Mineral Oil Lotions

Baby having lotion rubbed on his back
It's a controversial but common ingredient.

Although mineral oil lotions are commonly found on shelves at every drugstore across the country, they are also the source of quite a bit of debate. Despite their seeming popularity, lotions containing this controversial ingredient may not be the best thing for our skin, after all.

A Little about Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is a clear liquid derived from below the surface of the earth. This liquid is the byproduct of the distillation of gasoline from crude oil. Since this refined substance is produced so abundantly, it's one of the most inexpensive ingredients available. It also has no odor and doesn't spoil, and it's a favorite of beauty product manufacturers. It's used in everything from low-grade cosmetics (especially lipstick) to baby products.

Because of its association with petrochemicals, mineral oil is one of the most widely critiqued ingredients in the beauty industry. Consumers have expressed concern about its potentially harmful effects on the body, and many manufacturers have taken note and created products that contain no mineral oil at all. For individuals who prefer to adopt an all-natural skin care regimen, products free of the oil are highly favored.

Arguments have been made that mineral oil is natural since it is, after all, derived from the earth. However, mineral oil as it's found in beauty products is not simply dug up and infused into lipsticks and lotions. On the contrary, the mineral oil is the substance left over once the crude oil has been refined for other purposes. Since it's derived from a petrochemical (and not from a plant, for example), it's not the best example of the type of natural we usually associate with beauty products.

Potential Dangers

Potential side effects stemming from the use of mineral oil in body products have been the subject of great debate over the years. While some individuals believe that nothing can compare to mineral oil when it comes to providing the skin with abundant moisture, others steadfastly avoid using products that include the substance. Though there are differing schools of thought surrounding the following controversial points, it's important to know about them in advance if you're considering using mineral oil lotions.

  • Mineral oil is thought to coat the skin with a thin film that can't be penetrated, essentially causing the skin to "suffocate" by not allowing it to breathe.
  • Since the skin does not absorb mineral oil, its presence on the surface of the skin may cause clogged pores and prevent it from absorbing moisture.
  • It's suggested that since the skin's natural processes (such as cell renewal) are blocked by the oil, it also speeds up the aging process.
  • It is a potential skin irritant for some people.

Mineral Oil Lotions

If you're on the hunt for a lotion containing mineral oil, you won't have to look for long. Most basic drugstore brand lotions do contain mineral oil. As mentioned, it's an inexpensive ingredient that many manufacturers purchase in bulk, so its use is quite common. Despite the great amount of controversy surrounding it, mineral oil is included in some of the world's most popular skin care products!

  • Composed solely of mineral oil and fragrance, Johnson's Baby Oil is a mild moisturizer used to massage baby's skin and retain moisture. The company states that it "forms a silky barrier to prevent excess moisture loss." Though this type of statement is often called into question (is that barrier a pro or a con?), the product itself is a staple in many households with little ones.
  • Keri Dry Skin Lotion is another longtime favorite. Mineral oil is the second item on its ingredient list. It's touted for its ability to provide long-lasting moisture to dry skin and contains sunflower oil, which contains a naturally high amount of vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant).
  • One of the world's most indulgent beauty products, Crème de la Mer is considered by some to be an absolute godsend in the timeless quest for beautiful, smooth skin. Its ingredient list is intriguing, with plenty of natural oils, extracts and minerals. It also contains mineral oil.

The Bottom Line

Using products containing mineral oil is truly a personal choice. While some are perfectly comfortable using products that contain it, others prefer to avoid it completely. Fortunately, there are hundreds of alternatives available for those who seek them.

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Mineral Oil Lotions