Petrolatum

AKA: Petroleum Jelly, Vaseline
Also known as Vaseline, this is the most powerful occlusive moisturizer and at least twice as effective as other occlusives. This is why we multiply the petrolatum score by 2 when calculating the Occlusivity of the product. Petrolatum is not comedogenic.
Also-Known-As:
Petroleum Jelly, Vaseline
All functions
Origin
Petrolatum

Overview

You may know Petrolatum by some of its other names: Vaseline or Petroleum Jelly.

It is made from petroleum by selecting a mixture of pure saturated hydrocarbons - partly liquid and partly crystalline. The resulting Petrolatum is semi-solid, white, and odorless and flavorless. It is also almost completely water-free.

It has been used in skincare for more than a century and is the most powerful occlusive moisturizer known to mankind. Incredible, right?

Despite the recent controversy surrounding petroleum products, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to avoid Petrolatum because of this.

Cosmetic-grade Petrolatum should not contain any trace amounts of tar or other carcinogenic compounds. Due to its widespread use, we also know that it rarely ever causes an allergic reaction, even when applied to an open wound. It is remarkably inert.

It is not absorbed into the deeper layers of the skin at all and passes through the digestive system unchanged, only affecting our skin because of its incredible ability to form an occlusive layer over it.

Petrolatum prevents a staggering 99% of trans-epidermal water loss and allows the dry and damaged skin to heal and moisturize itself. This makes it the perfect ingredient for dry and cracked lips and skin.

It acts as an emollient by entering the spaces between the rough edges of peeling skin layers, thus restoring it to a smooth skin surface. It also shields the exposed nerve endings in damaged skin, offering relief from itching and pain.

An in-depth study on patients with atopic dermatitis showed that the application of Petrolatum increased both the production of antimicrobials and the thickness of the diseased skin, which greatly aided the healing process.

Another study compared the ability of Petrolatum to repair the lipid barrier of skin damaged by detergents and tape stripping, to fancier, more expensive creams on the market (the ones containing ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol – the classic barrier repair trio). Surprisingly, no substantial difference was found. Both were able to effectively repair the barrier function of the skin.

Although Petrolatum is a godsend for people with dry, cracked, and damaged skin, it is actually too occlusive and heavy for some other skin types.

It is important to note, however, that despite widespread belief, pure Petrolatum is not comedogenic and will not clog your pores.

Science

1
Draelos, Z. D. (2018). The science behind skin care: Moisturizers. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 17(2), 138–144.
2
Czarnowicki, T., Malajian, D., Khattri, S., et al. (2016). Petrolatum: Barrier repair and antimicrobial responses underlying this “inert” moisturizer. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 137(4), 1091–1102.e7.
3
Bárány, M. L., Ebba. (2000). Skin-identical Lipids Versus Petrolatum in the Treatment of Tape-stripped and Detergent-perturbed Human Skin. Acta Dermato-Venereologica, 80(6), 412–415.