Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is a bit of a boring chemical. It is only made of two atoms, carbon and hydrogen.  And they aren’t even combined in an interesting way – they are simply long chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached to them.

Most chemical reactions take place via what we call functional groups – parts of molecules that can interact with functional groups on other molecules.  Mineral oil doesn’t have any and so is not very reactive.  It doesn’t even dissolve in water.

But being unreactive doesn’t make it useless.  One thing for which mineral oil is excellent is forming thin layers with good barrier properties.  And this is what makes it interesting for cosmetic scientists and dermatologists.  If you have dry skin, the chances are that it is due to the outer layer of your skin letting too much moisture escape.  A thin layer of mineral oil will slow down the loss of moisture and rehydrate your skin very quickly.  The lack of reactivity is a huge advantage here – skin reactions to mineral oil are almost unknown.

Mineral oil either on its own or as part of a formulation has been a mainstay of dry skin treatments since it first started becoming generally available around the time of the first world war.  It has also been found to be very helpful as a protective layer for the skin.  Baby’s bottoms exposed to nasty substances in their nappies (diapers) springs to mind.  But it is also handy for people whose occupations bring them into contact with skin damaging substances like for instance detergent in water.  If  you have a lot of washing up to do then gloves are the best option, but covering you hands with mineral oil will certainly help..

So are there any problems with mineral oil?  There are a few.  For a start the naming of the different grades could have been designed to confuse people.  The most familiar form of mineral oil is Vaseline.  Vaseline is a trademark for a particular brand, but a lot of people use it generically.  That particular grade of mineral oil is also known as petroleum jelly and petrolatum.  Lighter grades of mineral oil are usually referred to as liquid paraffin or light liquid paraffin.  Many baby oils are mainly light liquid paraffin.  The paraffin that used to be commonly sold in hardware shops to power paraffin heaters is a different chemical altogether.

The names of the various grades give away the origin of mineral oil as a  product of the petroleum industry.  It is one of many hundreds of materials distilled from crude oil.  I am not an expert on the petrochemical industry but the oil refining process is one that is capable of producing a huge range of materials.  I sometimes wonder if future generations will curse us for using so much of what came out of the ground as a fuel rather than finding more creative and valuable uses for it.

Some people don’t like mineral oil because it is a petrochemical.  This is perfectly true.  As an industry petrochemicals is about as non-environmentally sound as they come.   It is based on non-renewable resources and is effectively the root cause of global warming.   If we carry on the way we are going the petrochemical business is going to either ruin the planet’s climate, or if we run out of the stuff first, cause huge economic dislocation.

Globalisation is built on the back of cheap transport that opens up the most inaccessible places for economic exploitation. The mineral oil you apply to your skin is one small part of the damage the oil industry is doing to the planet.  It will, sooner or later,  be broken down by micro-organisms and will contribute to global warming.  The only counter-argument is that the scale of use of petrochemicals by the personal care industry is a microscopic fraction of what other industries, especially transport, use.   If you are driving a car then you are already funding the petrochemical industry directly by way way more than in your choice of what you put on your skin. But the plain fact is, mineral oil is definitely not a green material by any stretch of the imagination.

But there are many other objections raised to mineral oil.  I have pointed out in previous posts that Arbonne reps make criticism of mineral oil a key part of their sales pitch.  I have never fully understood what their problem with it is – it doesn’t seem to be the environmental one.  It seems to revolve around the idea that it blocks the skin and prevents it from breathing and carrying out its detox function.  The breathing issue is easily dealt with.  We don’t breathe through our skins.  The skin only has a limited role in detoxifying as well.  Most of our detoxification is carried out in the liver and toxins are generally disposed of in the urine.  Some toxins are removed in the sweat or sloughed off along with dead skin cells.  But you would have to absolutely smother yourself with mineral oil to seriously affect sweating.  And applying mineral oil is not going to stop dead skin cells being shed.  There is not the slightest suspicion in my mind that mineral oil has any direct harmful effect on the skin at all.

Other suggestions are that mineral oil contains harmful impurities.  The impurity cited is usually polyaromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs, which are carcinogenic.   There may be a reason for the origin of this story.  Mineral oils are used in some industrial applications and these grades can contain PAHs.  There have been occupational health issues with these industrial grades, and if you do a bit of googling you can find details of these.  One case is drilling fluids used on lathes in machine shops.  The levels of PAHs permitted have been reduced and synthetic alternatives have been developed so hopefully this problem is on the way out.  But in any case, it has no relevance to the mineral oil used in cosmetics.

Many people refer to the Skin Deep database for information about the safety of cosmetic ingredients.  This is a shame because it is usually highly misleading.  Lets have a look at what it says about mineral oil.  It describes it as being of low to moderate hazard depending on the usage, getting two scores.  It is either a 2 or a 4.  I can’t see any explanation for how you know which score is relevant.

