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Myths about mineral oil part 2

In part one of this series we looked at some of the things that are said about mineral oil and examined whether they were true or not. In part two we’ll propose a few reasons why companies would try to propagate myths about mineral oil.

1. They want you to buy from them instead of the big manufacturers. This is the primary explanation for mineral oil bashing. Little companies have to find a way to convince consumers to use their products instead of the less expensive, name brands produced by large manufacturers. They can’t possibly advertise as much as the big guys so they need other ways to motivate consumers. Spreading rumors, half truths, and lies about mineral oil (and a host of other ingredients) will scare a significant amount of people.

And most people don’t have the time or scientific background to question what they hear. They’ll just believe a myth about mineral oil causing cancer and avoid it at all costs. The lack of skepticism in our country is extremely troubling to this half of the Beauty Brains.

2. They need to have a reason why their products don’t work as well. The truth is mineral oil is one of the best functioning skin care ingredients available. Every cosmetic chemist who reads studies published in the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists knows it. Other oils work too, but not as well as mineral oil.

When chemists are told they need to create a formula without mineral oil to satisfy a marketing story, they can’t produce the best functioning product out there. It’s a bit like trying to make omletes with egg beaters. Sure, it tastes like an omlete but it’s not nearly as good as on made with real eggs. That’s how it is with these “natural” type products.

3. They think natural things are inherently good. You find this notion throughout society but especially in the areas of cosmetics. In the US some people automatically believe that something taken directly from nature is better than something that is man-made or synthetic. Of course, there is no evidence supporting this notion and plenty of evidence to show that it is wrong. Natural is NOT necessarily better! Snake venom is natural. Cyanide is natural. Uranium is natural. Natural can be both good and bad. Similarly, synthetic things can be both good and bad.

The thing that is most amusing is that mineral oil is “natural”. It is pulled right out of Mother Earth and purified for use in your favorite cosmetic. There is no synthetic process, just simple distillation of naturally occurring oil. Even an ingredient like Panthenol requires some chemical modification. Not mineral oil. Just natural purification.

4. They believe all of the myths about mineral oil. Despite the fact that there are some companies that are just trying to scare and lie to you, there are some people that honestly believe all they’ve read about the evils of mineral oil. And who could blame them? We all lead busy lives and when you hear bits of information that sound plausible, you don’t have time to read the supporting research. Consequently, a manufacturer might believe they’ve found a much better product when they really haven’t. People want to believe they can solve other people’s problems. Even if their solution is based on a delusion.

The Beauty Brains bottom line. There are many reasons that myths about mineral oil continue. Chalk some up to naivete but others are downright fraud. You can believe whatever you want, just don’t accept everything you hear about chemicals. You could be buying in to someone else’s delusion. And that will cost you.

{ 25 comments… add one }

  • Kristin December 15, 2013, 12:07 am

    Thanks for the information. I was just at a products party and they said all the problems of mineral oil you mentioned. Sounded odd so wanted to do a little research. Thanks!

  • Galina January 27, 2014, 5:10 am

    Great information, thank you. I’ve also noticed a wave in all kind of comments against mineral oil and was wandering – what’s happening? I’ve been using mineral oil based products forever without any problems. And you are so right, people are now obsessed with “organic and natural” products – and it is a very well organised marketing campaign to promote products not based on mineral oil. And you right again – mineral oil is natural too.
    Oh, people, how easy to manipulate your minds:(

  • Kathy January 30, 2014, 3:24 pm

    I was on a Blog that was recommending you treat your wooden cutting board, spoons, etc. with mineral oil. One of the readers had posted a link to an article saying all the bad things you have mentioned. Having a naturally skeptical mind, I usually question if some web sites (articles) have their own agendas for their content. After reading that one I searched some more and found this one, which seems more believable.

    • Randy Schueller January 30, 2014, 4:05 pm

      I’m glad we could be of help, Kathy. I wish more people had your skeptical mindset.

  • Lisa June 10, 2014, 4:17 am

    Great article! I have been using mineral oils my entire life (atopic eczema and very dry skin). Nothing leaves a better long-lasting/protective result than mineral oil (and sometimes a bit of cortisone).
    But what about the claims that mineral oil is bad for nature? Critics argue that the distillation process is bad for the environment and that mineral oil is difficult to decompose. Do you know anything about this?

    • Randy Schueller June 10, 2014, 6:43 am

      Interesting question, Lisa! We have not looked into the environmental impact of mineral oil. (Although even if the industry stopped producing mineral oil, petroleum would still be distilled to produce other products.)

  • R. June 10, 2014, 8:15 pm

    And what about mineral oil in hair formulations? I’ve seen lots of complaining about this. Could you explain?

    • admin June 11, 2014, 7:39 am

      How do we explain what? Mineral oil can be greasy in a leave on hair treatment but I’m not sure what other complaining you’re talking about.

