is mineral oil dangerous for skin?

You know how it goes. A jealous person spreads a juicy rumour. Everyone believes it because it’s so scary, who wants to take the risk if it turns out to be true?

Then, the truth comes out. But, it’s too late. It doesn’t matter what the maligned guy says or does to prove his innocence, everyone’s mind is already made up against him.

That’s what happened to mineral oil. The mere association with petroleum was enough to taint him with a bad brush for good. It doesn’t matter that mineral oil doesn’t resemble petroleum in the least or that the two don’t hang out together anymore. Mud sticks.

This may all be futile, but I feel so sorry for mineral oil, I’m going to stick up for it and do my best to defend its reputation. Here’s why mineral oil is NOT as dangerous as they say:

What is mineral oil?

Before I get on the stand and start defending mineral oil, I’ll better tell you what it is.

Mineral oil is a colourless and odourless oil derived from petroleum (which, by the way, is a NATURAL substance derived from Mother Earth – just saying).

There are several grades of mineral oil, but only one can be used in cosmetics. It’s called Cosmetic Grade Mineral Oil. Obvs.

To turn into Cosmetic Grade Mineral Oil, petroleum must undergo a strict purifying process that removes all toxins and other impurities from it. At the end of this process, CGMO doesn’t resemble petroleum anymore.

Cosmetic Grade Mineral Oil is safe. Period.

Next time you hear someone say that slathering mineral oil on your skin is the same as slathering petroleum on your skin, you know they have NO idea what they’re talking about.

Why is mineral oil used in beauty products?

  1. It’s cheap.
  2. It rarely causes irritations or allergies.
  3. It’s super moisturizing.

In fact, derms think it’s the king of moisturizers. The most moisturizing of all moisturizers (I think shea butter gives it a good run for its money, but mineral oil is one of the best).

Mineral oil creates a barrier on the skin that prevents water loss. Instead, that moisture stays deep into your skin, making it softer and suppler.

Now that we know what we’re dealing with, let’s bust some myths about mineral oil, shall we?

Myth #1: Does Mineral Oil clog pores?

I’ve just told you that mineral oil works by creating a protective barrier on the skin. So, it makes sense that it suffocates skin and clog pores, right?

Not so quickly.

  1. Skin doesn’t breathe. It perspires. That’s an important difference because if something doesn’t breathe, you can’t suffocate it.
  2. Cosmetic Grade Mineral Oil doesn’t clog pores, either.  It’s Industrial Mineral Oil that’s comedogenic. But, that’s not used in cosmetics, so you don’t have to worry about it.

Wait, there’s a catch.

CGMO itself isn’t comedogenic. But, the barrier it creates can trap other comedogenic ingredients into the skin, and those can cause breakouts.

If you’re prone to acne or breakouts, make sure none of your skincare products have comedogenic ingredients before slathering on mineral oil.

Related: Do Comedogenic Ingredients Give You Acne?

Myth #2: Does Mineral Oil Stop Other Ingredients From Getting Into The Skin?

Again, this makes sense: if mineral oil creates a barrier on the skin, then retinol, vitamin C and all the other goodies in your lotions and potions won’t be able to get through.

Yet, they do.

Mineral oil is so great at keeping moisture into the skin because the barrier it forms is hydrophobic. But, other ingredients can still get through.

Science confirms it. One study measured the diffusion rate of sulphathiazole when used in cold creams with mineral oil. These cold creams had various levels of mineral oil. Some contained as low as 8% while others a whopping 83%!

In both cases, suphathiazole diffused through the cream into your skin. Of course, it did this faster when there was only a little mineral oil in the cream. But mineral oil is rarely used at high doses so it’s cool.

Myth #3: Does Mineral Oil Prevent Collagen From Penetrating The Skin?

This is closely related to myth #2, but I thought it deserved its own paragraph, anyway. Two reasons:

  1. Collagen is the ingredient that always comes up when talking about mineral oil and its “impenetrable” barrier.
  2. Collagen DOESN’T penetrate the skin anyway!

Collagen is a huge molecule. So huge, it can’t get through the skin anyway. All it does it sitting on its surface and making it soft and smooth.

Stop blaming mineral oil for collagen’s shortcomings. It’s not fair.

mineral oil myths debunked

Myth #4: Does Mineral Oil Cause Cancer?

So far, we’ve only covered minor issues. Let’s address the worst rumour now: is mineral oil dangerous and does it give you cancer?

I see how this spread. Industrial Mineral Oil contains toxins that may cause cancer. But, that will never find its way into your creams and serums.

As I’ve mentioned before, only Cosmetic Grade Mineral Oil can be used in cosmetics. That’s highly purified. It has no toxins that could cause cancer, or any other disease for that matter.

I’ve scoured all of Pubmed and couldn’t find a single study that links CGMO to cancer. Not even a tiny little one.

Mineral oil isn’t dangerous. Full stop.

Myth #5: Does Mineral Oil Dry Out Skin And Make It Age Faster?

I have no idea where this came from, seriously.

Mineral oil creates a barrier on the skin that locks moisture in. That means its moisturizes skin. How can something that moisturizes skin dry it out? Makes no sense.

As for it making skin age faster, again, how? Have you noticed that people who make these claims never tell you how mineral oil does this? They can’t because it doesn’t.

There’s nothing in mineral oil that could make you age faster. Next time someone utters such nonsense, ask for proof or tell them to shut up.

Is Mineral Oil Bad For Skin? The Real Reason NOT To Use IT

Mineral oil critics do have a point, though. Mineral oil only moisturizes skin. That’s it.

Other oils, such as argan, rosehip or evening primrose, are enriched with antioxidants that fight premature aging and soothe irritations. Mineral oil can’t do any of these. If you’re looking for a multi-tasking oil, mineral oil isn’t the one for you.

The other side of the coin? Its simplicity makes mineral oil wonderful for sensitive skin. While most oils (like those I’ve just mentioned) are made up of tens of thousands of compounds, mineral oil is made in a sterile lab with only a handul of compounds.

In other words, mineral oil won’t irritate your skin. Something in natural oils (usually one of their fragrant components) might.

I usually use mineral oil to remove my makeup and other oils, like olive and rosehip, to moisturize and prevent premature aging. But, my skin isn’t sensitive. If it were, I would stick to mineral oil.

Is Mineral Oil Safe To Use

Yes, mineral oil is safe to use. But whether you do or not depends on your needs.

You should if:

  • You have dry skin that can’t seem to retain moisture.
  • You have sensitive skin that’s irritated easily.

You shouldn’t if:

  • You have acne-prone skin (it may aggravate breakouts)
  • You’re looking for an oil with both moisturizing and anti-aging properties.

The Bottom Line

Mineral oil isn’t dangerous. Quite the opposite: it’s super moisturizing, very gentle even on sensitive skin and really cheap. Just don’t expect it to do anything more than moisturizing your skin.

Do you use mineral oil? Share your experience in the comments below.