The risks that are highlighted are cancer, allergies/immunotoxicity and organ system toxicity(non-reproductive)/occupational hazards.  I have no idea what they base these suggestions on.  There are references given but not to actual papers, so it is hard to see what the person assessing the material was thinking when they assigned a score.

The database also notes a 73% data gap.  I have no idea how that data gap is calculated.  73% is a very precise number so I suppose it comes from applying some kind of equation.  I couldn’t find an explanation on the Skin Deep website.  The most I got was ‘ The “data gap” rating is a measure of how much is unknown about an ingredient.’  I had gathered that much from the name.  I think a big part of it might be that whoever carried out this particular assessment was under the impression that mineral oil had not gone through the Cosmetic Ingredient Review process.  This isn’t actually true, it was assessed in 1984 (see References).  This would be an understandable error because the name in the title of the assessment is Paraffin.  This is an easy mistake to make if you have no idea of chemistry or the way scientific information is reported.  Fair enough, but maybe you shouldn’t be compiling a database about the hazards associated with chemicals.

But even so, the 73% data gap suggests that there is a lot we don’t know about mineral oil, no matter how it is calculated.  This is ridiculous because it is a very well known material indeed.  This can be illustrated on the Skin Deep database itself.  In the section called data gap it reads “1,165 studies in PubMed science library may include information on the toxicity of this chemical”.  When you follow the link you find yourself in the PubMed database with a filter applied with all the synonyms for mineral applied.  I have just done exactly that and it gives 1229 results.  The change in the numbers is not surprising – PubMed is continually being updated as new papers are published.

PubMed is a great resource for people who want to keep up with the literature on a particular subject.  Even just looking at the number of results begins to give you a feel about a subject.  For instance, a material referred to in over a thousand papers is obviously pretty well known.  But to get a real idea you do have to actually read the papers.  To say that there are a lot of papers about a material and that some of them may include information on its toxicity doesn’t really mean anything.  In fact I have just looked and not one of the first 20 results has the slightest relevance to the toxicity of mineral oil as used in cosmetics.  I wonder if anyone ever looks at that bit of the Skin Deep database and concludes that there are over a thousand studies showing that mineral oil is toxic.

To be fair, the precise wording used isn’t actually wrong.  There are a lot of papers and some of them might well be relevant to the assessment of toxicity.  But it is just as likely that they show it to be non-toxic as toxic.  A more meaningful wording would be ‘a list of papers that randomly mention mineral oil and which we haven’t read’.  But in any case, the idea that there is any kind of gap in the data available for this material is clearly untrue.   My advice is to ignore the Skin Deep database, although I am grateful to it for giving me some good laughs from time to time.

One persistent story about mineral oil is that it is banned in the European Union.  The origin of this story is elusive.  It is easily disproved simply by looking on the EU’s CosIng database. (see references.)

There are health risks associated with mineral oil in non-personal care uses.  The ability to form a film that effectively stops things crossing it is very helpful on dry skin but is a menace in other parts of the body.  It used to be used in some foodstuffs.  I can remember it being used on raisins.  I haven’t come across any specific studies that have demonstrated it, but in principle it is possible that mineral oil could block the absorbing of nutrients in the digestive system.  I am glad it is no longer used.  Another problem that is well documented is if it gets into the lungs.  This can happen in certain industrial processes and is a cause for concern for people whose business is occupational health.  I think what this illustrates well is that in order to understand the risks something poses you really do need to have some idea of how it is being used and what it can do.  Mineral oil is harmful in the lungs for exactly the same reason that it is beneficial on the skin.

So to sum up, mineral oil is perfectly safe and you will come to no harm using it either neat or in products.  It isn’t at all green, and it is a non-renewable material.  If that is important to you then you should consider avoiding it.  But if you have a patch of itchy dry skin, putting some kind of barrier onto it is a good move.  Are there good alternatives for it?  There certainly are and if you chose not to use mineral oil there are plenty of alternatives.  Indeed, in most cases more natural alternatives to mineral oil can work nearly as well and can often offer other benefits that you can’t get from mineral oil.  But mineral oil does have one unique feature that can be helpful for some people.  Because it is so inert you are very unlikely to have any kind of reaction to it.  If you have very sensitive skin, mineral oil might be the best choice.

