Petroleum jelly possible cancer risk

September 16th, 2008


Petroleum, also known as “petroleum jelly”, which is the only ingredient in the popular brand Vaseline, and mineral oil also commonly known as “baby oil”, are common ingredients in lotions, skin creams, cosmetics and hair care products.  Its used in skin care products because its a inexpensive oil that lubricates the skin; supposedly to moisturize, soften and protect the skin from the elements.  In hair care products, the oil is used as a moisturizer and barrier that repels water and humidity to prevent frizz and dryness. Its also used with pressing combs, flat and curling irons to protect from heat damage caused by these tools.   Its inexpensive with an unlimited shelf life so its appealing for cosmetic, hair and skin care manufacturers.  Even some high-end lines use petroleum and/or mineral oil in their products. In a few luxury department stores I have shopped at,  I’ve found that a lot of the lines they carry use petroleum in their products – despite the tipple digit prices for a lot of their items.

Mineral oil is liquid petroleum which is a by-product in the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline. Propylene glycol is often a derivative of petroleum (though it can come from a vegetable source as well).

The problem with petroleum products, instead of moisturizing, it coats the skin and clog the pores not letting in actual moisture and toxins out through the skin. The skin may feel smooth to the touch, but its actually coated with the oil.  As a result, it can cause acne, dryness, dandruff and other skin irritations.

Petroleum and Cancer

Petroleum has been noted as a possible cancer risk:

“Petrolatum – Impurities in Petroleum Jelly or commonly known as Vaseline, under suspicion as a carcinogen in Breast Cancer – Petrolatum Banned in products in the EU – Long term damage to health becoming evident – side effects from impurities in the manufacturing process implicated in causing cancer”

Remember, the skin absorbs 60% of all chemicals we use on our skin and hair.”  – Health Report UK

Other names for mineral oil and petroleum:

  • Baby Oil
  • Vaseline (brand name)
  • Liquid paraffin
  • Mineral Seal Oil

What should you use?

Always read labels when you’re shopping for bath, body, baby and hair products. Look for products that contains natural vegetable, plant, seed and nut oils such as shea butter, olive oil, jojoba oil, and coconut oil.

Any questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you!

24 Responses to “Petroleum jelly possible cancer risk”

  1. I use petroleum on my lips. It’s the only thing that works.


  2. Casey says:

    I’ve read some conflicting information about petroleum and petrolatum at Paula’s Choice. She’s a consumer advocate and does a lot of research. She is NOT a green advocate at all; in fact, she seems very skeptical of any green products, so take what she says about some stuff with a grain of salt. But her point is that petroleum acting as a barrier isn’t necessarily a bad thing*.

    Food for thought, anyway.

    *The cancer risk stuff is good enough reason to not use it, though!

  3. greenandchic says:

    @Casey It is used in a lot of topical medications. It does act as a barrier to protect against infections. If I need to use such a cream, I will bite the bullet and use it, but not for cosmetic purposes.

    I have read Paula’s Choice website in the past and personally don’t agree with a lot she has to say. I have never used her products though.

    @Vered What else have you used?

  4. Nurit says:

    I went and checked 4 baby products in my house (I have an 8 months old). All contain this product under different names, in 3\4 it was the first or second ingredient. They do seem to help with a rash, though. What else can we use? I wish I learned more from my grandmas what they used to do :(

  5. Great layout, very easy to read and understand.

  6. Linda says:

    I use it for psoriosis and it seems to help more than other creams and lotions

  7. Carla Rose says:

    @Linda – I used to have psoriasis too and I agree with using whatever works for you!

  8. This is quite a hot information. I think I’ll share it on Digg.

  9. [...] a night and queasy thereafter for awhile. so i switched to orange oil. because mineral spirits are petroleum products, thus they cause cancer. d-limonene is gras – generally recognized as safe, which means non-toxic. [...]

  10. Dianne says:

    Use Carol’s Daughter, it has no petroleum, and it works just as well as Vaseline! Promise! =)

  11. Debo Hobo says:

    I grew up smearing Vaseline in my hair as a child. Our mom also smeared it on our faces before we went out to play in the New England snow. Vaseline was the all purpose product of my youth.
    .-= Debo Hobo´s last blog ..Let Obama Speak! =-.

  12. Shawanda says:

    I’ve used petroleum jelly as a lip moisturizer for years. I love it so. This really makes me sad. Oh well. I’ll have to start weaning myself off it. Not worth the risk.
    .-= Shawanda´s last blog ..Why Your Prayers Are Powerless Over Your Money =-.

  13. Vanna says:

    Too bad..i wanna try it on my lashes to help them grow lush. :|

  14. Carla Rose says:

    @Vanna – You can use coconut oil or shea butter. It works just as well, if not better!

  15. Thanks for the information on petroleum jelly. It’s kind of scary to see well know products that are a risk to our health. It pays to research before using any product.
    .-= Jenn G @ Pregnancy stretch mark cream´s last blog ..What is Laser Treatment for Removing Stretch Marks? =-.

  16. viqtoria says:

    Try using coconut oil instead for a rash and as a barrier and instead of baby oil or lotions. Its fabulous! Really improves the looks of my skin too!

  17. Rachel says:

    Love Coconut oil…use it often. Just wanted to tell you that if you use it, wash your baby/toddler daily b/c it will get rancid over short time and fruit flies were drawn to my toddlers bottom! :) But with daily washing it is great.

  18. Millicent says:

    I had grooves and cracks in my toe nails that disappeared after I started using petroleum jelly (I”m not kidding) on my anus due to toilet paper dermatitis. My bum cleared up fabulously with a daily application of vaseline petroleum jelly – no more red bleeding itch..completely gone. But I noticed a side effect. All my life my toe nails were ugly,,cracked, scarred with groove but with no other explanation other than the current daily use of petroleum jelly for my anal problem, my toe nails look normal and they have never in my entire 40 years ever looked so nice and “normal”! I believe that the absorption of the jelly into my system has caused this wonderful effect that I never expected. I like vaseline and have seen a couple of benefits from it as I’ve mentioned. :-)

    Date: June 10, 2010

  19. Edith Orozco says:

    Why didn’t I know this before?
    Because of beauty products, we are all so close to die of cancer : (

  20. sally says:

    it is made from CRUDE OIL!!!! Need I say more????????

  21. Kemorgan says:

    I am curious to know is it bad to use for sexual activities. As in “anal”. It would be nice to have a response.. Me and my wife wanna try tonight!

  22. taylor says:

    I use petroleum jelly nightly on my lips as a moisturizer. Does anyone have a good alternate?

  23. bella f. says:

    Burt’s Bees Products are wonderful. Lip Balm, baby rash, softer skin, etc. all from the natural ingredient of honey and added ingredients which are NOT parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals(vaseline), or phthalates.

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