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Does petroleum jelly cause cancer

Katie’s conundrum…Hey Beauty Brains! Love your site, I’ve found it recently but I’m addicted. I have a question about the-one-and-only Vaseline. I use it for everything: lips, removing eye makeup, and as an lash conditioner. But I’ve been hearing that petroleum jelly is really bad for you, even claiming to cause breast cancer after long term use! What’s your say?I knew I could count on you! Thanks!

The Beauty Brains respond:
What a great question and one that many of your fellow Beauty Brainiacs wonder about too. The quick answer is this nonsense! There is no evidence that petroleum jelly causes breast cancer, skin cancer, or any other type of cancer. The people that are telling you it does are either misinformed, misguided or liars.

So, here’s the bottom line on Vaseline, aka petroleum jelly, aka petrolatum. It was first discovered in the late 1850’s and was later patented and sold to the general public in 1872. These facts are just included to show that it’s been around and used for a long time. This doesn’t prove that it’s perfectly safe, but it certainly is compelling evidence.

What is it? It is a by-product from the production of oil. In technical terms, it is a complex combination of hydrocarbons obtained as a semi-solid from dewaxing paraffinic residual oil. It consists predominantly of saturated crystalline and liquid hydrocarbons having carbon numbers predominately greater than C25.

What is it used for? In the beauty business, it is one of the best performing occlusive moisturizing ingredients you can use on your skin. No material has been shown to be better at improving skin moisture levels. The problem with this material is that it feels greasy, so cosmetic chemists spend a lot of time and effort trying to make less greasy feeling lotions that moisturize.

Is it safe? After combing through the published medical evidence over at PubMed we could find no studies that linked petroleum jelly to any cancers whatsoever. If someone is claiming such a link, it is not being done by a reputable scientific research organization. If you are curious, read this safety data that manufacturers of petroleum jelly must provide to users.

In Europe (EU) the only restriction on the use of this material is that you have to have a certification from the producer of petroleum jelly that it is free of carcinogens. This is required because SOME methods of production can result in petroleum jelly mixtures that have known cancer causing ingredients in them.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Petroleum jelly will not cause cancer. It is perfectly safe and is an excellent ingredient for skin and hair care products. If someone`s telling you different ask them what they are trying to sell. No doubt, some natural alternative. Nonsense.

And if you’re curious, here are a host of other fun applications for petroleum jelly.

{ 101 comments… read them below or add one }

Natalie March 8, 2007 at 1:16 am

Beauty Brains(you have such big brains) (not)
I am appalled at you!!!!!!!Frauds!!!!!!!!!I did some reaearch and found out that petroleum jelly can cause cancer!!!!!!! Nobody listen to what they say, they just want to make money off of the things they sell!!!!!! They don’t care if it causes heart disease, cancer, diabetes!!!!!!! All they care about is making money!!!!!!How could you!!!!!!!?????? Do you know how many people have died of cancer!? You’re horribe!!!!!!!!
An 11 year old (who did her research),

thebeautybrains March 9, 2007 at 7:54 am


It’s so nice of you to leave a comment. We genuinely appreciate everyone who takes the time to say what’s on their mind.

So sorry that we’ve disappointed you. Although your words are a bit harsh, you do make some interesting points. Congratulations on doing extra research. You should never trust one source for your information. Always get independent confirmation of the facts from legitimate sources.

And that is really the problem with what you’ve said. What kind of research did you do? Who were your sources? There are thousands of people and companies out there who want to scare you. They put up bogus reports linking petroleum jelly or other ingredients (like sulfates or propylene glycol) to cancer just to scare everyone.

There is absolutely NO PROOF that the petroleum jelly used in cosmetic products causes cancer. In fact, the American Medical Association lists petroleum jelly as a drug for treating severely dry skin.

The research you have done has not included all sources such as the United States FDA, the AMA, the Cosmetics & Toiletries Association, etc. The things you have read are most likely written by small natural/organic companies who want to trick you into buying their products. Please don’t fall for their ploys.

Or at the very least, do a little more research and keep an open mind. You just can’t believe everything you read. If you have a specific piece of research that shows the refined Petroleum Jelly used in cosmetics causes cancer we would love to see it. Our minds can be changed by good research. We’ve just never seen any that shows petroleum jelly causes cancer.

And as far as us trying to sell something, The Beauty Brains DO NOT SELL any products. We care about cancer, heart disease, & diabetes. We also care about the truth & stopping unscrupulous companies from lying to consumers about the things in their cosmetic products.

Thanks again for writing. It’s great to hear from an 11 year old with passion and smarts enough to do some research on her own.

Left Brain

Midbrain March 16, 2007 at 10:10 pm

I want to know what 11 year old Natalie is doing on the internet at 1:16 a.m. in the morning. Shame on (little??) Natalie’s Mother and Father for not keeping tabs on her internet time.

Carina March 21, 2007 at 9:10 pm

Vaseline, BAD. natile is in my class and i did research too!!!!!

Left Brain March 21, 2007 at 10:41 pm

Carina, thanks for the comments. We’d be interested to see what kind of research you are talking about. Please see the comments above.

R April 11, 2007 at 10:30 pm

I am R (This is a public website, I do no want to recite my full name)I, went to UCLA University, and we did experiments and did find odd bacteria, which led to causing various cancers, please, tell me the the experiments YOU did to find that it does NOT cause cancer at all.

thebeautybrains April 24, 2007 at 5:56 am

Since you claim to be a scientist YOU should know that no one can prove a negative. You can’t prove petrolatum doesn’t cause cancer just like you can’t prove water doesn’t cause cancer. Since there is no proof that it does cause cancer, I’m confident in saying that it doesn’t cause cancer.

jenny May 21, 2007 at 9:24 am

In response to R’s comment, if you were indeed a scientist at a respected university such as UCLA, or at the very least, a mediocre high school student, you would know that the bacteria of which you speak is a contamination of the petroleum jelly and not actually an ingredient in the petroleum jelly. Jeez, get a life. If you want to go ona crusade, at least be “edumacated”!

