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Why You Should Stop Using Petroleum Jelly On Your Skin (It’s a Byproduct of the Petroleum Manufacturing Process)

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Here is why you should stop using petroleum jelly immediately

Many people use Vaseline as a cheap way to soften and moisturize their skin. Petroleum jelly is a semisolid mixture of fatty substances that are a byproduct of the crude oil industry. A common brand name is Vaseline. Although it can soften skin, there are many reasons never to put petroleum jelly on your skin. Products containing petroleum jelly can contaminate the body, interfere with estrogen levels, and may contain carcinogenic substances.

The good news is that there are much safer and better alternatives for your skin without the health issues associated with petroleum jelly.

Natural emollients like coconut oil, Shea butter, jojoba oil, and almond oil are completely natural products that haven’t gone through a refining process. These oils contain many natural and healthy ingredients that nourish, moisturize, and protect your skin at the same time – something which petroleum jelly cannot do. In fact, some of those natural oils are so healthy that you can cook with them!


Read on to find out why you should stop using petroleum jelly on your skin and what natural alternatives are much better.

What is Vaseline

Vaseline contains petroleum jelly which is refined from oil extracted from the ground. The chemist behind the discovery of petroleum jelly noticed how oilmen would smear residue from the oil drill on wounds to help them heal. The oil residue is refined to remove impurities from it, which results in petroleum jelly.

What Petroleum Jelly Does to Your Skin

Apart from being an ingredient in Vaseline, many beauty products contain petroleum jelly to help keep moisture in the skin. It does this by forming a protective, waterproof layer over the skin. It may be listed on beauty and skincare products as petrolatum, mineral oil, paraffin oil, or liquid paraffin.

Having a waterproof layer on your skin may seem like a good thing, but the problem is that petroleum jelly doesn’t allow your skin to breathe. This means that it doesn’t allow moisture to enter your skin. Petroleum jelly could also aggravate problems like acne and rosacea because it can lock in dirt and grime in your pores.

So, all petroleum jelly does is softening your skin but without any other health benefits for your skin. For example, natural oils are much better for your skin because they contain nourishing fatty acids, vitamins, antioxidants, antibacterial properties, and antimicrobial properties that protect your skin naturally.

However, there are many who promote the benefits of using petroleum jelly for dry skin. For example, Dr. Andrew Weil says that all types of harmful substances are removed from petroleum jelly during the refining process.1 Dr. Alexa Kimball from Stanford University Medical Center says that petroleum jelly is an excellent moisturizer and doesn’t cause allergic reactions.2 Also, the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology says that industrial grade mineral oil may be comedogenic, however cosmetic grade mineral oil is not.

Vaseline says on its website that its product is non-comedogenic, which means that the product itself does not block pores. The website also mentions that the product is triple-filtered, ensuring it is truly free from impurities and safe to use.


This, however, doesn’t mean that petroleum based products are 100% safe. Dr. Weil says that products containing petroleum jelly are not safe to be applied inside of the nostrils as this could cause lung inflammation.1 According to Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson from Mayo Clinic, inhaling fat-based substances such as petroleum jelly or mineral oil for prolonged periods can cause lung problems. The bottom line is that you should not apply petroleum jelly inside of the nostrils to relieve dry nose. It’s also worth noting that Vaseline has a warning that it’s for external use only.

Dangers Associated with Petroleum Jelly

In order to find out if petroleum jelly is completely safe and doesn’t cause any side effects, let’s look at what science says as to the safety of petroleum jelly. Some of these reasons may convince you to stop using petroleum jelly on your skin altogether.

Contaminates the body

One concern with using petroleum jelly on your skin is that your body can’t metabolize it. Therefore, petroleum jelly provides no benefit to your skin or body other than softening dry skin. Some research also suggests that petroleum jelly contains harmful substances that can build up in the body.

The Journal of Women’s Health published a report saying that hydrocarbons from cosmetics in mineral oil (which is also a petroleum product) can contaminate the body. The scientists found that these compounds enter the body through the skin, inhalation, and diet. These are then stored in the fat tissue and can be passed on through breastfeeding. They concluded that “cosmetics might be a relevant source of the contamination.”3

This is a cause for concern because the Journal of Women’s Health stated that “mineral oil hydrocarbons are the greatest contaminant of the human body.”

Affects estrogen levels

Compounds in petroleum jelly may also cause higher estrogen levels in the body. An estrogen dominance in the body affects a woman’s reproductive system, causes fibrocystic breast changes, mood swings and premenstrual syndrome.

The Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology found that petroleum jelly has estrogen activity. The increase in estrogen levels was connected with using petroleum jelly and products containing petroleum jelly for skin care. The researchers found that petroleum jelly contains hydrocarbons and that the refining process can vary by manufacturer. The concern is that petroleum jelly products can negatively affect the endocrine system.4

May contain carcinogenic substances

What’s even more worrying about using petroleum-based substances is that they may contain cancer-causing compounds.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that many cosmetic products that are petroleum-based contain a cancerogenic substance called 1,4-Dioxane. This has been found in around 22% of cosmetics including baby soaps and body lotions. Although EWG rates Vaseline as having no cancer risk,5 they recommend that “consumers must choose products carefully, with an eye toward avoiding potentially hazardous ingredients.”6

A report published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology on the cancer-causing effect of mineral oil and petroleum based products found a connection between mineral oil and cancer but not with petroleum jelly. The researchers found that petroleum jelly didn’t have an effect on tumor growth whereas mineral oil sped up tumor growth.7

So, it seems that there is much controversy if rubbing petroleum jelly on the skin will actually cause tumors and currently the link is not established yet. However, why take the risk when much better natural emollients are available? Is it not better to use natural oils that don’t just soften skin, but provide nutrients and help keep skin healthy? Especially, when it’s been scientifically proven that petroleum jelly does have health concerns associated with it.

Other health problems associated with petroleum jelly

Another associated problem petroleum jelly products have is their effect on the skin when it forms a protective barrier.


Risk of bacterial vaginosis

Doctors have found that using petroleum jelly can put a woman at a greater risk of developing bacterial vaginosis or candidiasis.

The journal Obstetrics & Gynecology reported that women who used petroleum jelly around their vaginal area were twice as likely to develop bacterial vaginosis.8 According to Dr. Sten Vermund from the Institute for Global Health, petroleum jelly is slightly alkaline and may promote the growth of “bad” bacteria in the vagina. Dr. Vermund explains that an acidic vaginal environment is essential for vaginal health.9

Lipoid pneumonia

Another health risk of using petroleum jelly alluded to by Dr. Andrew Weil earlier in this article is developing lipoid pneumonia. Inhaling petroleum products over prolonged period can cause respiratory complications.

The Journal of General Internal Medicine reports that lipoid pneumonia occurs when petroleum jelly or mineral oil is inhaled or ingested. The researchers reported that frequently using lip balm with mineral oil or applying petroleum jelly to your nasal passages can increase your risk of lipoid pneumonia.10


The University of Maryland lists petroleum jelly as a poisonous substance that can be harmful if swallowed or gets into your eyes.11  

Very often, petroleum jelly is recommended because it is a cheap skin moisturizer. But, it is good to remember that your skin is the largest organ in your body. Do you really want to be using cheap products on your skin when there are better and safer alternatives?

For example, research published in the journal Dermatitis found that coconut oil is just as effective and safe as mineral oil at treating dry, itchy skin. What’s more, coconut oil also has an antiseptic effect on the skin which can kill off infection-causing germs.12

Natural alternatives to Petroleum Jelly

To help keep your skin looking good and healthy, let’s look at why you should consider many of the great natural alternatives available if you no longer want to use petroleum jelly on your skin.

Shea butter

Shea butter is a great alternative to petroleum jelly because it nourishes your skin and keeps it hydrated. The butter is obtained from a nut which grows on the shea tree and doesn’t need refining to keep your skin healthy.

Shea butter contains vitamins A and E which are well-known in promoting healthy skin. Shea butter is also a rich source of healthy fatty acids that nourish and hydrate the skin.

A review into shea butter found that it contains cinnamic acid which has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. These can help to kill off free radicals from your skin and help prevent visible signs of aging.13

Studies into the long-term use of shea butter in skincare found that there are no harmful side effects and it is a good natural ingredient in topical preparations.14

Shea butter can also be used to relieve nasal stuffiness and it is just as effective as petroleum-based products. The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reported that shea butter is an effective nasal decongestant and is just as effective as nasal drops.15  

To find out more on how to use shea butter for great looking skin, please read my article on the 12 benefits of shea butter for hair, skin, and health. There you will find out how shea butter can help to treat skin conditions like eczema, dry skin, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. You can also find out how to use shea butter as a natural, safe lip balm.

Coconut oil

To treat dry skin naturally and avoid using petroleum jelly on your skin, you can use virgin coconut oil as a great remedy for many skin conditions. Coconut oil helps to boost collagen in your skin and its antibacterial activities kill off infection-causing bacteria.16


Unlike petroleum jelly, which just stops moisture escaping from your skin, the lauric acid in coconut oil penetrates the skin’s layers to provide deep-down moisturization.

