Mineral Oil For Skin: Is It Bad For You?

by Pratima Ati

The beauty industry is divided when it comes to one ingredient – mineral oil. While brands use the word ‘mineral’ to market products like mineral foundations, cosmetic palettes, and thermal water, the debate gets heated the minute we start talking about mineral oil. Why are there such conflicting opinions about mineral oil? Is it really bad for your skin? Let’s find out more.

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. Cosmetic grade mineral oil is refined and filtered in a way that makes it usable. It has been used in skin care products for over 100 years now because it is light, spreadable, inexpensive, colorless, and odorless.

But, is it good for your skin? Let’s find out!

Is It Okay To Use Mineral Oil For Skin? If Not, Why?


Mineral oils fall under the hydrocarbon category of chemicals, which means they contain hydrogen and carbon. These atoms are heavy and do not have great permeability. The other commonly known hydrocarbons are paraffin and petroleum, which is what gives mineral oil a bad rap.

Cosmetic brands use a grade of mineral oil that is permissible and approved for use on the skin. However, it can contaminate your body, which is why its use in skin care and cosmetic products is hotly debated. A study was conducted 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 (1).

Mineral oil spreads easily, has a highly moisturizing effect on your skin, and leaves it feeling smooth. All of this happens on the surface of the skin as it cannot seep through its layers. It locks in moisture, creates a barrier so that moisture does not escape, and leaves your skin hydrated for extended periods. However, this is a double-sided sword as some aestheticians argue that it blocks the topmost later of skin and suffocates it.

While it is neither entirely harmful nor something that you can vouch for, mineral oil needs to be used in moderation. Use it sparingly, go for products from reputed brands, and always do a patch test to check if it causes any discoloration.

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

Mineral Oil In Skin Care – Myths And Truths


1. It Is Made From Petroleum

Mineral oil is a by-product of the distillation process that is used to get petroleum products, like gasoline. Cosmetic-grade mineral oil goes through a tedious refining process to make it safe for use (2).

2. It 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.

3. It Clogs Pores

From baby products to adult brands, everything that cosmetic product we use contains mineral oil in some capacity. This is because it protects your skin’s top layer. Since since it cannot penetrate your skin, it is not possible for it to clog your pores (3).

4. It 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. It Is Synthetic

Mineral oil is derived from fossilized plankton and algae found deep inside Earth’s crust, so it is completely natural (2). It is then refined through multiple processes to arrive at its cosmetic form, but its source is anything but synthetic.

The pros and cons of mineral oil continue to be debated. There are several studies underway that are trying to get to a conclusion. The only advice we can give is to check all the ingredients in the products that you are using to to determine how safe they are. What’s your take on this? Do you have any more questions mineral oil? Let us know by dropping a message in the comments section below.


Is mineral oil good for acne-prone skin?

There are no studies that prove that mineral oil can treat acne. However, it is alright to use it on acne-prone skin. Just keep a close eye on your skin for the first few days to see how it reacts.


  1. Evidence for cosmetics as a source of mineral oil contamination in women.” Journal Of Women’s Health, US National Library of Medicine.
  2. A review on the extensive skin benefits of mineral oil” International Journal Of Cosmetic Science, Wiley.
  3. Don’t Believe The Hype — Mineral Oil Won’t Give You Zits” ScienceDaily.

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Pratima Ati

After working in Marketing and Business Development for a few years, Pratima Ati jumped ship to pursue two things she loved – fashion and writing. She’s now a full-time Fashion & Lifestyle writer and has never looked back ever since. She sleeps early, reads often, and when she can't, she finally gives a closure to all the characters living in her drafts. Sometimes, they pass off as poetry too! That, and her training in Indian classical music and playing (learning) the veena keep her sane, civil, and bearable.