Chris June 29, 2007 at 5:25 pm

The state of California would argue with your assessment of petrolatum. Any product sold that contains same is required to have the following disclaimer: Warning: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer. Obviously the Stae of California disagrees with your findings. Good luck, Chris Jackson

Crystal N. W. October 2, 2007 at 4:06 am

The FDA and even the AMA have very poor track records when it comes to stuff like this. Most government organizations are run by corporations now. The in-house folks, the regular workers doing the research and work, do not have any influence at the top. The top is usually run by boards with people from various powerful companies.

It really is best to look at actual research and studies if one has a medical question. Also, one must read the research VERY carefully. Things are not always as they seem.

In any event, I do not believe PJ causes cancer directly. HOWEVER, there are contaminents in PJ that DO cause cancer. In some products, such as hair relaxers, roughly 98% are contaminated. You can research this at your leisure. We knew about this forever but I think just recently the WHO and parts of Europe put a limit on 1,4-dioxane. The good ol’ corrupt US has no such limit. Approximately 35% of lipsticks are contaminated.

Also, this is just referring to one chemical. There are others.

I dont think PJ is horrible though. There are many other worse things out there that ignorant people dont know of. It’s not there fault though. They have been mislead by money-hungry, powerful people and institutions.

I will use PJ but I will not use it on my lips regularly.

thebeautybrains October 2, 2007 at 8:55 pm

Crystal: Thanks for your comments. And just so you know, the US FDA has looked into 1,4 dioxane. Here’s out post on the subject: https://thebeautybrains.com/2007/07/09/is-sunblock-giving-my-baby-cancer/

Dan Lewis November 26, 2007 at 11:36 am

What are total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH)?
Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) is a term used to describe a large family of several hundred chemical compounds that originally come from crude oil. Crude oil is used to make petroleum products, which can contaminate the environment. Because there are so many different chemicals in crude oil and in other petroleum products, it is not practical to measure each one separately. However, it is useful to measure the total amount of TPH at a site.

TPH is a mixture of chemicals, but they are all made mainly from hydrogen and carbon, called hydrocarbons. Scientists divide TPH into groups of petroleum hydrocarbons that act alike in soil or water. These groups are called petroleum hydrocarbon fractions. Each fraction contains many individual chemicals.

Some chemicals that may be found in TPH are hexane, jet fuels, mineral oils, benzene, toluene, xylenes, naphthalene, and fluorene, as well as other petroleum products and gasoline components. However, it is likely that samples of TPH will contain only some, or a mixture, of these chemicals.

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What happens to total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) when they enter the environment?

TPH may enter the environment through accidents, from industrial releases, or as byproducts from commercial or private uses.
TPH may be released directly into water through spills or leaks.
Some TPH fractions will float on the water and form surface films.
Other TPH fractions will sink to the bottom sediments.
Bacteria and microorganisms in the water may break down some of the TPH fractions.
Some TPH fractions will move into the soil where they may stay for a long time.

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How might I be exposed to total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH)?

Everyone is exposed to TPH from many sources.
Breathing air at gasoline stations, using chemicals at home or work, or using certain pesticides.
Drinking water contaminated with TPH.
Working in occupations that use petroleum products.
Living in an area near a spill or leak of petroleum products.
Touching soil contaminated with TPH.

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How can total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) affect my health?
Some of the TPH compounds can affect your central nervous system. One compound can cause headaches and dizziness at high levels in the air. Another compound can cause a nerve disorder called “peripheral neuropathy,” consisting of numbness in the feet and legs. Other TPH compounds can cause effects on the blood, immune system, lungs, skin, and eyes.

Animal studies have shown effects on the lungs, central nervous system, liver, and kidney from exposure to TPH compounds. Some TPH compounds have also been shown to affect reproduction and the developing fetus in animals.

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How likely are total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) to cause cancer?
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that one TPH compound (benzene) is carcinogenic to humans. IARC has determined that other TPH compounds (benzo[a]pyrene and gasoline) are probably and possibly carcinogenic to humans. Most of the other TPH compounds are considered not to be classifiable by IARC.

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Is there a medical test to show whether I’ve been exposed to total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH)?
There is no medical test that shows if you have been exposed to TPH. However, there are methods to determine if you have been exposed to some TPH compounds. Exposure to kerosene can be determined by its smell on the breath or clothing. Benzene can be measured in exhaled air and a breakdown product of benzene can be measured in urine. Other TPH compounds can be measured in blood, urine, breath, and some body tissues.

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Has the federal government made recommendations to protect human health?
There are no regulations or advisories specific to TPH. The following are recommendations for some of the TPH fractions and compounds:

The EPA requires that spills or accidental releases into the environment of 10 pounds or more of benzene be reported to the EPA.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set an exposure limit of 500 parts of petroleum distillates per million parts of air (500

Morinne January 7, 2008 at 11:56 am

hey beautybrain,

In your response to Natalie, you state that you do not sell any cosmetics. True enough. But you have links all over your Web site to beauty retail sites. How much are they paying you to advertise for them? Obviously, you are not as unbiased as you so piously proclaim.

Gin January 22, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Hi, I’ve always loved Vaseline for my eyebrows and feet. However, last summer I put Vick’s VapoRub (sp?) on my skin ~ ankles, neck, and arms to keep gnats and mosquitoes away. Instantly I could taste it in my mouth! Really yucky. Our skin is our largest body organ, so it made sense to me that it was entering my body. For you gardeners: I used it a few more times before I thought of smearing it on a neckscarf, my shirt, pant cuffs, etc to keep the monsters away. I’d really like to know if this is harmful and whether anyone else has had a similar experience?

doris February 18, 2008 at 7:50 pm

electromagnetic fields all around us from power lines to electric nosepickers are a danger, makeup is a danger, most of the medicines prescribed are dangerous, most everything we eat is contaminated and dangerous. Why weren’t all these things tested BEFORE they were put out for consumption? Don’t bother answering; we all know the answer

thebeautybrains February 18, 2008 at 8:00 pm

We do? Please enlighten. And when you do, can you show any scientific proof of what you are saying?

