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Label.ology: Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum) & Petrolatum Liquidium

In this feature, we’re taking labels apart.

It’s important to understand all the stuff that’s in what you buy. Then and only then can you can decide if you want it in your food, on your body or in your home.

So I decided to put all my years of label reading to good use.

Why label.ology? Well, the definition of ‘-ology’, that’s why: “the scientific study of a particular subject.”

It’s amazing to me how ingredients we might not want to consume are cloaked in complicated names; and with nutrition panels that read like a Russian novel, you have to be a detective to decipher what’s in your food.

Not anymore! I give you…label.ology

Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum) & Petrolatum Liquidium

I always say that there’s more to life than food. I say that what we put on our skin and hair is as important to our health as what we put in our mouths. So this month, let’s talk skincare.

Many commercial products contain mineral oil as part of moisturizing. Is it good for our skin or not so much? Read this and decide.

Mineral oil is a petrochemical, a derivative of crude oil. Okay, yuck already. It has large molecules which are unable to penetrate the surface of the skin, therefore it acts a non-absorbent oily film. Advertising tell us that it helps  'lock in moisture'. But is that such a great thing? At first our skin will feel smooth, but this layer of mineral oil will soon smother your skin like wrapping your face in plastic wrap, preventing it from breathing naturally. In turn sweat and bacteria are trapped beneath the layer of oil. Yikes!

But I get it. Some of us need the higher performance that we think we are getting from mineral oil because we suffer from dry skin, especially this time of year. And we have all heard the stories of somebody’s Nana who used nothing but witch hazel and petroleum jelly on her skin all her life and had a gorgeous complexion. But that aside, ingredients like mineral oil, petrolatum, liquid paraffin, paraffin oil all come with some…baggage, shall we say.

Mineral oil can’t be metabolized. New studies show that these molecules simply build up in our fatty tissue over time and seems to stay there forever.

Mineral oil and its derivatives just might contribute to elevating cancer risk. According to the Environmental Working Group, about 80% of commercial beauty products may be contaminated with some of the cosmetic impurities linked to cancer and petroleum and mineral oil-based ingredients are no exception. And since they are not regulated, they can appear in products at any level.

1,4 dioxane, an impurity found in about one-quarter of all petroleum-based cosmetics is a possible human carcinogen. It’s in about 80% of hair dyes, 45% of self-tanners and 36% of facial moisturizers to name a few. So think about it. You use moisturizer every day…every day.

Mineral oil doesn’t really feed your skin. Because they are occlusive (meaning they form a barrier on your skin, ‘locking in moisture’), they don’t allow your skin to absorb anything else, like the ingredients in your moisturizer said to be good for your skin. There’s just nothing in petroleum that feeds our skin…and to top it off, it prevents any of the good stuff from getting into our skin as well.

Finally, new studies are showing there might just be a link to estrogen dominance from the use of mineral oil. It turns out that petroleum-based products are classified as ‘xenoestrogens’ and can indeed produce estrogenic effects.

In the end, is mineral oil safe for us to use on our skin? It’s probably not the worst thing, but since I can’t erase the visual of smearing crude oil on my face every day and thinking it’s good for my skin, I think I’ll skip it and stick with what has been working for me for years…my natural, vegan, organic, olive-oil based skincare line, called Vita-Bella. I adore how my skin looks and how it has helped to keep my complexion glowing with supple, youthful skin. 

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