Petrolatum - Moisturizing Friend or Foe?

Young or old, your skin is your protective layer and it is important to take good care of it by keeping it moisturized.  Like everything else, not all products are made with quality ingredients.  With so many moisturizing products, how do you know which ones to choose? 

Growing up I always remember using Vaseline for chapped lips or other skin dryness.  Who used Baby Oil for sun tanning? Both of these products contain a form of "petrolatum" which is a byproduct of petroleum refining.  It acts as a moisturizing agent by forming a water-repellant film around the applied area preventing the evaporation of the skin's natural moisture. 

Petrolatum is a byproduct of petroleum refining.  In acts as a lubricant for industry machinery.  Many products .... lotions, cosmetics .... include it as part of their "natural" ingredients and can be labeled as petrolatum, petroleum jelly, paraffin oil, mineral oil, and white petrolatum.  One resource states that one out of every 14 cosmetic products (including 15% of lipsticks) and 40% of baby lotions and oils contain petrolatum.  It is also an active ingredient for healing cuts and burns. 

So, with all of these seeming benefits, why are many companies promoting "petrolatum free"?

Petrolatum - moisturizing friend or foe?
  • prevents evaporation of the skin's natural moisture by forming a water-repellant film
  • effective barrier against foreign particles and microorganisms that may cause infection
  • allows skin to heal itself
  • long shelf life
  • colorless/odorless
  • inexpensive
  • does not allow moisture to be absorbed from the atmosphere and more likely to create a warm, moist place for fungi to grow and develop into systemic candidiasis
    • skin becomes less and less efficient at its own detoxifying and moisturizing processes (Resource)
  • suffocates skin blocking oxygen absorption and aggravating acne
  • byproduct of crude oil > not a renewable resource
  • included in the cosmetic chemicals "Dirty Dozen" to avoid
  • unless "fully refined" can be contaminated with toxic chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
How to avoid
Avoid products with petrolatum, unless the company clearly indicates petrolatum is fully refined as white petrolatum (on the label or their company website).  Look for non-toxic products without petroleum ingredients like this ointment that has multiple uses, including leather.  My husband is chemically sensitive and a professional cleaner.  One of his clients recently asked him to "leather treat" the furniture.  Not able to use regular leather treatments, together we created our own recipe and it worked great!!  

There are so many ways to reduce the toxic stress on your body such as looking deeper into the household and laundry products being used.  This article helps to explain why it is so important and the impact it can have on your health.   

Greenwashing is another reason why it is so difficult to find clean products.  Get my free guide to choosing healthier products here