Christine March 5, 2008 at 8:50 pm

Morinne- Just because someone has advertisers doesn’t discredit what they do and why they do it. Faulty logic. About petroleum jelly, isn’t the carcinogen problem related to the the way the petroleum is refined? See http://www.pesticideinfo.org. There is a high correlation with cancer and use of certain petrolatum, but not the kind in vaseline or cosmetic problems. Also it is SO incorrect to say petroleum jelly CAUSES cancer because unless Natalie, R, Chris and Corina have all done studies excising all other variables using a multiple baseline across people and/ or a reversal single case research design… they’d be better off saying there’s a high correlation between a full moon and crazy behavior. And the vicks thingy, google it some more but I remember reading that camphor is not such a bad thing for someone to put on their chest or back or whatever a few times a year, just don’t put spoonfulls of it in hot vapor and inhale it like they did in the blissfully ignorant ol’ days.

Crystal March 29, 2008 at 6:47 pm

Beautybrains I am assuming that you are a scientist, seems how the title of your website states “Real scientists answer your beauty questions”. If that is the case than as someone who is not a scientist I will not be one to argue with your findings that petroleum jelly does not cause cancer. Just like Doris so pointed out-There are so many products that have been linked to cancer. If there is something in petroleum jelly that causes cancer who am I to just make a deal about this one product. Heck I use deodorant that probably has something in it that causes cancer. I put lotion on my body everyday, and it probably has an ingrediant in it that uses cancer. I have a cell phone and use that everyday, the transmissions probably could cause cancer. I have family members who smoke- gee second hand smoke is known to cause cancer. The very cars we drive emit dangerous toxins and chemicals into the environment and guess what people they cause cancer too. So what am I getting at? There is no way to eliminate all the cancer causing chemicals from our lives. It is great to try to eliminate these so called ingrediants but give it a rest. You would have to go on a crusade to combat all the companies that produce products that contain some kind of ingrediant that is known or possibly causes cancer. Unless you are someone who does not use any kind of product or comes in contact with any man-made prodcut we all are at risk to develop cancer. Just because you are healthy does not mean you can’t get cancer. The best thing is to take a look at your self and live as healthy as possible. We must use our own discretion. We should be thankful that the life expectancy has allowed us to live longer than past generations. I know that people will always be on a mission to create an environment that is healthy and safe and I applaud those who do but come on some things are just so senseless. It is wrong to just target one company. Plus I am sure those who tried to talk crap about beauty brains and petroleum Jelly use other products that themselves cause cancer. To the 11 yr old unless you ride a bike everywhere you go maybe you should talk to your parental supervision with which I am sure drives you where you need to go. The very car that you ride in emits chemicals that are known to cause cancer. For those who also wanted to talk crap to beautybrains, I am wondering if any of you smoke, drink, or drive cars yourselves. If you do shame on you for criticizing PJ while you overlook the everyday activities that are hazardous not only to your health but to the environment and other people. How many times have you read in the paper “man or woman dies from Petroleum Jelly-ingrediant found to be cancerous” NEVER! WHY? because like I said before so many things cause cancer that doctors would not be able to just pinpoint one thing that caused the cancer. Not unless you had a man or woman that was an alcholic and died from liver cancer than generally thats when people say that alcohol was the cause of the cancer or if someone smokes a pack of cigarettes everyday and they die from lung cancer it would probably be safe to say that the cigarettes is what did it. Thank you

Tracy April 2, 2008 at 10:06 am

Please be aware that any product containing petroleum jelly or a derivative of it is bad for the environment because it is a byproduct of oil the same oil that makes oil and gas for your automobiles. Plus, oil refineries are one of the biggest problems with global warming. That’s the bigger issue, if it’s bad for the environment then it will be bad for you, sooner or later. Who wants to put refined oil on their lips? yuck. find an all natural one that uses fruit and vegetable oils. Burts Bees, etc.

cecile April 29, 2008 at 6:08 am

organic substances start rotting quickly so they do need preservatives to preserve them in order to have a shelf life TO SELL.

Heather June 7, 2008 at 1:44 pm

The UK has banned products made with petrolatum. Why take the chance? There are plenty of organic and natural alternatives to anything you can buy these days. Go organic. It’s the best thing you can do for your health and for the planet.

thebeautybrains June 8, 2008 at 8:09 pm

Can you provide evidence that the UK has banned petrolatum containing products? I know of certain brands sold in the UK that contain petrolatum (like St. Ives for example).

Ray June 10, 2008 at 1:42 pm

Petrolatum is listed as a probable human carcinogen in the European Union’s Dangerous Substances Directive (UNECE 2004), and its’ use in cosmetics was banned in September 2004.

For further information, take a look at this website: http://www.ewg.org/reports/skindeep

thebeautybrains June 10, 2008 at 2:03 pm


Thanks for the comments & information.

Perhaps you should review the website yourself.

The EWG Skin Deep database gives Petrolatum the safest possible score on their hazard scale. They also do not list it as carcinogenic.


As far as the European ban, you may be inadvertently spreading misinformation.

“In Europe (EU) the only restriction on the use of this material is that you have to have a certification from the producer of petroleum jelly that it is free of carcinogens. This is required because SOME methods of production can result in petroleum jelly mixtures that have known cancer causing ingredients in them.”

As long as your supplier has certified that it followed the proper manufacturing methods, there is no problem with using petrolatum in Europe.

a June 29, 2008 at 2:18 pm

its so hard to know what to use anymore in terms of uncarcinogenic cosmetics and lotions. regarding petroleum jelly, is it better then to use the england brands over the US brands just because they have some kind of research or certificate to prove more purity and no carcinogenic compounds in their lotion or pj. how do we know if pj containing products in the US are more pure and uncarcinogenic and safe?