References

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20975563

EU CosIng database listing for Mineral Oil
http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/cosmetics/cosing/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.details_v2&id=35850

CIR Paraffin JACT 3(3):43-99, 1984

___________________

From the UK, Colin Sanders has been a formulator of cosmetic and topical pharmaceuticals for 27 years. Over that time he has formulated nearly every category of product including shampoos, cosmetic skin creams, pharmaceutical skin creams, face masks, lip balms and so on. He has been an active member of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists since 1985 and in 1999 organised the first of the Formulate shows. His degree is in environmental science and he continues to take a keen interest in the impact of human activities on the planet. He regards himself as an environmental activist and all round green. When not in the lab, he writes a blog, Colin’s Beauty Pages with the intention of entertaining and hopefully informing users of cosmetic and personal care products with some insider insights, a bit of science and his own opinions.

  • Anonymous

    Colin, what a great overview of mineral oil, thanks. It interesting that people do think it is banned in Europe. I had a question about terminology – sometimes I see ‘mineral oil’ and sometimes I see ‘paraffin’ on a label. How are they different?

    • http://twitter.com/beautyscientist beautyscientist

      Thanks for your kind words. The naming of these materials is a lot more complicated than the chemistry, and they are used by lots of different people for lots of different purposes. But for me, mineral oil is a generic term for all highly refined oils from the oil refining purpose. Paraffin specifically means an oil based on a hydrocarbon chain.

      • Dene Godfrey

        The original definition of paraffin was what is now known as alkanes, so not just hydrocarbon oils, but also methane, ethane, propane, etc. which are all gases.

        • Telesales2

          Dene you are brilliant and I’m sure well respected in your field.
          I believe we have spoken on linked.

        • MA grad

          Amazing amazing article and responses. I’m only on here because i got the sales pitch from an Arbonne lady last night; i’ve used the products for 24hours; had reactions with my nose and eyes; and now i have given up and am back to my normal cocoa butter. Im not going to slate Arbonne, Instead i just conclude that it didn’t work for me and i will not be made to feel guilty about my cocoa butter and Vaseline usage which i love!

  • http://greenskincareblog.com/ Kristin Fraser Cotte

    great post Colin, thanks for an awesome contribution to clarity and scientific explanation as to the issues with how the Skin Deep database “evaluates” ingredients!

  • http://greenskincareblog.com/ Kristin Fraser Cotte

    great post Colin, thanks for an awesome contribution to clarity and scientific explanation as to the issues with how the Skin Deep database “evaluates” ingredients!

    • http://twitter.com/beautyscientist beautyscientist

      I am pleased that you liked it.

  • Novice Makeup

    Thank you so much for this article. It explains a lot. I’m going to throw out my mineral oil lip gloss that I’ve been using recently. ‘Mineral’ oil is actually quite a misleading name. It makes it seem like it’s a healthy oil with ‘minerals’. Oops.

    • Dene62

      “Mineral oil” is not a misleading name – oil is a mineral! I don’t understand why you wish to waste money by throwing out perfectly good, safe product. I would not consider this to be the best option from an environmental point of view!

      • Piernik

        Actually oil is not a mineral, in order to be one it would have to be solid and have a ordered crystal lattice.
        But anyway thanks for a rational, reasonable and exhaustive post.

        • Piernik

          Thanks are, of course, for the author of the post :P

          • Perry Romanowski

            I think the term ‘mineral oil’ is from the old Linnaean taxonomy system. In this system you something is either an animal, vegetable, or mineral. Mineral oil is not an animal or vegetable oil, so it’s a mineral oil.

        • Dene62

          Thanks Piernik – you are, of course, correct – I don’t know what I was thinking of when I wrote that comment! :-(

  • Jennifer

    I really appreciate this article! My friend just started selling Arbonne, and the sales pitch is definitely geared to slash and hack the name of mineral oil, and to say how evil it is, and how wonderful and natural (and thus expensive) their products are. So, instead of freaking out and throwing away everything I own with that ingredient, I did some research. People are pretty split, and granted, most organic-promoting sites are going to say that it’s bad, but at least I am making an informed choice.

    I was wondering, in your research, have you found anything that gives other names for mineral oil? Also called liquid paraffin, petrolatum, etc, – are there other names?

    • Dene62

      Arbonne are notorious for mis-selling their products. Their “consultants” always slate mineral oil (with no scientific basis) and they often claim 100% natural, which is simply not true. I am sure the actual products are fine in themselves, but they are one of the worst examples of blatant distortion of the facts that I have ever come across.

      As a general rule, I would suggest you totally ignore any negative claims on organic sites and concentrate on the positive claims. The problem seems to be that most organic sites are uinable to sell their products in a positive way and have to resort to scaring consumers away from synthetic substances (again, in the absence of any real science) rather than explain any provable benefits of organic products. Additional safety is not one of the benefits of organic products – the only real positive is sustainability, and that is debatable in some cases.