A study published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology found that coconut oil also helps to reduce skin inflammation and acts as a mild analgesic (pain reliever).17 There is also evidence that coconut oil acts better than mineral oil products when used to treat dry skin.12

The Journal of Cosmetic Science found that coconut oil could help prevent hair damage. The study showed that coconut oil was superior to mineral oil in preventing hair damage. In the research, mineral oil had no effect on protein loss in hair whereas coconut oil helped to boost protein in hair strands and prevent protein loss.18

Unlike petroleum-based products, coconut oil will also help to stop itching that is often associated with eczema, dry skin, psoriasis, and dermatitis.

Almond oil

Sweet almond oil is much better for your skin than any mineral oil-based cosmetic product. There are a number of ways to use sweet almond oil, but it works as the perfect skin moisturizer. Being rich in vitamin E, almond oil helps to keep your skin young looking and healthy.

Research into the health properties of almond oil has found that it contains anti-inflammatory properties that can help to treat dry skin conditions and eczema. The researchers found that almond oil helps to rejuvenate skin and is an excellent emollient.19

Almond oil is so gentle on the skin that you can use it to moisturize the skin around your eyes. Rather than use petroleum jelly as a night eye cream, gently rub almond oil to reduce wrinkles naturally around your eyes and on your face.

Jojoba oil

Jojoba oil is perfect for your skin because it protects your skin and locks in moisture at the same time. It can be used on all skin types because it hydrates the skin and also helps to remove a buildup of excess oil from the skin.

Studies into the benefits of jojoba oil on the skin have confirmed that it is hypoallergenic and great for all skin types. A study from 2009 found that jojoba oil is a natural emollient which makes skin softer and healthier without becoming sticky and greasy.20 Another study found that a mixture of jojoba oil and glycerol can provide skin hydration for up to 24 hours.21

Jojoba oil also helps to repair damaged skin because of its anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, jojoba oil actively helps to speed up the healing of skin wounds.22

So use jojoba oil to moisturize your skin naturally and enjoy healthy, blemish-free skin.

Avocado oil

You can stop using petroleum jelly on your skin because avocado oil is far superior to mineral oils. Avocado oil contains high levels of oleic acid and studies have shown that this has many skin benefits.


A scientific study on avocado oil in 2013 found that avocado oil helps to boost collagen in the skin. This is important in reducing the appearance of wrinkles and in repairing skin wounds. The benefit of almond oil to your skin is due to the oleic acid and other fatty acids in it.23

Avocado oil has also been proven to be effective to treat various inflammatory skin conditions. The journal Dermatology reported that avocado oil mixed with vitamin B12 is a great natural treatment for psoriasis. Avocado oil can be used in treating long-term chronic skin conditions without any side effects.24

Avocado oil has amazing benefits for your skin and more. It is perfect to cook with it as avocado oil has a very high smoking point. Some of the proven health benefits of avocado oil are helping to reduce cholesterol, improve heart health, and relieve arthritis pains.

Rosehip oil

Rosehip oil can help you nourish your skin and keep it well hydrated. The benefits of rosehip oil to your skin are due to the high levels of vitamin C and A, omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids, as well as powerful antioxidants.

You can apply rosehip oil directly to your skin to allow its moisturizing properties keep your skin hydrated. The advantage of using rosehip oil on your skin was shown in a study from 2015. During the research, doctors used pure rosehip oil to help wounds heal quicker and to naturally prevent scars forming. When rosehip oil was applied directly to the affected area, swelling and redness were reduced.25

Rosehip oil can be used to treat rosacea and psoriasis, protect against sun damage, and help reduce the symptoms of acne.

Cocoa butter

Cocoa butter is a far superior skin moisturizer, lip balm, and anti-wrinkle cream than petroleum jelly. Cocoa butter is not only delicious but it also contains moisturizing fatty acids that have numerous skin benefits. Cocoa butter is also safe enough to massage onto your skin to prevent stretch marks naturally.

The journal Nutrients reported that cocoa butter contains polyphenols which improve the skin’s elasticity, tone, and collagen. The journal said that cocoa components have been used in treating psoriasis, acne, skin cancer, and wound healing. It is a great natural agent for treating various skin diseases and preventing them. Cocoa butter can also be used as a natural anti-wrinkle cream.26

Beeswax, olive oil and honey

Beeswax is used to reduce skin swelling, itchiness, treat fungal infections on the skin, and treat the symptoms of hemorrhoids.27

One study compared a mixture containing beeswax, honey, and olive oil against Vaseline in treating dermatitis. The study found that the beeswax mixture was superior to Vaseline and the beeswax remedy treated dermatitis and psoriasis more effectively.27

In conclusion – Should You Use Natural Oils or Petroleum Jelly?