Marie July 3, 2008 at 11:54 am

I’m sure Vaseline has been thoroughly looked over by the company and I doubt they’d sell something that might cause them trouble in the future. People have been using Vaseline for years and nothing bad has really been mentioned to it. There are so many thing’s that cause Cancer now, so even if your healthy, use natural products you still could be at risk because of the environment and world we live in. Personally I think Vaseline is great and I really don’t think it would cause Cancer, surely they would have checked it all out before they sell it, it’s not all about the money. Also if it was Cancer causing surely we’d know the whole story as they have top scientists working on thing’s like beauty products all the time.

Missy July 21, 2008 at 9:11 am

I have to agree with Crystal. Just about everything we do, use, eat, can, possibly, cause cancer. Kudos to Tracy for noting that Petroleum Jelly is a derrivative of petroleum aka oil. I have just recently tried to nix products containing petroleum from my shopping list, though I think it’s impossible to do completely. On a separate note, my concern with PJ is more that it just doesn’t work. I know – science says it’s a good moisturizer, because it “locks moisture in” and doesn’t clog pores. However, if it’s acting as a sealant (this is my limited understanding of “locks moisture in”), it’s not allowing your body to expel it’s natural oils across your skin to moisturize. In addition, it’s not allowing your natural oils to expel any dirt or contaminants that may be in your pores. This logic may be more applicable to mineral oil than PJ, but somehow spreading something on my skin, anywhere that seals it, doesn’t appeal to me. However, in fairness, I will say that if I have a cut or bad chap on my lips, PJ does seem to help it heal, though I try to avoid using it every day. To each their own :) .

Natalie – I admire your passion! My hope is that by the time your generation is having children of their own, that we’ll have some better alteratives to petroleum products for everything.

Leah Day August 15, 2008 at 2:07 pm

I appreciate a nice debate on this issue, and it really does seem like everyone has a different opinion.

I certainly agree that if you start pointing fingers at one cosmetic ingredient, you’re soon going to be overwhelmed by all the conflicting information and opinions available on the internet.

However, I do take exception at BeautyBrains for your belief that only scientist can do research, only scientist can prove that something is good or bad.

Because scientist can be paid off, the evidence they find can be rewritten to sound worse or better than it actually is. Research also requires money, which is usually supplied by the very companies that have a vested interest in the results.

If we wait around for scientist to prove everything about the world before we’re allowed to make up our minds about it, we will be long dead before they come out with any information on cosmetic ingredients.

Cosmetics and personal care products are purchased more than any other commodity, other than food. I think I can understand why the CTFA (cosmetics, Toiletries, and Fragrances Association) isn’t too keen on having any research done on these ingredients.

I also disagree with the AMA that vasaline is good for dry skin. Like Missy said above, “Locking in moisture” can’t be good for your skin.

I would rather heal my dry skin with Aloe – a natural healing plant that most people already have in their homes. It’s been used since 300 B.C., which according to your logic, BeautyBrains, is enough to prove that it’s safe if it’s been around a long time.

Left Brain August 15, 2008 at 6:18 pm

The Beauty Brains do not believe that only scientists can do research. What we do believe is research that done following the scientific method provides the most reliable information. Other forms of research are suspect.

Plenty of companies that sell “mineral oil free” products are members of the CTFA (now the PCPC) so your argument that the CTFA isn’t interested in doing research is not supported by the facts.

In fact, research is done on mineral oil all the time. It is the control ingredient in nearly all skin moisturization tests. That’s why we know how well it works.

You can disagree with the AMA all you want. However, I don’t find your opinion compelling.

Kate September 4, 2008 at 8:55 pm

I was looking at Lucas’s Pawpaw ointment and instantly smelled the vaseline component.

Had me wondering what was actually wrong with vaseline (PJ), since its been around so long.

Natural stuff is fine but the preservatives put me off and I do like the texture of PJ.

Tracy said that oil refineries were the culprits with “global warming” – but when you consider that ‘global warming’ is the vehicle for a global tax that was agreed on back in 1972 as part of the implementation of the United Nations “Agenda 21″ program (the info’s on the web.

The more that I read about this, the more I think that PJ is yet another product that has been swept up in the natural is good, everything else is bad category.

And if the science is settled that the world is warming, why is everyone starting to call it ‘climate change’.

alice October 3, 2008 at 7:24 am

Just wanted to quickly point out… a lot of the medicines/products we use as treatments/for theraputic use can be considered dangerous as well. It’s more or less the dosage and frequency of exposure that determines whether it can be considered poison/hazardous/toxic/etc or safe.

Is petroleum jelly bad for the environment because it’s a byproduct of oil? I was under the impression from the discussion that the harsher components were removed hence “refined” being safe for both human use and well also environmentally friendly. (I’d love to see links as well)

nellie October 17, 2008 at 3:48 pm

petroleum jelly sounds much safer after you look at the ingredient on the back of “natural” lotions and makeup and shampoos
ext. I don’t see a lot of truly organic cosmetics . I have to research online then order.(the cost is expensive of course) so if you want to grab something for dry patches on face ,on the go, petroleum jelly sounds GREAT !!!

sara October 23, 2008 at 11:08 am


I pity people like you…..

people are getting cancer everyday and your advertising for the chemicals that cause it.
and Crystal : i’m sorry that there is so many people like you in the world,
” o everything causes cancer, so what lets just live” open your eyes , you can avoid it it’s acctually not hard at all, it might be for lazy people dont care about themselves or the planet.
The same people that eat garbage food because cooking is hard for them..
thebeautybrains: what is it that you actually do??
For your information it does not mater what the FDA approves because it does so to benefit big corporations , kinda like what you do..
like aspertame … it’s approved, but is it safe??
i’m sure someone like you would say yes..
good luck in your life, and I wonder if you belive in karma
even if you don’t it does come around

aXisDenIEd.22 October 31, 2008 at 12:25 am

So name something else oil is good for.

For many other power sources, there are obvious other uses for the raw or natural form besides human manipulation for fuel. Or is crude oil the strict off limits nectar of the gods.