    • Char

      I have been making skin care products for about 8 years with all natural ingredients. I was told years ago when I was researching products that mineral oil damages the vitamins A and D in your skin. Thats why it wasn’t good for people with skin problems and so I have never used it in my personal products. I also had a friend (Who makes my labels for my products-so she know what I use in them.) Tell me she went to an Arbonne party. She boughts some things and her skin broke out. I told her to read me the ingredients. I went right over to her house and we compared. I don’t think they use all natural ingedients. I told her a good rule to follow is if you can’t read their ingredients…….look it up and see exactly what it is. You might not want that on your skin either. So about mineral oil, I don’t know…….I just don’t use it for skin care.

  • Sarah

    I love all things unreactive for my skin because I have rosacea.

    • Terry

      I have rosacea or USED to have symptoms of rosacea until I started using Prosacea in a little tube I found at the Drug Store.  Doesn’t cure it, but used daily (very lightly, a little of the stuff goes a long way) completely controls the redness, which is all I care about.  My face used to look awful all the time!  TRY IT!  :)  It’s about $10 a tube, lasts a long long time.  Good luck! :)

  • Peter

    The British Pharmacopeia has a formula for Liquid Paraffin Oral Emulsion which is taken by mouth as a laxative. It’s been around for years which suggests it has a reasonable safety record (although it’s not recommended for frequent use).

    • Philippe Papadimitriou

      Thank you, Peter.

      Even if this info is true (and welcome), it isn’t really relevant here as this is a totally different route of exposure.

      Topical application is different than ingestion and/or inhalation. Topical application is also different than subcutaneous injection, intramuscular or blood injection.

      Not that I think you confuse these routes, Peter, but it’s important to mention it once again.

      • Peter

        Thanks for the reply Philippe, but I think I didn’t make myself clear.

        My point was that paraffin taken by mouth is likely to have a greater potential for absorption into the blood than paraffin given to the skin, although of course the dose, formulation and exposure time also have to be taken into account when evaluating risk.

        The fact that an oral emulsion of paraffin has been used for many years is an *indirect* indication of its safety. The BP is an official collection of standards which ultimately comes under European law so inclusion of products containing liquid paraffin (aka mineral oil) also helps expose the myth that mineral oil is banned in Europe.

  • Wellspringclinic

    I was with you until you brought up global warming. Do a little more research and you’ll figure it out.

    • Colinsanders

      I am always open to doing some more research and changing my mind in the light of it, but I don’t think this is the place to discuss that particular issue. There are plenty of other forums that cover global warming.

  • Gail

    Thank you for demystifying the mineral oil debate. 

  • Ro

    Do not use mineral oil, sold as Refresh PM, to instill into your eyes for relief of dry eye.  An ophthalmologist told me to try it.  It caused intense inflammation; I had to wash it out as best as I could. It is dangerous. He then gave me a prescription for antibiotic ointment.  It contained the same carrier substance–mineral oil!  I very carefully put it around the outside of my lower lid with the same results–intense painful inflammation.  Never again will I use mineral oil anywhere.  From what I have researched, some people are allergic to mineral oil.  So buyer beware.

    • http://www.sterlingminerals.com/ Katherine

      That is unfortunate you experienced a reaction, that could not have been any fun.  However, I use Refresh PM and it has been a life saver to my dry eye syndrome that I have suffered from for the last 10 years. 

      A broad statement such as “do not use mineral oil, sold as Refresh PM, to instill into your eyes for relief of dry eye”, because you had a reaction, is not practical.  As in all things, whether natural or synthetic, or ingredients in combination of others, can and will cause some people to have a reaction, yet still does not make them dangerous.  It is a matter of opinion of course, but if this carrier ingredient created a high number of reactions, then it of course would be monitored and pulled from the market, as in the case of the prescription using the same, the FDA would have it recalled if the numbers to reaction were there, as is the case of other drugs being used today.  There are no guarantees with anything we use in and on our bodies, and unfortunately, it is a trial and error that determines efficacy and performance in the market place.

      There is not a single ingredient on this planet that can make the claim it is “SAFE” no matter what it’s source.  I have customers that can’t use anything on their skin but “mineral oil” for their skincare, even organics cause them horrific reactions.  So it is a miracle ingredient for many also that cannot touch organics or natural ingredients to their skin….so as you can determine here, this ingredient is far from dangerous, but may require caution for those that could have a reaction such as in your case, since there are major differences between dangerous and allergic reaction.

    • Jeff

      Ro, I would be interested to know what other properties or ingredients were contained in this product.  Are you saying that Refresh ONLY contains mineral oil?

  • http://twitter.com/futurederm Nicki Zevola

    One of the best articles I’ve read on the topic; thank you!  If you ever want to write for FutureDerm.com, I’d be honored to have you contribute!

