AKA: Paraffinum Liquidum, Huile Minerale
Paraffinum Liquidum, Huile Minerale
Mineral oil, also known as liquid paraffin, paraffin oil, or Huile Minerale, is a clear, oily, and very occlusive liquid that is manufactured from petroleum by separation and careful purification.
The current consensus of all control organizations and scientists is that properly purified mineral oil is completely safe for use in skincare. It does not seem to have any effects on humans aside from its emollient and occlusive benefits.
Let’s delve into the benefits of this ingredient in a little more detail. Mineral oil, Vaseline, and Petrolatum are all specifically produced from petroleum for their amazing occlusive properties.
Our skin, despite having its own complex lipid barrier that prevents trans-dermal water loss, loses a certain amount of water anyway. Mineral oil and Petrolatum are substances that can prevent most, if not all, of this remaining water loss. They do this by forming an unbroken oily layer on the surface of the skin.
Other than that, mineral oil is almost completely inert. It does not oxidize when exposed to air, and there is little to no reaction in the skin when it is applied. It does not get absorbed beyond the topmost layers of skin and rarely causes allergic reactions. This truly makes it a holy-grail product for people with dry, cracked, or peeling skin.
Mineral oil fills the micro-cracks in the surface of the skin, making the skin appear smoother and softer, which is the core of its emollient properties. Covering the skin with a sturdy occlusive layer is also a property that is very desirable for heavy-duty hand creams.
There have been a handful of studies that have compared the occlusive effects of mineral oil to the most heavy-duty plant alternative – coconut oil. A study involving 34 patients with moderate xerosis (i.e., dry, rough, scaly, and itchy skin patches) found that both ingredients aided in the healing process, and that there was no real difference in the results.
Another study involving people with atopic dermatitis (another common disease where the skin suffers from impaired barrier function) and inflamed skin found that the coconut oil group had better results. But again, both ingredients helped significantly.
Similar to Petrolatum, mineral oil simply sits on the surface and allows the skin to heal itself without losing more water in the process.
The mineral oil used in skincare adheres to strict quality control which states that the ingredient should only consist of saturated hydrocarbons with carbon numbers predominantly in the range of C15 through C50. It also states that it should be completely devoid of unsaturated, polycyclic, aromatic, oxidized, sulfated, or nitrogenated compounds that are known to be harmful.
You’ve probably heard the rumor that petroleum products are carcinogenic. Who hasn’t? But in the case of mineral oil and Vaseline, scientists agree that they have been purified to such a degree that what is left is completely inert and harmless.
Every single study, whether on humans, animals or in test-tubes, agrees that mineral oil does not permeate deeper than stratum corneum and that it does not produce any negative effects.
So, while the application of mineral oil will not be giving you cancer anytime soon, it also will not work miracles on your skin either. Although it has an essential place in dermatology, it also has no magical properties, biological effects, or added benefits to the skin.
The occlusive and emollient properties of mineral oil are remarkable, but often only for the driest of skins. Other users may find the ingredient too occlusive and heavy, and it is definitely not something that you should slather your entire face with.
In conclusion, mineral oil is nothing to be afraid of, and a great ingredient to have in any moisturizer aimed at dry skin.