What it is:
Mineral oil is a clear, odorless derivative of petroleum (hence sometimes referred to as petro-chemical), derived ‘naturally’ from the earth. You can be bold enough to consider it ‘plant-derived’. It is refined to different levels to be useful in various industries such as the car and engine, the gas, and of course: the cosmetic. It functions as an occlusive (read more on occlusives here) and emollient (read more on emollients here). It aids in skin-barrier function by preventing trans-epidermal water loss.
1. Safe for use on the skin. In fact, it’s so safe, it can be consumed/ingested. It is commonly used in baby products, too.
2. Has a long shelf life, hence chances for it to go bad or rancid (unlike plant oils) are low. When an oil turns rancid, it can create potentially irritant compounds.
3. Rarely ever causes irritation or an allergic reaction. Great for sensitive skin.
4. Non-comedogenic i.e. doesn’t clog pores. However, used with other ingredients, it can trap ingredients beneath it, which could lead to pore-clogging. Same is the case with any other plant oil/s.
5. Helps in the quick healing of scars, wounds, etc.
6. Spreads easily, leaving the skin feel smooth and moisturized.
Claims surrounding it:
1. ‘It contains contaminants and other impurities.’
Response: Cosmetic-grade mineral oil is refined to a point all of these contaminants and impurities are gotten rid of. Its quality is regulated by the FDA and other international regulatory agencies.
2. ‘It causes cancer.’
Response: This is a claim associated with most ingredients people wish to create fear around. Suffice to know it’s untrue. The ultra-refinement process helps to get rid of all possible carcinogens.
3. ‘It dries out the skin, leading to dryness and aging.’
Response: False. On the contrary, it functions as an occlusive and emollient which can have quite the opposite effect.
4. ‘It robs the skin of vitamins and minerals.’
Response: What?! How?! Please come with evidence if you are to make a claim. While it is true that it doesn’t deliver additional antioxidants and phytonutrients to the skin like plant oils do, it doesn’t take away from what the skin pre-possesses, either.
5. ‘It prevents absorption of products into your skin.’
Response: Well, if you layer your products wrongly, surely that would occur and many other ingredients would do the same. The rule to follow in skincare is to always use your thinnest products first and thickest ones last.
6. ‘It causes acne, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis…’
Response: Stop. Mineral oil is beneficial for skin disease such as the ones above which are associated with itchiness and inflammation.
Bottom line: Why people fail to reconcile with it is because it’s too good to be true (perhaps). Mineral oil is a safe, inexpensive and effective ingredient that can be used without fear unless evidence appears to prove otherwise.