  • jo

    thanks so much for this post :)

  • http://www.keelywatson.co.nz/ Keely Watson

    Thanks for a great article. I definitely lean towards plant oils over mineral oil, but am interested to know is there any benefit to using mineral oil over a plant oil (eg Jojoba), apart from it being a cheaper option. 

    • http://personalcaretruth.com Lisa M. Rodgers

      Thanks for your comments, Keely!

  • Tes

    Bottom line is that mineral oil is the excessive run-off after crude oil is processed for gasoline.  I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but just the idea of applying such an ingredient onto my skin is quite unnerving.  Who in their right mind would be okay with knowingly applying such an ingredient like mineral oil onto their skin that does nothing to heal the skin:  especially when there are plenty of great lotions/products that don’t include this ingredient and actually work?  To justify such a nasty ingredient like mineral oil because you are displeased with the sales pitch of a company representative is quite juvenile.  The fact that a company rep speaks negatively about a cheap filler ingredient, such as mineral oil, does not mean that their claims about the ingredient not being a beneficial to the user when used in lotions & cosmetics are not valid.  I personally have never found a product/lotion that has some form of mineral oil in it that has improved my dry skin.  If anything, the heavy greasy feel that is left from applying lotions with mineral oil as an ingredient is quite unpleasant.  I thought the whole purpose of using skincare lotions/products is to actually improve & heal the skin?  If the skin is not healing from the use of a product, then if anything you’re just wasting your money, regardless of whether the product has mineral oil in it or not.  It’s all in the healing.  The rest of the debate is pointless otherwise.

    • http://colinsbeautypages.co.uk/ Colin

      If you don’t like the idea of using mineral oil and don’t find it helps you very much, there are plenty of alternatives.  I rarely use it myself, I prefer other approaches.  But I can assure you that lots of people do find it helpful.  Arbonne’s negative attitude to mineral oil displeases me because it is silly, but that hasn’t affected my opinion of mineral oil, only of Arbonne..  

    • Dene62

      If you are looking for products that heal the skin, you are looking in the wrong place with cosmetics – you need pharmaceutical preparations. Cosmetics are not allowed to have a healing effect on the skin – that’s why they are called cosmetics. This site is about cosmetics, not pharma products. Mineral oil isn’t included in cosmetics to heal the skin for this very reason.

      There is no such thing as a “fliier ingredient” – every ingredient has a purpose, even if only as a solvent or carrier. Cost is irrelevant to the safety of an ingredient, and safety is paramount.

      I don’t know where you get the idea of the production process for mineral oil, but it is not as you describe. It is a clean fraction from the cracking process and is deliberately produced. Bottom line seems to be that you don’t like anything associated with oil/petroleum, but you don’t seem to have an understanding of the chemistry/toxicology, or of the purpose of cosmetics.

    • Vanessa

      Tes, I think you you shouldn’t use any product with water. Water is a product obtained from a reaction of gasoline with oxigen, it might be dangerous to your health (according to your logic).

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/3TJ6IQVGPH4GOAEM6UNLDUIHEM Lil Dragonfly

    (edit-read your other comment.)

  • Alexandria Roberts

    I am an Independant Consultant for Arbonne International. We are an eco-friendly, botanically based skincare, cosmetic and health company. And one of the ingredients that we definately do not formulate our products with is mineral oil. It is extremly TOXIC!!! Yes, it does create a barrier over the skin but that is only because the molecule is too big to completly absorbe into your skin. Some of this does actually get into your skin, which is a big factor with health issues. Doctors have found a high rate of hydrocarbon (which is mineral oil) in the blood of cancer patients. Mineral oil is a MAN MADE, cheap ingredient which proves it does not belong on our skin. It is only in all of our product because it’s inexpensive and has an indefinate shelf life. Don’t beleive me? Then put a regular saltine cracker in a jar of mineral oil and sit it on your counter for a week. Do the same thing, only put the other cracker in a jar of water. After that week the cracker in water will be bloated and scattered, the cracker in mineral oil will still look the same and will probably end up outliving you!! The salt grains will probably still be on it too! This is because the mineral oil is unable to absorbe into the cracker, unlike the pure and natural water. The fact that you beleive mineral oil is safe and you are are a cosmetic formulator extremly disturbes me. I do know of people who have broke out with Arbonne products and I know it is a turn-off. I broke out myself. Then after 30 days of using it I everything cleared away, even my acne and a little scaring i had. Sometimes people break out because the product is being delivered to the deepest layers of your and its pulling out all the other nasty stuff you have been using on your skin. And the only way fo this to come out is in a blemish. I do not want to sound cocky about Arbonne because i am sure there is other great stuff out there… but not mineral oil

    • Colin

      Arbonne is sold via a multi-level marketing scheme. The price you pay for the product has to pay a lot of commissions on its way to you. Even if they didn’t engage in this rather pathetic scare mongering their products would still represent pretty poor value for money.