While many dermatologists recommend petroleum-based skin products, many studies show that there are better alternatives available. Doubt has been cast on the safety of petroleum jelly for your skin and there are concerns about its effect on the body.

Many scientifically-based studies have shown that oils like coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, almond oil, jojoba oil, and avocado oil are far superior to petroleum jelly. Many natural oils provide the same skin protection as petroleum jelly, but they do far more. They have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties and provide many vitamins that are essential for healthy, blemish-free skin.

Read my other related articles:
1. 7 Cancer Causing Products to Remove From Your Home
2. Cooking with Aluminum Foil – Why It’s Not a Safe Option
3. 6 Hidden Dangers of Hand Sanitizers
4. How Safe Is Your Nonstick Cookware?

Article Sources:
  1. DrWeil. Petroleum jelly peril
  2. WebMD. Over the counter beauty tips.
  3. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2011 Nov;20(11):1713-9.
  4. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2015 May; 25(3): 271–277.
  5. EWG. Vaseline petroleum jelly.
  6. EWG. 22-percent of all cosmetics may be contaminated with a cancer-causing
  7. J Invest Dermatol. 2009 Feb; 129(2): 468–475.
  8. Obstet Gynecol. 2013 Apr;121(4):773-80.
  9. WebMD. Petroleum jelly linked to vaginal infection risk.
  10. J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Nov; 22(11): 1613–1616.
  11. UMM. Petroleum jelly overdose.
  12. Dermatitis. 2004 Sep;15(3):109-16.
  13. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2012 Jul;12(8):749-67.
  14. J. Nat. Prod. And Med. Vol.6 2002: 26-30.
  15. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1979 May;7(5):495-7.
  16. NaturalMedicineJournal. Coconut oil.
  17. Pharm Biol. 2010 Feb;48(2):151-7
  18. J Cosmet Sci. 2003 Mar-Apr;54(2):175-92.
  19. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2010 Feb;16(1):10-2
  20. Rasayan J. Chem. Vol.2, No.2 (2009), 300-306.
  21. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Mar 24;134(2):443-9
  22. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2008 Dec;7(4):268-74.
  23. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:472382
  24. Dermatology. 2001;203(2):141-7.
  25. J Cos Derm Sci App. 2015(5):161-167
  26. Nutrients. 2014 Aug; 6(8): 3202–3213.
  27. Complement Ther Med. 2003 Dec;11(4):226-34.
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22 Responses to Why You Should Stop Using Petroleum Jelly On Your Skin (It’s a Byproduct of the Petroleum Manufacturing Process)

  1. DJ says:

    Been using vaseline petroleum jelly for many decades to remove makeup with absolutely no problems whatsoever! Always had perfect skin and still get a lot of compliments, most people are surprised that all I’ve ever used is vaseline.

    • MARK says:

      Thank you for the truth about the safety and performance the use of petroleum jelly for decades. Can’t argue scientific proof of a real life study from somebody that uses petroleum jelly the way you have and the proof and safety over the decades is in the compliments you receive and your testimony of its safety.

  2. Alex says:

    Another Fake news story, to try and discredit the oil industry. I say bullshit to your study, if there ever was one.

    • Jenny Hills says:

      Hi Alex, the studies mentioned in this article are not fake, and you can see the references at the end of the article. At the end of the day it’s your choice and your life and I don’t really care what your decisions are, but you cannot completely discredit what is written here.

  3. Pete says:

    Vaseline Has Been Used By All Families Traditionally. It has been the Moisturizing Ointment Of Choice For decades All over the world with no problems whatsoever!Vaseline has for decades been applied on boxers For Decades as well. And they even have beautiful skin. Nice try! Vaseline will always be on the market.

    • Dev says:

      Yes, because being on the market automatically makes it a suitable product. We will never know the extent to which common products such as Vaseline affect (not effect) us because humans think to superficially.

    • Holly Ann says:

      Cigarettes have been “traditionally” used by families too. They have made women “beautiful” for years by suppressing their appetites and encouraging a slimmer physique. Fortunately, for some, these products will also always be on the market. It doesn’t mean we discredit scientific information that says they are not good for us. Use your common sense, critical thinking skills, and don’t rely on marketing to tell you what’s good for you.