If thats the case, people who wish to stop using crude oil should ban together to worship it. If all life comes from life, then have your “god” be the only one to drink from this fire. All the souls of the dead made this oil and all the genetic predecessors for all life to come… ok, way off track, but a large religious movement would probably be the quickest way to end it. Using good sense would never be good enough a ploy.

Find something oil is better for, then demand will rise in that need and hope it is a “cleaner” use. A lot of work went into the evolution to oil’s present composition, we just might be frivolously burning up today what could make a bigger bomb if drawn tomorrow.

Why not study a less primitive use. ” I make fire!” Woo hoo, you don’t have to work hard to make fire from that. Will cave man day’s never end.

Humans will probably make the best oil since we engorge our life with it now. I doubt the dinosaurs were drawing with crayons, taking medicine in coated bi-products; or any other of the daily oil communion nearly all of us are guilty of in some form. People born today may be blessed with 125 years of crude marination, before their departure, to be born again in a futuristic “refined” cemetery.

Save the Planet
–kill yourself

aXisDenIEd.22 October 31, 2008 at 12:37 am

Nobody’s “research” matters. The primitive scientific method that we all learned in grade school, is hydrophobic as well. Any one test can be argued with another’s. 5 experiments show no problem, here’s five that does.

One persons desires for results can manipulate them, even to a physical level of machine reading “errors”, affected by someone’s consciousness.

Research is pointless, nearly every pro and con has already been said by someone sometime. Just new authors trying to get recognized for inventing the wheel.

aXisDenIEd.22 October 31, 2008 at 12:49 am

+++ researchers haven’t thrown humans in woodchippers to see what would happen, guess that’s safe. There ARE many published papers, you are lucky your audience is lazy or impartial to using their time to look up the many applicable dangers. Govt agencies like some people on this site mentioned, are not competent, at least to what some think, contrarily the EPA is very competent for its original intention. For example atrazine in public water systems, mix with others chemicals having more severe reactions. The EPA only tests each chemical separately, not combined. Irrational.

Cassi December 11, 2008 at 12:51 am

Hi everyone I was really concerned with what has been written here as I know someone who puts vaseline all over their body…but I have to say there are so many cancer causing chemicals in foods and products like make up deoderant soaps shampoos not to mention cancer causing parasites and Im not going to mention what we are ingesting them from as it would freak everybody out and it would take a major clean up to lead a perfectly cancer risk free life! ry reading the cure for all cancers, or the cure for all diseases by Hulda Regehr Clark, Ph.D.,N.D.
I havent used deoderant for years and I smell way better as deoderant stops sweat glands from working it smothers too and I found I didnt have as much BO build up either after not using it for a while. Imagine spraying those chemicals right around near the breast yuck!
Isopropyl alcohol aka(propyl alcohol, propanol, isopropanol and rubbing alcohol)is in most things we put ON our body and even IN our body, theres some scary stuff out there.
And what about mouthwash geez it has ethanol in it!

Child of God December 21, 2008 at 12:11 am

hey im only 13, but heres what i think. drop it already. this is madness. dose it ready mater.
god knows when youll die and when you do it means youve done all you could in life. hopefully (should you be a beliver) will go to heaven and there will be no vaseline or any other harmful things.
we should just live life and that will be what god asks. however we should stop wasting preasous life here arguwing to do what god has planned for our life. your saying cancer and bactira will shorten my life, well if your here reading or just on the interent your shorting your life. wow by wasting a 5 years of my preaious life i found i can stop doing this and save five years of my life.
please dont waste your guys time here. help bring his kingdom here today not argue. may the holy sprit guild you to not be desived and waste time here. dont waste time reasearching and doing expriments, that time would be better spent reading a bible.
for those of you reading this and being discusted at my chistain article i pray that one day this will make seanse
P.S. beatybrains has kept her mouth shut hafe way throe this. she started it. are yous still here? go and evanglise. save lives with information that way. and i dont mean bring people to my chruch, start good programs at chruch to luwer more people. etc. that is a corupeted chruch and evaglist still being desived. go now. ALOHA

Kristen December 22, 2008 at 6:21 pm

I would just like to say to everyone coming on this sight and criticizing that you all are NOT scientists. R, if you were a real scentist you would know that the bacteria doesn’t come from petroleum jelly itself. You can touch the PJ and have it become containated. I don’t know if PJ causes cancer or not, and that’s just the thing…NOBODY KNOWS! I don’t beleive companys and the government are “tricking us.” Companies sell cigarettes, yet the government advises us not to smoke them don’t they? There are hundreds of things that are potentially carcogenic. We eat produce treated with pesticides, processed foods with dyes and preservatives, and we drive everywhere for god gods sake! There are things that we consume a lot more of then vaseline, so maybe we should all focus on those things first.

Charlotte January 19, 2009 at 12:09 pm

My skin is so sensitive that I can’t wear any makeup. Even the so called “natural” cosmetics make me break out in an irritated rash.

I haven’t used chap stick in years so when my lips got so chapped that they started to bleed here at work, i walked down to the dollar store and bought a tub of PJ becuase it doesnt irritate.

It was $1 (economical) and I don’t think I’m putting myself at risk here by putting this stuff on my lips once in a blue moon.