    • Dene Godfrey

      Alexandria – I have
      four major issues with your post:

      1) You use it to promote Arbonne International

      2) The claims you make for Arbonne are not true

      3) You make false statements about mineral oil

      4) The “experiment” with mineral oil and crackers is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard of

      In reverse order – about 3 years ago, an Arbonne consultant surfaced in a LinkedIn discussion with this nonsense about mineral oil and quoted this absurd experiment as evidence.

      Either Arbonne consultants are recruited exclusively from some mutant race with skin like crackers, or they are lacking in any sort of critical thinking. How can you possibly believe that the experiment with crackers, mineral oil and water can be extrapolated to the effect of mineral oil on skin. What have crackers and human skin got in common, in a structural and functional sense? (The answer, should you be struggling with this one, is NOTHING). You may as well replace the cracker with a piece of old bicycle tyre or a condom for all the use it is. This is unmitigated nonsense and you are guilty of exploiting the gullibility, lack of scientific knowledge and critical thinking of your victims.

      You clearly have NO understanding of the meaning of “highly toxic”. Mineral oil is NOT highly toxic, and your example of doctors finding a high level of “hydrocarbon” (which is not necessarily mineral oil by any stretch of the imagination) proves nothing. Water is present in every cancer cell, and I can use the same logic as you to conclude that water causes cancer. Provide a reference to a credible scientific publication if you wish to substantiate such outrageous claims – otherwise, I can dismiss your claim as rubbish (as I have done). You appear to have little understanding of science. “Yes, it does create a barrier over the skin but that is only because the molecule is too big to completely absorb into your skin” (spelling corrected) – and what is wrong with the molecule being too big to be absorbed? Nothing whatsoever! You contradict yourself anyway; you first state that it is too big to penetrate the skin, then you say it is partially absorbed, then you finish off by claiming that doctors have detected it in blood. Either it’s too big to be absorbed, or it’s not – you can’t have it both ways! If it isn’t absorbed, please explain how it gets into the bloodstream (answer – it doesn’t!)! (Additionally, substances may not be able to be absorbed because of their chemical nature, so it is not exclusively due to the size of the molecule, but I wouldn’t expect you to know that.) Another question – how does the fact that mineral oil is man-made “prove”
      that it doesn’t belong on the skin (and does the low cost of the substance
      further prove that it doesn’t belong on the skin?). This is nonsense, but if
      Arbonne truly believe this, then perhaps they should remove all the silicones and other synthetic ingredients they use in their products? (Check the ingredient lists – I have, and they’re there in every product!) I suppose that you don’t agree with using sunscreens, because they are all synthetic substances as well! Is there an end to this nonsense?

      You oversell Arbonne in a big way (and have no right to sound cocky about the company)! I am not sure in what way they are “eco-friendly” (but no more so than the majority of companies, I suspect), but their products are not “botanically-based” they are based mostly on synthetic ingredients – this claim is a lie. The one thing that CAN be said for Arbonne is that they train their consultants extremely badly and focus on the mythical dangers of mineral oil to an extent that borders on paranoia. I have seen several examples of gross misselling by Arbonne consultants, so I am not using you as the sole example of their behaviour; it is too consistently bad to dismiss as coincidence.

      Your understanding of the workings of the skin leaves much to be desired, in fact, everything you have stated leaves a lot to be desired. You pose as someone who knows what they are talking about – you don’t, and I politely suggest that you avoid posting such rubbish where scientists will see it, because you will be found out very quickly. The sad thing is that you probably don’t accept that you don’t know what you are talking about because you have been told this nonsense by someone else at Arbonne – they have a great deal to answer for – you are lying to your customers and misleading them with your silly cracker (how appropriate) experiment. You (and your Arbonne colleagues) should be ashamed.

      Dene Godfrey

      • Ash

        Haha so you just ripped into this consultant because she is supposedly promoting Arbonne? Seriously? I found this article interesting until I saw this nasty post. The “scientific” article specifically called out Arbonne, basically asking for someone to defend it. Then you lash out on someone who took the time to respond with her opinion by insulting her over and over and over again. Wow, if you are a professional in the field YOU should be ashamed, not her. That was so inappropriate and unprofessional and would make any reader question what your agenda is in writing it. I’m not a consultant although I have used Arbonne before. The products work for me and my consultant is not misleading at all. She had results with the product so she shared it with me mineral oil aside. Your childish backlash on that reader’s post make you look defensive and damage your credibility as far as I’m concerned.

        • Dene Godfrey

          1) Yes, Alexandria IS promoting Arbonne. (To give more than the name of the company and to include promo blurb IS promotion). No, I didn’t “rip” into this “consultant” BECAUSE she is promoting Arbonne; I “ripped into her” for talking absolute nonsense, and pretending to know what she is talking about, when it is clear to me that she doesn’t.