      • R. June 11, 2014, 11:09 pm

        It’s said that mineral oil has a cumulative effect in hair… I’ve been learning about low poo/no poo techniques, they do recommend that if you’re use using sulfate-free shampoos, you need to avoid mineral oil.
        I am curious about a scientific point of view, and have not found any scientific articles about this point 🙁

        • Randy Schueller June 12, 2014, 7:35 am

          Mineral is very hydrophobic which means you need detergent to remove it. Depending on which no poo method you’re using (see this discussion on “is no poo good for your hair” for a list of the different ways) you may find that mineral oil is hard to remove.

  • R. June 12, 2014, 8:56 am

    Thank you! 🙂

  • ANITA MOUTON July 21, 2014, 12:14 pm


  • Martha October 23, 2014, 10:34 pm

    I’m so glad I stumbled across this information regarding mineral oil. My 92 year old mother has beautiful skin and has used cold cream her entire life. I admit I succumbed to using the expensive “natural” products and frankly I’m tired of paying for it. Thank you for explaining exactly what mineral oil is and that it is safe to use.

  • Justine December 5, 2014, 9:43 pm

    This is perhaps one of the best and most informative articles I’ve read on mineral oil, so thank you.

    Personally, I’ve always loved the stuff and when my hands are feeling dry after washing dishes, I spray a little rose hydrosol on them first, then put no more than 2 or 3 drops of mineral oil in the palm of my hand (with a disposable pipette), and massage the whole lot in.

    Coming out of the shower, I do the same thing for my whole body – leave it wet, and massage in a few drops of mineral oil everywhere.

    No other product I’ve ever used has left me with softer skin the way simple mineral oil mixed with a little water does. People always compliment me on my skin.

  • Mona January 7, 2015, 1:00 am

    I recently started using a mineral-oil based moisturizer with vitamin c in it and was sooo afraid that I might get an acne breakout but alas, none. My skin has never been smoother! I am a believer now. I also know that my aunt used mineral oil right after a shower, and I remember her having such wonderful skin.

  • Keri Horn January 22, 2015, 8:22 pm

    Ooooo…. I just started using Ponds “hydrating” face cream and about died when I bought it … loved it… and then realized it had mineral oil. I actually was looking up mineral oil when I stumbled on this site. Okay folks – I’m nearly 47 and I’m telling you, mineral oil (on MY skin) is outstanding.

    Too many creams are too heavy… too dry (“natural” anyone?) or too expensive (organic / natural and you pay $14.99 for 1.5 oz). I have had zero acne… no drying mid day on my skin (where you feel ashy) and honestly – my face hasn’t been happier for the money. And I’ve used the department store brands and just felt – well… ripped off for the most part.

    • Randy Schueller January 23, 2015, 7:05 am

      I’m glad you found a reasonably priced product that works for you, Keri!

  • Nat August 7, 2015, 5:15 am

    Finally logical explanations to why mineral oil is bad for my skin…not! Thank you, Beauty Brains! This is my first time on your website, I’m sure going to be a regular reader from now on.

  • Paul August 30, 2015, 6:13 pm

    You mineral oil article is extremely insightful and makes a lot of sense. I do have one question about skin and “breathability” which I would love to clear up from my childhood years. I apologize if my example might be a little over dramatic, however it is my frame of reference and I would love an answer from a scientific point of view:

    Growing up I heard that if your body got covered in a thick mineral oil like petrolium jelly for an extended period of time, then “your skin couldn’t breathe” and that you would eventually “die”. If the reality is that skin does not infact breathe, what is it that would cause extreme illness or death from this situation, particularly if Mineral Oils are really inert and do not absorb into the skin like you say?

    Thank you again!

    • Kristina January 3, 2016, 9:32 am

      Hello, I’m not a scientist but I do know that your skin doesn’t breath, your lungs do. Skin gets oxygen from the oxygen in your blood.

  • William January 20, 2016, 9:47 am

    I’m 79 and I have been using mineral oil on my skin for decades, and despite naturally dry skin, it’s in good condition. Here’s how I use it: After rinsing the soap off at the end of my morning shower, I pour an ounce of so of mineral oil into the palm of my hand and then onto my head. Then I allow the shower to rain over me for five to ten seconds and distribute the oil all over my body. This is a lot easier than trying to apply the oil after the shower.
    Thanks to Randy for two great articles!

    • Randy Schueller January 20, 2016, 12:59 pm

      Sounds like a great technique, William. And I’m glad to hear it works so well for you!

  • Annet Quintana March 12, 2016, 5:27 am

    My mom, who is in her 70’s, uses a face cream where mineral oil is the #2 ingredient right after water. So many people have different experiences that when negative ones are posted, people focus on those instead of trying it for themselves. All Im gonna say is that my mom’s face cream keeps her looking 20 years younger than her age, so that’s proof enough for me. Instead of listening to big corporations or unrealistic side effects, just try it for yourself. The one we buy we get at Dollar General and it works better than others I’ve seen that cost 20, 30, even up to 5000% more. And no that’s not a typo. $1.00 vs up to $50 or $100 bucks is at least worth trying it yourself. If you’re concerned, try it on a small hidden area first.

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