    • THERESA L GRAVES says:

      Maybe that is why so many people are battling some form of cancer or another these days. You cannot argue with science! You think they are going to tell you its unsafe??n Just like Johnson and Johnsons baby powder was so safe right? People been using it for decades and now there are huge lawsuits because obviously it is NOT safe. Do some homework! Sorry but I will not put Petroleum on the largest organ of my body which is my skin. Have at it if you want-nobody’s stopping you. Why dog the person doing the actual research by trying to help people with a science based article??? Go fish!

  4. Joanne says:

    The horse and buggy was the standard used by families for generations…. then a more efficient alternative was introduced. 25 years ago I was told by my baby’s pediatrician to slather him in mineral oil and petroluem based products. They were the WORST thing for his condition. What finally worked? Someone who decided to leave the era of the horse and buggy and conduct studies NOT paid for by BIG MONEY companies like Vaseline helped step me into the planes, trains and vehicle world and taught me about natural products.

    I now manufacture natural products for people who actually care about doing the best they can with what we know in this era. (and actually was known for centuries by others not blinded by the oil companies who found a way to get us to buy their sludge refuse and slather it on our largest organ, the skin).

    I am not at all against oil companies or capitalism. They simply need to stay in the fuel business and get out of wound care and skin care. WAKE UP people. Why use cheap crap on your skin with no health benefit when you can put healthful ingredients on your skin which also have scientifically proven to more effectively protect and create a barrier which does not suffocate your pores??

    The only FAKE news here comes from companies misbranding and mislabeling petroleum products by claiming them as healing. There are not any wound healing properties in petrolatum, only vapor barrier properties, protecting, and suffocating yes, healing NO.

  5. Celia says:

    Petroleum jelly is non-comedogenic and you’re recommending coconut oil as an alternative?! People should not use coconut oil on their face!! It causes breakouts and congestion and using that as an alternative in your article is just stupid. Clearly you don’t know much about skin at all…

    • Jenny Hills, Medical Writer and Researcher says:

      Yes, I do Celia. I’ve been using coconut oil and many other people that I know with good results. The secret with coconut oil is to put a SMALL amount of it on the face. You can read more about it in my article “10 Reasons to Use Coconut Oil on Your Face” Which has sources you can refer to. Not every product works for all people, but calling it stupid tells me that maybe you don’t know much about skin…..

      • Veronica says:

        Great info. I have been saying that for years. I use Argan oil. it rocks. I am 70 and no one ever has guessed my age. 98% say in my late 40’s. Thanks for the info. Keep at it. The only people that say petroleum is good, are those that make money from it.

  6. KCK says:

    I hate to break this to you but Vasoline may have been USED in the petroleum industry but it is NOT a petroleum byproduct. It’s made from mineral oils and wax. Why they call it petroleum jelly is because it was used to lubricate the drilling rigs.

    Now, what we have today is a cleaned up version of that lubricant. But, look up the history of Vasoline and then look at how it’s made. Again, the petroleum industry used it on the rigs, it is NOT a byproduct of the petroleum.

    • Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer says:

      So what is the mineral source of their mineral oil? usually it is distillate of petroleum. If it’s not petroleum, then what is it?

  7. mattie says:

    Wowwww. The industry shills sure have swarmed this reply section! THANK YOU for sharing the truth! Same goes for plastics also. Plastic Plastic Plastic everywhere and in everything. Rockerfeller medicine? Guess what your harmaceuticals & synthetic vitamins are made from? Speak the truth about the unhealthiness of & severe pollution caused by; the petroleum(monopoly)industry and get attacked by the very few, who profit greatly from it. Shameful. Have you read the list of 4,000 products created by petroleum industry? There are many much better ways but the soulless petroleum barons could care less about the good health of our humans, animals ,foods, water, soil,& air. Few people seem to notice or care. Those who do care are brutally attacked & threatened.

  8. Linda G Post says:

    I woke up this morning with a horrible rash on my face, after sleeping with Vaseline on it for dry skin. The skin around my eyes took the hardest hit. Who would have known!!!

    • Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer says:

      I guess you’ve developed allergic reaction to petroleum-derived products. This is quite rare but can happen. With any new product that you use, natural or non-natural, do first a patch-test to see how your skin reacts to it.

  9. Edwin says:

    Thank you for writing this detailed article. It is hard to find well written information for the general public. You did a great job citing many studies and you put effort into maintaining a neutral tone.

  10. Jen says:

    Amen Amen

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