Mineral oil is not bad for you!

If you watch my YouTube (go subscribe right now!), you know I got the Urban Decay Naked 2 palette on Saturday, and it came with a little Lip Junkie Lip Gloss sample in Naked. I’ve been wearing them both, and the staying power of the lip gloss totally blew me away. My first thought was, “This has as much staying power as Elf! I wonder if it’s got mineral oil?”

The answer was “yes.” One of the main ingredients is mineral oil. And yes, whenever something stays on my lips through lunch, I think of Elf because their formulas have ridiculous staying power. And it’s all down to that mineral oil. Which so many people think is so bad for them.

But you know who else uses mineral oil? Shu Uemura, in their cleansing oils. La Mer, in their miracle creams. And Ponds cold cream. And baby oil.

Mineral oil myths

There have been a lot of rumors over the years. Specifically, that mineral oil will:

  • Accelerate aging. Mineral oil forms a protective barrier to keep moisture in and pollutants out. This fact has been twisted on many websites and in magazines to mean that it stops your skin from “breathing”, which gives you wrinkles (huh?). The truth is, mineral oil helps lock moisture into your skin while keeping pollutants out, like an antioxidant. If anything, it might help slow down signs of aging.
  • Give you cancer. There are no studies to back this up. There are studies which suggest petrolatum may have a connection with cancer (and premature aging). But even if that’s true, mineral oil, while related to petrolatum, is a very different ingredient. Here the American Cancer Society tells you how to drink it to help with irregularity. Would they recommend drinking something that causes cancer?
  • Mineral oil clogs pores/causes acne. For individuals who already have acne, mineral oil can cause irritation and may need to be avoided. But for everyone else, it will not clog pores, will not create skin problems, and is perfectly safe.
  • Mineral oil is “toxic”, whatever that means. Here’s an abstract which shows that many animal testing studies (sorry, I know) have been done and found no toxicity when mineral oil is applied to skin.

Truths about mineral oil

  • Mineral oil is not petroleum, even though it’s distantly derived from it. Mineral oil used is cosmetics is or “cosmetics grade” and regulated by the FDA.
  • It’s a great moisturizer. Mineral oil does everything you want a moisturizer to do.
  • Mineral oil makes better lip glosses. Like I said above, the longest wearing lip glosses I’ve ever worn had mineral oil. I also find it moisturizes my lips. Elf is not using mineral oil because it’s cheap. They’re using it because they’re made in China, and the anti-mineral oil panic never spread over there.
  • Mineral oil is good in cleansers. Like I said above, Shu Uemura’s cleansing oil has mineral oil as the main ingredient, and so do many drugstore cold creams. I’ve tested these products against other cleansers (by using them and then sweeping a cotton ball with toner over my face to see how much dirt got left behind), and I’ve found mineral oil to be extremely thorough, even without the most thorough cleansing process (i.e., rubbed cold cream over my face quickly without taking the time to massage it in).
  • Mineral oil is safe in face products. Unless you are sensitive to mineral oil, it’s safe to use in face moisturizers, foundations, etc. I haven’t come across a foundation with it in years (Elf had one, but they quickly changed it when everyone complained).
  • Mineral oil is rarely allergenic, compared to other ingredients.

Who spread the lies about mineral oil?

It’s impossible to say, but there are a few types of corporations who would benefit from having everyone believe mineral oil is bad:

  • Small companies using “natural ingredients” who need to explain why their products don’t work as well. When companies use sunflower oil or soy oil or whatever instead of mineral oil, their products don’t last as long or work as well. “But the mineral oil that works so well is actually evil, EVIL we tell you!” is a pretty good excuse, if you can get people to believe you.
  • Big companies wanting to charge more. At first, products without mineral oil were rare. But as the anti-mineral oil panic spread, they rushed to produce formulas using other oils or no oils at all – and charged you for the privilege. And gee, somehow the prices never went down as these other ingredients became more plentiful and cheap.

How to tell who’s telling the truth

Notice that I had links to back up what I say here, and those links go to actual reports of actual scientific studies. Studies are the real deal, folks. Whenever I see a site like JustNatural.com telling me how evil mineral oil is, they have no links to back up their claims – no citations, not even any references to studies. They just say “it clogs your pores” and expect you to believe it. Always look for sites that actually give you links or citations to back up their claims. And then double check the links to make sure they aren’t just to someone else saying the same thing. And then double check any studies to make sure they weren’t done by companies who sell cosmetics or “natural” cosmetics, because that’s like trusting a Marlboro study that says nicotine is good for you.

My dermatologist’s first lecture to me was: don’t use products with “natural” ingredients from rain forests and whatnot. I had bought into all that hype, and she told me that it was much safer to stick with proven ingredients which have been studied for a long time – and that makes sense. You have no idea what some non-FDA regulated “natural” ingredient might do, but despite all the hype, people have been using mineral oil for a century, and where are all the people who’ve gotten cancer or looked 70 when they were 50 from using it?


  1. Alina S says

    Excellent post! I agree with everything u say here, though I’m quite sad because I have acne for almost a year now, and, like you said, applying a mineral oil based cream is quite irritating on the acne spots :( I have dry skin (even more so now with all the acne treatments and lack of proper hydration), and all the “oil-free” moisturazers I’ve tried have yet to properly take care of my skin. I dont feel like they are powerful enough to really sink into the skin, they just absorb real fast (1-2 minutes!) and although it makes it feel smooth, at the same time it feels tight and uncomfortable :( I’m currently using a whitening-marketed cream as a night cream, I find it’s actually clearing out my acne (it contains fruity acids, it’s a great chemical exfoliant, and it’s real cheap too), but I’m searching for a good nourishing cream for day time..after i finish the oil-free crappy cream, I’ll definately try to go back to something mineral oil based! :)

    • Jen says

      I also have very dry skin, partly because I use acne creams, too (not for acne, but for another condition). My dermatologist recently recommended using Aquaphor at night and an oil free moisturizer for daytime. Aquaphor is petrolatum and mineral oil based. I don’t know if it would work for you, but she says it’s as good as anything else out there, so it might be worth a try if you want to try something with mineral oil. :)

    • Tin Lizzie Made Of Clay says

      I know its a little late to post this, but if you’re still having trouble I use uncoated aspirin for acne. I crush it up and and a little bit of water to make a paste and then leave it on my face until its dried. I tried the oil cleansing method and got TERRIBLE acne from it and so far the aspirin mask has been a life saver!! For dry skin I just put some vitamin e oil I found at cvs and rub a small amount on my face at night. It really helps with dryness, I’ve had cracked lips heal over night from vitamin e so I’m sure it will help a dry face!

  2. Arlene Anderson says

    I have very terrible itchy dry skin all the time especally during the winter and happened to find a bottle of swan mineral oil that I had purchased a few months ago for constipation issues. I applied it to my skin, including my face and lips and have been sold ever since. As long as my skin tolerates it, I will never buy another bottle of lotion or moisturizer again. My skin is soft and smooth all day and night. my cracked heals are soft and smooth and my hands stays moisturized even after washing with soap several times. No more itching and dryness for me!

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