread the misconception that it’s bad for skin just because it’s used on machines. That logic makes know sense.

  • Name August 16, 2016, 9:30 pm
    • Randy Schueller August 17, 2016, 8:04 am

      We’re both right. The article you cited is from 1969 and it discusses the carcinogenic potential of UNREFINED mineral oils. These are the so called cutting oils that were used industrially. The article even points out that the “white oils” (which are the type used in cosmetics) are a safer alternative.

  • Cheri August 26, 2016, 11:50 am

    Wow! I didn’t realize there were all of these concerns regarding mineral oil! I was of the mindset…..”if they put it on babies it must be good.”
    I know this may be odd to add after all of your skincare posts, but id like to share real quick…….I’ve been fighting a mite infestation on and within (skin) my body for the last 5 months. Nothing has seemed to detour these nasty creatures until I just recently started putting baby oil on my skin! They hate it! They come out of my skin so I can then scrub them away! I hope I’m not creating more problems on, or in my body by using the oil, but it’s the only thing that’s been helping me…….and I’ve tried what seems like EVERYTHING!! So onward I go, hoping the oil is going to cause any issues! Any thoughts?

    • Randy Schueller August 26, 2016, 9:52 pm

      I know that asphyxiation is a way of killing head lice. Maybe the mineral oil does the same thing for mites? I don’t know.

  • Shashwat September 15, 2016, 8:31 pm

    I trust mineral oil but cannot trust cheap and local companies. My suggestion is to use oil of a good brand. Because if something happens it will be for poor refining. Otherwise it will be good to use. Hope this ends misconception to use mineral oil usage.

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