          2) She is NOT “giving her opinion”, she is stating what she claims to be “facts”. There is a massive difference. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own “facts”.

          3) I did not INSULT Alexandria – I CRITICISED her. Again, there is a massive difference.

          Colin’s article included references to support his claims. Alexandria provided no such supporting evidence for her counter-claims and I am, therefore, entirely justified in dismissing her “facts”.

          I never claimed that Arbonne products don’t work, although your rather scant evidence that “they worked for me” hardly constitutes a statistically significant body of supporting data. I am sure that Arbonne products are fine, and I am equally sure that some people who get a reaction to SOME other products on the market may find Arbonne products to be perfectly acceptable.

          As I have stated many times in the past, I have no problem with Arbonne’s products, only the inflated and distorted claims made by many of their “consultants” (for “consultants, read “sales force” – “consultant” implies a level of knowledge and understanding that is clearly absent).

          I am not in the least bit ashamed of my response. The industry has to contend with far too many people pretending to know what they are saying when, in fact, they don’t. Nonsense is nonsense, and deserves to be called out.

          “To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact” (Charles Darwin)

  • Heidi

    Dont beleive mineral oil is beneficial. it sets on your skin and prevents any beneficial ingredient that is in your product from absorbing into your skin. So Yeah, your favorite product might have vitamin A and coconut oil in it, but its not helping your skin if it also contains mineral oil.

    • Dene Godfrey

      Heidi- your “belief” is precisely that – a belief. It’s not based on science and you have just ignored everything that a respected scientist has written. You assume that the mineral oil in the product preferentially beats every other ingredient to the skin surface and then prevents anything else from making contact with it. That isn’t logical. Mineral oil does more to prevent water escaping from the skin than it does to prevent other ingredients from coming into contact with the skin. If the vitamin A is a critical ingredient in providing a measurable effect on product performance, then the product would not be launched if it didn’t actually work (in theory) and, therefore, mineral oil would not be used if this were the case. Don’t believe in beliefs, believe in facts!

      • Samantha Maline

        “Then the product would not be launched if it didn’t actually work”

        You’re putting far too much trust in the people who sell products. They routinely put ingredients in that don’t work and launch them. Ever heard of “snail snot”? You’re also assuming that the actives are reaching the skin before the mineral oil. Mineral oil is a barrier and does not “absorb”. It’s an occlusive ingredient, laying on the surface of the skin preventing water loss and preventing things from entering “in”. Anything mixed up in it is not going to be able to enter the skin in its full potential. A small amount may penetrate but not like if it weren’t mixed with mineral oil. Occlusive ingredients should be applied after application of actives.

        • Dene Godfrey

          Samantha, the majority of cosmetic manufacturers (and certainly the larger ones) invest a great deal of effort in making sure the product performs to expectations. I am sure that not all companies do this, however, and it is likely to be the smaller ones that don’t have the resources.

          • Samantha Maline

            I would agree with you to a point. Most products are coming out of one of top five companies that own and distribute the majority of products. While they do spend a lot of money on R&D, they routinely make giant assumptions on ingredient effectiveness if it shows even a little promise. A recent one from Shiseido Labs is L-Proline. The problem is that they don’t want to put a ton of time into deep clinical research because it can take years. Instead they want to be the first to launch a finished product and see where the chips fall. If they “think” it has effectiveness, and it’s proven safe, what better way to test it than on the public? I don’t have a problem with this approach, however the public needs to be aware that this is how it’s done. They need to be the ones to choose between the time-tested ingredients and newly researched ingredients. I allow myself to be a guinea pig all the time!

          • Dene Godfrey

            I am not sure what you mean by “clinical research”. You make it sound like a pharmaceutical active, and no cosmetic should have a pharmacological effect. (Not a significant one, at least!)

          • Samantha Maline

            What about Retinol and glycolic? Under 2% retinol is sold OTC and over it is pharmaceutical. They both do the same thing but at different degrees of results. Retinol, vitamin c, glycolic, and many others have been backed by independent clinical studies conducted by Harvard and other schools. When an ingredient shows promise and stands the test of time and long term research, we know it works. But, as in the case of L-Proline, it’s been around for a while but it’s affect on the skin is not as thoroughly proven. We know what it does in the body but not as an application to the skin. So while it may have promise, it does not have the long-term scientific proof. But, it’s already being distributed. Like I said before. If it’s deemed a safe product, the actual results as far as skin improvement don’t have to take precedence in the decision to distribute it or not.

          • Samantha Maline

            And let’s not forget hydroquinone!