If you Make-up junkies claim you care so much about all the cancer in the world, and that petro products are terrible for the earth, then the next time you drive your car somewhere to unload your paycheck on useless product think about all the fossil fuel burned up in the MANUFACTURE and DISTRIBUTION of those products even if they don’t contain any petro. Then when you’re done you’ll either throw away or recycle the container(which is probably make of plastic=petro). You’ll throw it in a bin made of plastic=petro, it gets hauled either by you or the trash man via fossil fuel to either the dump or the recycling center where it will take tons of fossil fuel to get turned into something else you can spend money on.

just buy less stuff people, and let me put the jelly on my lips once a year guilt free.


dianna February 6, 2009 at 6:48 pm

all i have to say is if you have such a concern about ANY product that you feel compelled to ask whether or not it causes cancer then IMO it would be better to not use that product – LOL

thebeautybrains February 6, 2009 at 7:45 pm

What product/ingredient wouldn’t you wonder about whether it caused cancer? If you analyzed any ingredient, you could easily find traces of mercury in nearly everything.

crystal February 8, 2009 at 3:56 am

Each is entitled to their own opinion, there are lots of possibly harmful chemical substances out there in cosmetics. I doubt ignorant pro-vaseliners will die of cancer as the risk or correlations with cancer is not big enough to have the stuff pulled off our shelves but cosmetic product companies would never want you to know if there were harmful ingredients in their products wether small or big because they are all about the money. There is actually plausibe research out there despite your view. I will not take your word for vaseline because you sound like you have been payed off, you can argue vaseline is safe all day for all I care because the smarter half of us wont listen to you. PEACE

thebeautybrains February 8, 2009 at 6:52 am

Rather than disparaging our objectivity by spreading lies about us being paid off by someone (we’re not), why don’t you direct us to the research that proves petrolatum is harmful?

We would be happy to change our position if there was scientific evidence.

collegestudent February 8, 2009 at 11:12 pm

In response to beautybrain’s response to natalie, you said that there are probably lots of companies and people out there trying to link PJ to cancer etc, whatnot, I just want to add that from a simple google search for the link between vaseline and cancer, I found so far only one source that describes a risk, but a closer look reveals that the site is one that SELLS organic products. I’m not saying case closed, that website is the culprit, I’m just saying a simple search on google isn’t real research, you hear new “studies” everyday that says fatty oils is linked to high cholestrol, but then another study might say vegetable oils has high-lip cholestrol content which is health to the heart, etc. But the biggest thign to keep in mind is that link, and risk factors does not mean CAUSATION. For example: you may see studies range from anything like “people who say f-ck alot are more likely to develop arthritis on a tuesday,” then a day later another article would say “people who develop arthritis are more likely to say f-ck alot,” question is does swearing leads to pain, or pain leads to a person venting about the pain by swearing?

becky April 15, 2009 at 3:11 pm

PJ is safe but the problems are impurities in it like PAH that’s proved causes cancer.
In the U.S. no requirement for refinement applies for petrolatum in personal care products! Be aware! Some manufacturers likely choose refined petrolatum low in PAHs, but perhaps some do not. So when you buy a product with PJ in it you don’t know how clean it is or another word how much PAH, ethylene oxide or 1,3-butadiene is in it.


Karen Seide May 7, 2009 at 9:14 am

Little Natalie could not be more correct!
I am a holistic doctor and Petroleum Jelly can cause cancer and I clear people of it all the time. Thank you Natalie!

Chris May 21, 2009 at 5:07 am

FACT: Vaseline / Petrolatum / Petroleum Jelly is found in over 50% of cosmetic skincare creams and lotions.

FACT: It is used on a daily basis with no risks whatsoever.

FACT: Vaseline is a large molecule and is too big to penetrate the skin and be absorbed. When applied, it simply sits on the skin as a protective layer.

The so-called scientists and doctors contributing to this discussion should be responsible and stop spreading ridiculous and scaremongering comments.

How indeed can it be a carcinogen? It simply forms a protective film/layer when applied and is there until it is washed off. How can that possibly cause links with cancer? Absolute nonsense.

So please tell me, when people apply vaseline to their lips (most common use of ‘neat’ vaseline), how indeed it will cause any health problems? It purely coats the lips, preventing dryness.

makani June 28, 2009 at 10:21 pm

The problem is not the petroleum jelly itself, it’s the contaminants that it contains, which are highly cancerous. The following site is exceptionally informative, has references, and no, its purpose is not to sell anything:

dianna June 29, 2009 at 4:51 pm

at least if they are purifying petroleum jelly and selling it and it is useful – we aren’t dumping it in a landfill or something…
isn’t it better to use every part of a product? and isn’t crude oil a totally natural product?
petroleum jelly comes from crude oil.
personally i think it would be better to use it instead of waste it…. providing a use can be found for it.
if you don’t want to use it – don’t.
it is going to be thrown away or wasted though if no one uses it. it is a by-product of oil refining which we still do anyway to make gasoline… geez

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • lipbalmanonymous December 11, 2014, 11:46 pm

    I am addicted to lip balm, Vaseline specifically. I have been for 8 or so years, and I honestly don’t care if I get cancer or not, because I’m not really afraid of suffering and death.

  • Garbled May 19, 2015, 5:00 am

    Is it safe to heat petroleum jelly to ~95C(in the presence of air)? I ask because I’m finding it difficult to locate petroleum jelly in tamper-evident/proof packaging and so I have concerns about it’s hygienic safety. Heating the petroleum jelly would help sanitize it, but I’m concerned it may undergo some undesirable/dangerous chemical changes.

    • Randy Schueller May 19, 2015, 8:11 am

      I’m not sure this is really a problem because petroleum jelly is anhydrous (doesn’t contain water) so it won’t support bacterial growth.

      • Garbled May 23, 2015, 3:19 am

        I found this paper which describes sterilizing white petrolatum in dry heat at 150C for 60 minutes during preparation of an eye medication, so apparently sterilization is considered of value, if not a necessity, for some applications. (Note that exposing petrolatum to such heating methods and temperature *may* prove a fire risk.)

        “Bacitracin 500-U/g Ophthalmic Ointment
        From International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding”

        • Randy Schueller May 23, 2015, 8:33 am

          Very interesting! I was unaware of the need for sterilizing petrolatum for eye medication. Thanks for looking this up.

