March 31, 2013

Beauty Science: The Benefits of Mineral Oil!


Yes, you read the title correctly. You do not have to fear mineral oil! I was originally going to make a post about a makeup topic instead of skin care topic, but when I saw this article while browsing, I couldn't help but get so excited!!

It is a common belief that mineral oil is bad, bad, bad. With the help of the article, I will address some of those issues today.

"Mineral oil clogs pores!"

First, most people assume mineral oil can clog pores. Mineral oil is non-comedogenic, meaning that it does NOT clog pores!

Did you know that....Baby Oil is mineral oil has a fragrance added to it? That's the only difference between regular mineral oil and baby oil! My general rule is that if it's safe for a baby's butt, it's safe for me. But always always and always patch test!

Mineral oil only sits on the epidermal layers, which are the outermost layers of the skin. The chemical structure of mineral oil has large chains that just won't get in. This means that mineral oil has limited skin penetration, and thus very safe for cosmetic use!

The whole mineral oil clogs pores started some studies on rabbits in the 1970s. However, now we know that animal skin is quite different from human skin! In fact, rabbits are much more prone to have clogged pores than we are.

"But I heard mineral oil is carcinogenic or can cause cancer!"

Known carcinogens such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are NOT present in mineral oil. Mineral oils are split into different grades based on their viscosities or thickness. So some grades are in cosmetics, others are used in industrial, mechanical, medicinal, and food worlds.

"Fine, but I heard mineral oil can make my skin UV radiation sensitive! Defend that!"

There is a general consensus that long term mineral oil usage effects in photosensitivity is small, and is probably due to sun sensitivity that has to do with seasonal changes anyways. There are studies done on bald rats that had data with mineral oil causing UV sensitivity, but those animal's skin mutations put them at risk for UV sensitivity anyways. Animal models are also very different from human models because of a difference in skin structure and type, thus really isn't a parallel comparison.

"...Alright, so what DOES mineral oil do to our skin anyways??"

Mineral oil accomplishes it's effects simply by sitting on top of your skin. It is what we call an "occlusive," meaning preventing water loss and retains that moisture. And this makes logical sense! The large structure can't penetrate the skin, so it just covers it. However, there are microscopic gaps, because the structure isn't even or uniform. 

Mineral oil is an emollient, which makes the skin soft. Anyone that has had contact with baby oil knows that it sort just stays on your skin for a very long time. Substantivity is the amount of chemical that stays on the skin, and mineral oil rates a moderate on this scale. So this means, like I said, it'll stay on your skin for awhile. 

It's not a bad thing! Mineral oil can increase the thickness of the outermost layer of the epidermis! And if you have this in combination of retaining moisture, it can decrease the appearance of fine lines, and increase softness! Oo-la-la! 

All kidding aside, mineral oil truly has a bad reputation that precedes it, but those bad assumptions aren't true!

So here's the bottom line: 

Mineral oil has many benefits!

- It is NON-comedogenic aka does not clog pores.
- Carcinogens are NOT in mineral oil.
- There are no long term UV sensitivity involved with mineral oil.
- Baby oil IS mineral oil with fragrance.
- Remember it doesn't "soak in", but will help with locking in the moisture.
- It can make your skin soft!
- It can reduce fine lines!

- When in doubt, patch test!

Did you know any of this before reading this post? I sure learned a lot from doing this research, especially the baby oil part!


DiNardo JC. Is mineral oil comedogenic? Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 4: 2-3.

Rawlings AV and Lombard KJ. A review on the extensive skin benefits of mineral oil. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 34:511-518.

Daily Consultations and fun facts:

Known carcinogens like polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are present in cigarettes AND cigarette smoke! It can cause cancer and can cause many medicine interactions. So it can drastically increase or decrease the effects of certain medications!

Having a sunscreen with high substantivity (amount of chemical staying on your skin) is good! Because this means you don't have to apply as frequently and it means you're getting adequate sun protection!


  1. Love these posts! My Grandfather actually taught me that mineral oil and baby oil were one and the same. He used to use it on it his hands to keep them soft.

    Here's what I'm curious about, being mineral oil doesn't clog pores, could it be possible to have an allergic reaction, or just be sensitive to it?

    1. Thank you! :D That's awesome you already knew mineral oil and baby oil are the same! My mind was blown when I read that.

      And yes. You can definitely still be sensitive to it. Like I mentioned, patch testing is always a good start.

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  4. Such a timely post! I was using Sephora Collection Cleansing Oil but continued having regular break-outs of cystic acne. I assumed the mineral oil wasn't letting my other products work well. I switched to Boscia's Cleansing Oil, but it's so much more expensive and doesn't spread very well. With the info from your post, I'm happy to go back to Sephora's!

  5. Great research! I did this a while ago with pomengrenant and polybutene haha but I found it really hard to find information.

  6. What a fantastic article! I must admit, I have been a blind follower of the "Mineral Oil is the devil" philosophy simply because I heard that point of view so many times in so many articles. I have always wondered, however, why have I never had a reaction to products with Mineral Oil if it's so bad. Thank you for all the useful info! Looking forward to more beauty science articles.

    ♡ Marianna

    1. No problem! Just glad that I can spread the word ^_^

  7. Hi, interesting article but I can't help but remember what David Suzuki said in this article

  8. Knowing that everything comes down to saving money, how do we know that the big make up companies are not using a cheaper therefore toxic version of mineral oil in their moisturizers therefore causing harm over time?

  9. I use it on my sensitive and very acne prone skin. My skin feels softer, my makeup gets fully removed, and it also holds in my healthy natural healing oils which clears my acne much faster,and helps with my laugh lines and the fine lines at the corner of my eyes
    ...A LOT!

  10. I love mineral oil! It indeed has a lot of beauty benefits! Thanks a lot for sharing this!


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