Mineral oil is in most of the products we buy; from body lotion to rash ointment to your favorite lip balm, it pops up all over the personal care industry. Despite its prevalence, it’s one of the most misunderstood and demonized ingredients. Here’s everything you need to know about mineral oil and why it’s perfectly safe for your skin.
What is mineral oil?
Mineral oil is an umbrella term for a number of alkanes derived from minerals. Most mineral oil that’s used in cosmetics is a byproduct of the distillation of petroleum. While that might sound scary, it’s really not. Mineral oil is so heavily refined that it doesn’t really have much in common with petroleum after it goes through all that processing.
Is it safe?
Mineral oil is totally safe for topical application. According to the EWG, concerns about mineral oil toxicity pertain mostly to products that you might accidentally inhale. If you think about it, a lot of things are toxic if you inhale them, but are perfectly safe to put on your skin.
What does it do for your skin?
Mineral oil is one of the most effective occlusive moisturizers available. It acts as a barrier on the surface of your skin, keeping all the water inside where it belongs instead of letting it evaporate into the air. Despite common myths, mineral oil won’t dry out your skin or leech vitamins from your epidermis. It’s considered an inert substance, which means it just sort of sits on top of your skin without reacting to other ingredients or your skin itself.
Does it clog pores?
Studies have shown that mineral oil is non-comedogenic, which means it doesn't clog pores. Mineral oil molecules are very large—too big to actually get into your pores and cause issues. However, because mineral oil is such an effective occlusive agent (like all oils), it may trap bacteria and sebum in the pores rather than letting it drain out. But, this is usually only a problem for people with acne who aren’t effectively cleansing their skin.
Does it cause aging?
No! This is another urban legend that stems from our society’s misunderstanding of the science behind mineral oil. Rather than aging the skin, mineral oil may actually help prevent aging since it helps the skin retain essential moisture.
Mineral oil has long been a victim of fearmongering and misunderstanding. As you read the labels of your products and do you own research, remember that natural does not always mean safe and synthetic does not always mean scary. While it’s true that some synthetic ingredients used in the beauty industry are harmful to your health, not all are. Think critically, do your research, and when in doubt, look to scientific research for your answers. Science doesn’t lie.