Mineral Oil Friend or Foe?

In July we participated in the 2nd annual Vegan Faire in Downtown Anaheim. What an awesome event and we look forward to next year!! If you didn't get a chance to hit this super cool venue, I encourage you to check it out next year.

During the course of the day, I enjoyed talking with a variety of folks who shared their skin challenges and their desire to use products that were vegan, chemical free and healthy for the environment and their bodies. One particular conversation centered around the use of mineral oil.

Firstly, what is Mineral Oil? Mineral oil is a colorless and odorless oil that's made from petroleum as a by-product of the distillation of petroleum to make gasoline. It's long been used as a common ingredient to lubricate engines and other mechanical devices. Additionally, it's used to manufacture lotions creams, ointments and cosmetics, including most of commercial baby care products on the market. It's lightweight and inexpensive, and helps to reduce water loss from the skin.

Now, as a long time natural enthusiast and Esthetician who challenged customers to avoid this particular ingredient, I was perplexed when a young woman informed me she was told it was a safe ingredient. I was stumped to say the least. Had I missed something? I asked what she was using it for and she stated she was using it to remove cosmetics because she had some mild acne. Now I was really confused. Wasn't mineral oil comedogenic?

I kept stewing over this conversation and finally early this morning I decided to Google it. Surprisingly there where lots of skin care companies spreading the love of this once despised bi-product of the manufacturing of petroleum. Countless websites touted it's safety and non pore clogging qualities. I was skeptical and had to stop and ask myself why such a dramatic shift in thinking? Then I had to consider how very inexpensive this ingredient was, and maybe everyone wants to make more money by using a cheap substitute?

When formulating products for Bare Naked Botanicals, I consistenly run every ingredient through the Environmental Working Group's database of cosmetic ingredients to ensure I'm using the safest ingredients possible. Mineral Oil is listed as a moderate hazard on their website so I decided to think on this issue a little further. I've come to the conclusion there are 3 good reasons to avoid Mineral Oil.

  1. Mineral oil comes in different grades. When used in cosmetics and skin care products, pharmaceutical grade is generally used. There is still enough research that indicates there is a great potential for cross contamination. A 2008 and 2011 study states scientists are concerned that much of the mineral oil we are exposed to on a daily basis does contain contaminants that could adversely affect our health. They're also stating that, "this topic has not been sufficiently studied to really put our minds at ease".
  2. Mineral oil is considered an occlusive ingredient and is described as a barrier over the skin. Which in my book means it can clog your pores and increase the risk of acne and blackheads. The more refined, the less pore clogging, but there’s no way to know how purified the mineral oil is that’s in your product.
  3. For me, the most relevant reason to avoid using Mineral Oil is because it offers nothing beneficial to your skin health. Yes it may contaminate your body and it may make you break out. But most of all, it's doing absolutely nothing for your skin. It's not providing valuable nutrients, hydration that sinks deep into the layers of the skin where it matters. It's just sitting on top of the skin preventing moisture loss. That may have been okay for our grandmothers, but today we have so many better alternatives! Natural plant extracts, nut butters, oils, and more that provide so many benefits including essential fatty acids that plump up the skin, antioxidants to fight free radical damage and nutrients that help maintain youthful skin firmness. Why settle for an oily film made from petroleum when you can do so much more for your skin?