What Is Mineral Oil?
Mineral oil, which may also appear as paraffin, parafinnum, petrolatum or liquid paraffin in facial cleansers, creams, moisturizers, sunscreens, makeup and ointments has become a controversial ingredient, and rightfully so. While most people know that mineral oil can clog pores and contribute to breakouts, few know that it can cause premature aging and other, more serious side effects.
Mineral oil, also known as a base oil, mineral base oil or lubricant base oil, is one of several petrochemicals in personal care products that are derived from crude petroleum oil, coal or natural gas. Mineral oil proponents believe that purified cosmetic and pharmaceutical grade mineral oil is safe, beneficial, and has low risk of allergic reactions or clogging pores. However, critics warn that cosmetic companies are not required to use high quality grade mineral oil and that petrochemicals are linked with skin irritation, allergic reactions and possible endocrine disruption, cancer and contamination issues. Mildly refined mineral oils always contain cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and are also suspected of respiratory toxicity.
Why Not In Skincare?
Did you know? Artificial fragrances, alcohol and synthetic preservatives are also sourced from crude petroleum oil, coal or natural gas?
Mineral oil has widespread use in many moisturizers due to its emollient ability to seal in moisture and alleviate dry skin conditions such as itching, flaking and irritation. Deceptively, the oily film it leaves just coats the skin and gives the illusion of moisturizing it. It is not absorbed due to its large molecular size and provides no other benefits for the skin.
While mineral oil initially diminishes the appearance of lines, over time it can cause the skin to lose the ability to protect itself, and become dependent on it. It interferes with the skin’s ability to absorb oxygen (breathe) and water (moisture). This slows cell renewal and the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins and waste and disrupts the immune barrier function of the skin. Remember, the skin is the body’s largest organ and plays an important role in maintaining overall health, so when these vital bodily processes malfunction, it can cause other unhealthy conditions as well.
But WAIT! There’s More!
Further claims indicate that mineral oil robs skin of water, vitamins and essential fatty acids and prevents absorption of ingredients in moisturizers, which further slow cell renewal and leads to break down of vital skin components like collagen. Consequently all these factors cause the skin to become dry, dehydrated, thin and prematurely aged over time.
It is believed that once mineral oil does get absorbed, it can build up in the body, potentially effects hormone levels which can cause ovarian dysfunction, endometriosis, even miscarriages, as well as damage the nervous system. Furthermore, once the liver breaks mineral oil down and it passes through the intestinal tract it is believed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, which can cause deficiencies.
Lastly, many people dislike mineral oil from a green standpoint as they feel that since it comes from a nonrenewable resource, it is damaging to the environment. Bottom Line? Mineral oil is bad for the skin and body and should be avoided in personal care products. Instead, choose natural emollient oils like squalane, shea butter and safflower oil that benefit and nourish the skin as well.