  • Marie
    • Dene Godfrey

      David Suzuki is wrong. Enough said. (Or almost enough – the EU does NOT consider mineral oil to be a carcinogen – this is total nonsense, and typical of the distortions that regularly emanate from this self-appointed “foundation”).

  • kevin hopf

    according to some Ayurvedic sources petroleum products will drive disease deeper into the body when it is used internally or externally. That is why it should never come in contact with living tissue. This knowledge was gained not through scientific research but through refined perception gained in higher states of consciousness.

    • Beautyscientist

      I have respect for traditional medicines and ancient writings. But this is a scientific blog and I will have to trouble you for a scientific justification to confirm any assertions drawn from alternative sources.

  • kevin hopf

    There will be no scientific verification. Our technology is not advanced enough. Maybe someday scientists will be able to see it but not today. I would put my faith in an enlightened teacher. Refined perception is hard to come by. The knowledge of the Vedas on the other hand is timeless. The same understanding arises over and over in minds that are ready. Since we are on the edge of an age of suffering (Kali Yuga) the Vedas and enlightenment are seen by the majority to be a waste of time. Patience ,Kali Yuga is 432 thousand years in duration.

    • Dene Godfrey

      With respect, Kevin, if there is no scientific verification, you should not be making such claims. If there is such an effect as you describe, then it should be fairly simple to prove it. Whilst I respect your right to believe in such things, you should not make statements of “fact” that are not proven/provable. “Timeless knowledge” is meaningless in the absence of proof that the knowledge is accurate.

    • Beautyscientist

      I am not at all sure that spirituality can be applied to toxicology in this way Kevin. Most enlightenment from these kinds of teachers relates to the health of the soul. It doesn’t really tell you much about dermal absorbtion rates.

  • Samantha Maline

    This was a great article. In esthetics school they gave us a “Dirty Dozen” list where Mineral Oil was ranked number one in a list of ingredients that we were to avoid if we are to be considered professional. It’s been pretty difficult avoiding that list! Sometimes I find myself talking about a product that ranks as pro-only only to flip it over and see something like talc as the third ingredient. As I get more established in my career I’ve realized it’s not necessarily the ingredient that is bad, but rather the choice of product for the skin. On the wrong skin mineral oil can be comedogenic but in super dry skin can be effective in retaining moisture better than even plant oils that would instantly soak in and still leave the surface feeling dry. I love jojoba but sometimes in dry climates it’s next to impossible to not feel chapped.

    • kevin hopf

      Several years ago a Japanese company decided to speed up their production of tryptophan (a food supplement) by genetically modifying the bacteria they were using. This resulted in almost immediate death for some and permanent damage for others. When the CDC was put on the case they looked closely at the altered bacteria and could find no reason why it should be toxic yet enlightened teachers told me over twenty years ago that those eating genetically altered foods would have a very short life. Western science has preferred to ignore ancient wisdom, at its own peril. Ayurvedic medicine originated in a scientific understanding far superior to anything we have today and is specifically meant to create health on a physiologic level because without a healthy vibrant body free of stress the soul can not shine through as easily. Western science is simply not equipped at this time to prove all these ancient scientists could directly perceive. It is true that the understanding of Ayurveda and in fact all the Vedas has been a bit lost or corrupted over the millenniums and this is partly to blame for the total lack of consideration awarded this vast and incredibly detailed body of knowledge. Western scientists and western doctors lack the intellect and perception necessary to fully comprehend the depth of the knowledge in the Vedas. I realize without a clear, personal experience of transcending relative time and space this will all sound like pie in the sky nonsense. Over time transcending opens all the windows of perception and removes stress from the body allowing the fortunate to know anything ,one thing at a time.

      • Dene Godfrey

        Yes, Kevin, you are correct – it DOES sound like pie in the sky nonsense. Can we stick to science, please (as Colin suggested earlier) and try to avoid making outrageous generalised claims about the intellect of western scientists (indeed, ANY outrageous, generalised claims)?

  • guest

    Great info! While I never had this problem when I was younger, in my teens I noticed lip balms containing petroleum jelly started giving me itchy, dry, peeling lips. As I said, I had used them without problems for years, and switched to petroleum free lip balm and the problem subsided, is it possible I developed some type of sensitivity? I also noticed around the same time that (petroleum based) neosporin started to make me itch when it never did in the past.

    My aunt experienced the same thing, she used the balms for years and eventually switched to something petroleum free due to the irritation. I also noticed that products with petroleum seemed to worsen my acne, but I could never be 100% sure that was the cause, as is the case with any product containing more than one ingredient.

  • Lorraine Law

    I think the bottom line in all products is in the results. The question would then be, are you getting greater results with or without mineral oil? the results make an argument irrefutable. So in which products are we seeing better healing, greater longer-lasting hydration, improved & sustained elasticity, etc?