  • Kitty June 28, 2017, 1:06 am

    It’s unfortunate that it’s not great for the environment, I really do care but find a lot of nature products contain essential oils, which are very strong extracts and although I don’t know much about them, similar to other ingredients must be used in small doses and are irritating/toxic – many also contain photosensitizing ingredients unfortunately. This can differ dependent on your skin, as photosensitization doesn’t tend to be universal but it’s something I’d rather avoid. I’m not sure I can given my other worries u-u’ Pros and cons to everything. “FACT: Vaseline is a large molecule and is too big to penetrate the skin and be absorbed. When applied, it simply sits on the skin as a protective layer.” <- I have read this several times. Additionally – "However, further research by FDA determined that 1,4-dioxane evaporates readily, further diminishing the already small amount available for skin absorption, even in products that remain on the skin for hours. (Robert L. Bronaugh, Percutaneous Absorption of Cosmetic Ingredients," in Principles of Cosmetics for the Dermatologist, Philip Frost, M.D., and Steven Horwitz, M.D., Eds. St. Louis: The C.V. Mosby Company, 1982)" Vaseline's website states it is non-comedogenic (non-pore blocking) and seeing as it shouldn't absorb into the skin that does make sense. However, it is something you put over your skin, so that could be argued for. I was personally wondering whether I could put it on my face as I too am getting anxious about ingredients in things as well as contamination concerns, and I can't decide the best course of action. It's so unavoidable I'm going to have to use products I'm not entirely comfortable with because it's.. well, it's unavoidable, something a little more worrisome is in everything. I can't imagine the anxiety's doing my health good. 'Helping your body hang on to moisture, naturally' – also seems to make sense purpose wise. I personally don't find vaseline effective as chap stick but I have medical problems and allergies that dehydrate me from time to time/I may be more dehydrated than most as digestive issues only allow me to sip at water every once and a while (thankfully they are improving, I used to not be able to tolerate it and had to get it from other sources – but I digress). One thing I'm personally quite curious about and seem to be in a lot – formaldehyde releasers, to a lesser extent PFTE too which is in less but I've noticed in some things, and PEGs, especially PEG100+ stearates (it seems 1,4 dioxane cannot be completely removed and these are used a lot in products that absorb – I'm figuring I am not going to be able to nix this due to my budget – I mention the Marcelle later but I might just get Cliniderm or something). Polyisobutene was something of a concern for me due to internet scares, but reading official studies evidence seems compelling safe. This makes me want to look up a few other questionables that way, but it's an awful lot to have to look into and it's somewhat uncomfortable. How concerned should one be about non-reputable petrolatum sources? I'm not entirely sure, I'm from Canada and I'm not certain regulatory measures have been put into place like in Europe. The FDA advises companies to decontamination practices for 1, 4 dioxane but I'm not sure about regulation. Until then, what on Earth am I comfortable using as a moisturizer other than derma e vitamin e and safflower (contains no EOs, also just like it's other potiential benefits) should it not dry me out/irritate/prove very comedogenic and the occasional Lansinoh Lanolin that comes in a tiny tube I use on my lips that I will for other places in a pinch but it's so thick (so not realistic to spread across face, for example) and while not intolerable, does smell a little like sweat – too much so to moisturize larger areas. Considering it's origins that's not really surprising. I may try to get some more information on a deodorized, liquid or more spreadable brand if available anywhere with similar purification. I might try Marcelle gentle moisturizing cream but it's expensive and comes in a tiny tube compared to others and companies tend to switch up formulations/substitute ingredients, I think that's dependent on what's available? Before someone wonders regarding coconut oil or shea butter – those dry me out too, and I'm uncertain about the vitamin A content in some vegetable oils/photosensitivity concerns with Aloe Vera. I'm hoping the derma e will work. If they discontinue it ever – lol, well. Preservative-wise – it seems there are safer/more environmentally friendly options, if anything I look at safety. Preservatives, to my understanding, are less harmful than what they protect us from. Considering we're living much longer and need to combat deadly diseases and the like, compromise is quite necessary in many regards even if something may be harmful. Not all more natural products contain preservatives or need them so much, like not all 'standard' ones do. Some natural ingredients require stronger preservation to combat the things preservatives do (preservatives have set safety limits for amounts used in a product, they -require- stronger preservation, but don't contain stronger than other product preservatives that contribute to the required preservative system for cosmetics that need it as regulated), as they are a breeding ground moreso. Other ingredients can aid/improve preservative systems and are safer, so these can be a helping hand in more natural and standard products alike, specifically helpful with the naturals in the case they are moreso. I love make up so I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and calm down eventually so I can feel comfortable using it – creating my own is not realistic at this time and I don't know if it ever would be, particularly given my anxieties and the handling of pure ingredients. Beauty brains – I would love your evaluation of my statements here. In hair products I've given up caring, and many are washed off anyways – the safer surfactants don't always seem effective and essential oils can sting my eyes in them, and I have a sensitive scalp. Yay x3 I just buy ones that don't outwardly irritate my scalp, with eyes that's harder but some do less (I think the eye irritation may be due to the natural extracts a lot contain as it's worse with EO loaded products). Part of me wants to completely forget about all this stuff, part of me wants to know more and part knows too much to forget anyways… :l Vaseline, I've always used when my eyelashes feel dry. It's not often. Haven't stopped, feel no reason to.

  • TN business - builder October 24, 2017, 1:17 pm

    As this dialogue has become more opinionated, I believe that we have a shared responsibility to be vocal in this dialogue, to prevent further spread of misinformation.

    The beauty of science is that science is true regardless of whether you believe in it.

    If you want to prove PJ is carcinogenic or unsafe, simply present a study that lays out evidence to your claim. I have not seen a single study/research/or any evidence presented in this dialogue by those who believe PJ is unsafe. I would be interested in reading and review the evidence myself.

    Come one people, discuss science, and fact, and contribute to the common knowledge. Do not go down to discussing people. And read your research critically, do not believe any authority’s claim without evidence, even the beauty brains’, trust only the facts and evidence and make judgement yourself. If you finds reading scientific paper difficult, try to learn them. It will be a beneficial assets for you and your loved one, even if you don’t work in science at all.

    I strongly disagree with those who attack the beautybrains and their motivation, without reviewing the merit of their argument. It is ad hominen, meaning “attacking the person”, and making your argument fallacious, and far from being useful.

