Mineral Oil For Skin: Is It Bad For You?

by Sindhu Koganti

Are you looking for a good skin care ingredient that can moisturize your sensitive skin? Mineral oil is one such ingredient that is suitable for your skin type. It is a common ingredient that can lock moisture in your skin for an extended period of time. However, there is limited research available on its usage. Also, there is a lot of debate surrounding the usage of mineral oil. In this article, we have discussed the research behind mineral oil, its benefits, some myths associated with it, and how to use it on your skin. Take a look!

What Is Mineral Oil?

Mineral oil is a derivative of petroleum. It is used extensively across all industries. It is a natural ingredient that is extracted from the Earth and graded for different uses. There are many by-products of petroleum. But, cosmetic-grade mineral oil is highly refined and filtered in a way that makes it usable. This effective emollient has been used in skin care products for over 100 years now because of its stability and long shelf life. Also, it is lightweight, easily spreadable, inexpensive, colorless, and odorless.

As there is a lot of debate going on about the efficacy of mineral oil, is it really safe to use on your skin? Scroll down to find out.

Is Mineral Oil Safe To Use On Skin? If So, What Are Its Benefits?

The mineral oil used in cosmetic products is safe to use and does not present any risk to the health of the individual due to the absence of the dermal uptake property (1). It is non-allergenic, has excellent skin tolerance, does not penetrate human skin, and does not cause any significant changes in the skin (2). While mineral oil has no antioxidant and anti-aging effects, it is still considered a moisturizing ingredient because of its occlusive property, i.e., it prevents water loss from the skin (3).

If you have dry skin, you can use mineral oil on it. It locks in moisture and helps you maintain healthy and hydrated skin for extended periods. It can create a barrier between your skin and the external environment to protect your skin from pollution. A study conducted in the UK found that mineral oil can improve skin softness and barrier function and suppress transepidermal water loss (TEWL) (3).

Another study conducted in India found that moisturizers that contain minerals oil have antimitotic activity (arrests cell multiplication), which is very useful in treating inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis (4). Also, the emollient properties of mineral oil may help relieve eczema (5).

However, mineral oil can contaminate your body, which is why its use in skin care and cosmetic products is hotly debated. A study was conducted in Austria on 140 pregnant women before their C-section to test their bodies for contamination. It was found that they had hydrocarbons in their system from mineral oil. This mineral oil was attributed to the most relevant and known sources (without any solid conclusion) – cosmetics (6). While it is neither entirely harmful nor something that you can vouch for, mineral oil needs to be used in moderation.

Now that we know that it is okay to use mineral oil-based products in moderation, let’s bust some myths about this ingredient.

Some Myths Associated With Mineral Oil

1. Mineral Oil Clogs Pores

From baby products to adult brands, every cosmetic product we use contains mineral oil in some capacity. This is because it protects your skin’s top layer from outside external aggressors. Since it cannot penetrate your skin, it is not possible for it to clog your pores (7).

2. Mineral Oil Is Made From Petroleum

Mineral oil is a by-product of the distillation process that is used to get petroleum products, like gasoline. It is different from the petroleum products used in automotive oils. Cosmetic-grade mineral oil goes through a tedious refining process to make it safe for use (8).

3. Mineral Oil Can Cause Cancer

While some people argue that mineral oil is carcinogenic, experts remind us that since it is very heavy, it cannot penetrate your skin to cause any damage. It settles on your skin’s surface and creates a film to lock in moisture. Thus, it washes off easily with cleansing procedures. The refinement process used to purify the mineral oils makes all the difference here. Highly refined oils are free from all toxins, harmful impurities, and carcinogens (8).

4. Mineral Oil Treats Acne And Inflammation

In reality, mineral oil does not do much to your skin. Yes, it spreads easily and hydrates your skin. However, it does not have any antioxidants, vitamins, or amino acids that can treat any skin issues.

5. Mineral Oil Dries Out Your Skin

Mineral oil creates a barrier to lock moisture in your skin. It moisturizes your skin and keeps it hydrated for a longer period. It does not make your skin dry.

6. Mineral Oil Is Synthetic

This is partially true. As mentioned earlier, mineral oil is a by-product of petroleum. However, the chemical process of manufacturing mineral oil is such that it does not meet the standards of “natural ingredients” in the cosmetic industry. Regardless, it is still perfectly safe to use on the skin (9).

These are all some common myths associated with mineral oil. However, it helps hydrate your skin by sealing moisture. But, how do you use it on your skin? Scroll down to find out.

How To Use Mineral Oil?

Apply mineral oil right after you take a shower when your skin is slightly damp. Apply it after applying moisturizer. This will seal the moisture in the skin. It works well with other moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid (which attracts moisture to the skin) and antioxidants.

If you use multiple skin care products, make sure that you apply mineral oil after applying everything else to seal all the products in your skin. Also, make sure that you don’t use mineral oil with other pore-clogging ingredients. Since mineral oil is very occlusive, it may cause breakouts if you use them together.

It is fine to use mineral oil on the skin. But, how often can you use it? Find out in the following section.

How Often Can You Use It?

It totally depends on your skin condition, like how dry your skin is and the products you are using. However, it is alright to use mineral oil once or twice per day.

Mineral oil is non-allergenic and has a lower risk of causing skin irritation. But, is it suitable to use for all skin types? Scroll down to know more.

Side Effects Of Mineral Oil

Mineral oil has a low risk of causing allergic reactions and skin irritation. However, you should be very cautious while using this ingredient if you have acne-prone skin. If you have acne-prone skin, you may notice breakouts, blackheads, and whiteheads after using mineral-oil-based products. However, there is limited research available to prove this claim.


Though mineral oil is an effective emollient, its use in skin care products is hotly debated. It hydrates your skin, protects it from external forces, and works best on dry skin due to its moisturizing property. But, there is limited research available on the benefits of mineral oil. Lastly, if you have acne-prone skin, use it with caution to avoid breakouts.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

Does mineral oil stop other ingredients from getting into the skin?

No. Mineral oil does not stop other ingredients from getting into the skin. It forms a hydrophobic barrier that can seal moisture in your skin. But, other ingredients in your skin care products can penetrate the skin through the gaps in the film.

Does mineral oil prevent collagen from penetrating the skin?

No. Collagen has a large molecular structure and, thus, does not penetrate the skin. So, mineral oil is not what stops collagen from penetrating the skin.

Does mineral oil dry out the skin and make it age faster?

No. Mineral oil forms a barrier that prevents the moisturize in your skin from seeping out. Thus, it stops your skin from drying out. Also, mineral oil does not make you age faster.

Is baby oil the same as mineral oil?

The only difference between these two oils is baby oil has added fragrances in their product formulations. While both are hydrocarbon compounds, baby oil is a human-made mineral oil that is made from the by-product that is left over when the oil is refined.

Is Vaseline a mineral oil?

Mineral oil and Vaseline are closely related. Vaseline is a blend of mineral oils with fast-absorbing and lightweight formulas.

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Sindhu Koganti

Sindhu Koganti is a Biotechnology graduate and has been in the writing field for over 4 years now. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has hands-on experience in writing articles and press releases on Life Sciences and Healthcare, Food and Beverages, and Chemicals and Materials. When she’s not writing, she loves watching movies and listening to music. She also enjoys traveling.