Mineral oil, sometimes referred to as liquid petroleum or paraffin oil, is a colourless oil and a by-product of petroleum when distilled to produce gasoline. Mineral oil has long been around in the skin care and hair products industries, popular examples include baby oil or Vaseline.
What are the benefits of mineral oil?
Due to the larger molecule sizes in mineral oil, the oil is unable to penetrate the skin, therefore generally regarded as safe to use. As a result of this, the key benefit of mineral oil is its protective ability whereby it can shield the upper skin layer from external contaminants. Mineral oil in general does not contain any moisturising properties, but the layering effect of the oil is able to effectively retain moisture in the skin, hence why mineral oil as a moisturiser is recommended to be used on slightly damp skin.
What are the downsides of mineral oil?
Mineral oil has limited downsides on the skin, yet it does not have many benefits either. Other than retaining moisture in the skin by creating a barrier, mineral oil can be argued to have minimal positive impact on the skin when used in skin care products, and sometimes even found to clog pores given its large molecules.
There are multiple grades of mineral oil, ranging from technical engine lubricant grade to cosmetics pharmaceutical grade, of which the former has been found to be linked to carcinogenicity. Often companies with mineral oil in their skin care products fail to fully disclose the grade of mineral oil used, and many users may question the use of mineral oil and would rather avoid using mineral oil altogether.