    I would also like to thank the authors at the beautybrains for the candid article, and for handling the comments professionally.
    I live in the Nordics and I confirmed that product containing 100% PJ is sold legally here in big supermarkets. Also lived in Wester Europe before and bought PJ from a legal retail store there.

  • Sarah Burton June 6, 2018, 10:45 am

    To all the ‘nay sayers’, I know what I’m about to say isn’t scientific evidence (I’m well educated and open minded), but my Grandmother used Vaseline as her only face skin moisturizer right up until she died in her 90’s. For someone of her age, her skin was amazingly supple and that is all the evidence I need 🙂

  • K December 13, 2018, 2:37 am


    I know this is an old thread, but I would like to clear a LOT of things up with your faulty chain of logic.

    I use Vaseline and honestly don’t really care if PJ is carcinogenic and can cause cancer, however, reading parts of this chain have left me baffled.

    You do realize that just because a study has not been done to prove PJ is carcinogenic, does not mean that it is not carcinogenic, right?

    In fact, read this article:

    upon a first read, it may seem as though even medical professionals claim that it does not cause cancer, but when do they outright state this? Not once.

    The only thing they claim is that, “There are no clinical studies that demonstrate that the use of petrolatum promotes cancer.” This does not mean studies were done and then those studies had proved PJ does not promote cancer. Simply put, it could mean that no study has actually taken place, therefore you cannot say it does not promote cancer just as you cannot say it does promote cancer.

    Further more, the article outright states that PJ has carcinogens in it before i is it is ‘refined’ and that Vaseline brand is refined three times before being sold, being marked low risk even.

    However, they also mention low quality brands may not refine their products as much and we should be wary of this, insinuating that they can contain cancerous levels of carcinogens.

    Though it is possible many beauty brands do use fully refined higher quality PJ’s, similar to vaseline, it is unlikely they do so. Understanding that beauty brands have insanely high profit margins, it makes sense that one way to cut costs may be to buy the less expensive PJ as a moisturizer in their product, resulting in a product with higher levels of carcinogens.

    Once again, I’m not even saying PJ can cause cancer, or it cannot cause cancer, because simply no research has been done to prove either of those statements to be true.

    Also why did everyone here have so much time to seriously debate about PJ? like I am super bored and found this kind of fun tbh but really though? y’all middle aged moms don’t have like kids to raise and like know I’m using slang like “PJ.” Who am i?

    • Perry Romanowski June 15, 2019, 12:56 pm

      Research has been done. Studies that have been done do not show that petroleum jelly causes cancer. This is the same way EVERY ingredient has been tested to demonstrate it doesn’t cause cancer. How do we know water doesn’t cause cancer? Because no study has every shown it caused cancer. Same as petroleum jelly. In science, you can never prove a negative.

  • alif December 28, 2019, 10:37 pm

    hi, it’s nice to know that there are sources published in this old post, apparently the debate about whether petroleum jelly can cause cancer has long happened, my wife and I often use VPJ at home to overcome skin problems, if my wife uses as a lip moisturizer, if I use PJ if bitten by an insect or as a heel moisturizer, but a few days a friend has discussed whether PJ causes cancer, and I’m interested in finding more information, and after I read the posts and comments, I became convinced that it’s okay to use PJ to treat skin during We follow the usage rules that are already available on the package, thank you

  • Tired, Hungry & Chapped May 21, 2020, 1:29 pm

    I know I’m really late to the party but I’d just like to say I find these sorts of discussions extremely stressful and frustrating to read. I came here for more information on using vaseline as a lip balm and all I got was a stomach ache.

    I used to be “all natural” from head to toe, mostly out of fear if getting sick, but doing so ironically lead to my hair becoming so dried out it had to be chopped off, my skin becoming painfully congested and now scarred, and my body even become malnourished (which I am still struggling to overcome, day by painful day) after years of orthorexic (read: raw vegan) eating. My poor savings account took a real clobbering too. Yeah, that’s right, $65 CAD for a lipstick that expires 90 days after you open it. Good lord!

    I feel almost giddy now when I see the prices (and very generous expiry dates) on conventional beauty products and am happier still when they almost always do exactly what the bottle promises. Yet still, as I try to navigate myself back into more normal waters I am bombarded left and right with all the modern social based fear mongering that seems to be regarded “common knowledge” and “common sense” these days by self-proclaimed experts and influencers and their hoards of vocal followers. The worst part is, as someone naturally anxious, I am prone to paranoia and all this information is ruining my sense of peace and confidence and I just don’t know how to combat this. Not to mention, it’s just plain hard when literally everyone you know and talk to is telling you something, and then thousands more are preaching it online… going against the masses makes me feel like a stubborn, pompous weenie. Or maybe just somebody broke with sensitive skin clinging to the benefits of denial?

    It feels like everything these days is highly polarized and argued about and both sides are equally passionate. I want to side with science, science is what can save this world and I firmly believe its scientists who should be making the big, important decisions, NOT politician’s … but then I remember it was “scientists” who once fabricated studies to assure the public that leaded gasoline was safe. I’m sure that’s the exception and not the rule, but what if even well meaning, highly intelligent scientists are still inadvertantly making a mistake and overlooking something? This fear eats me alive.

    I guess this post doesn’t have much of a point except to say I wish people would stop parroting everything they hear online because it destroys the lives of those who are emotionally or mentally vulnerable for one reason or another. I also wish people would grow up and realize a google search and a handful of youtube videos does not make you an expert of anything. Sorry if that sounds harsh but people really need to start questioning this era of social echo chambers.

    • Perry Romanowski May 22, 2020, 8:56 am

      Thanks for your comments. I don’t think it was scientists that fabricated studies about leaded gasoline. It was executives of oil companies. Plus, scientists were the ones who figured out that leaded gasoline was unsafe. It’s not the science that is untrustworthy. If you look at the people who are claiming petroleum jelly is a problem, it’s not scientists. It’s brand marketers & fear mongering NGOs.