Why The Industry Loves Mineral Oil

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I recently asked a highly respected cosmetic chemist in the industry for his take on petrolatum (mineral oil) vs. vegetable oils. We had an interesting exchange. No, that's not some fancy way of saying we had a heated discussion – it was enlightening and quite pleasant, thank you very much.

I was also reaffirmed in my beliefs on why the industry loves mineral oil. Here is a condensed version of our exchange.

LisaLise vs Cosmetic Chemist

My standpoint: vegetable oils have more to offer skin than petrolatum. They are absorbed by the skin as well as bringing vitamins and other 'goodies' to any mix. Petrolatum does none of these things. Instead, it builds up on the surface of the skin, eventually clogging pores.

His standpoint: don't favor one or the other but take a neutral, scientific view and look to test results and studies before deciding what to use. He maintained that petrolatum was the best moisturizing ingredient for skin and this was proven in studies. (He also kindly supplied me with links to study results).

During our communications, he also mentioned that if vegetable oils could be proven better in laboratory testing, cosmetic companies would switch from petrolatum.

Ok. Fair enough.

If there is no scientific evidence that vegetable oils have more to offer skin than petrolatum, it's perfectly understandable (even for a 'greenie' such as myself) that the industry would continue to favor petrolatum.

I mean, let's be honest here. Petrolatum has several things going for it:
  • non-allergenic 
  • odorless 
  • has a long shelf life
  • inexpensive
  • non-comedogenic*

From an industry standpoint, what's not to love?

Would it Be Too Much of a Bother..?

The exchange stayed with me. I couldn't help thinking that there might not be scientific evidence of vegetable oils having more to offer in the way of skin care than petrolatum because no one has bothered testing this in earnest.

Ok, it's unfair to use the expression 'bothered' when it comes to testing ingredients. Testing of this nature is downright pricey and takes time – lots of it. Still, one would think it was in the interest of the cosmetics industry to explore this avenue.

Shortly thereafter, I happened to start researching coconut oil for an upcoming blogpost. Guess what I found?

There is a veritable slew of studies on coconut oil for skin care - and hair care, and the news is all good!

Stay tuned!

* As to whether mineral oil is non-comedogenic: my personal experiences are quite the opposite with this particular point, so I'm researching this!


Ruth said…
I'm glad they are starting to do studies. I have to wonder if the wide use of mineral oil has to the with fact that it is inexpensive.
I don't need to wait for the studies. I make my own beauty products and I use all those "other oils", and find my products work so much better than all the storebought ones that use mineral oils.
LisaLise said…
Hey there Ruth - Thanks for your input! I have to agree with you about the advantages of using vegetable and plant-based ingredients, although we can't get around the fact that there are challenges to working with plant based oils. Despite all that, I will always look first to a plant-based solution when shopping ingredients. I'd love to hear more about your products. What do you make?
Rikke said…
Thank you Lise for this very interesting post!!
LisaLise said…
Always a pleasure Rikke!