Petroleum Jelly – Facts Not Fiction

Myth: Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) used in hair and skin products is a dangerous chemical byproduct of petroleum or gasoline.

Fact: Refined USP Petroleum jelly is not the same as the “Petrolatum” defined by the Chemical Abstract System (CAS) definition found in the EPA Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory. This CAS number (8009-03-8) applies to an unrefined, heavy, waxy petrolatum material. In fact, United States Pharmacopeia (USP) white petroleum jelly is not a byproduct but is a refined and purified product of heavy waxes and paraffinic oils. USP White Petroleum Jelly surpasses the safety standards set by the FDA for use in food and cosmetics products as well as for both the European Union (EU) and Japanese Pharmacopeia Chemical Codes.

Myth: Vaseline or mineral oil when applied to the skin creates an impassible barrier plugging hair and skin pores (comedogenic).

Fact: There are no credible scientific studies that prove that Vaseline or mineral oil is in fact comedogenic (block skin pores). In reality, the term comedogenic was developed by the FDA to only classify substances that caused acne by blocking facial skin pores. Later, health and nutritional advocates attempted to extend this definition to include products used for the hair and body. However, the term “comedogenic” was never intended to be used beyond the original scope as defined by the FDA. Recently, new scientific studies have resolved the debate. Technical papers published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology (May 24, 2005) and the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (1996, vol. 47, pp. 41-48) demonstrated that white USP mineral oil (FG) and white USP Vaseline do not block skin pores.

PJ and mineral are classified as “occlusive” moisturizers. In theory, occlusives reduce water loss from the skin by creating a hydrophobic barrier when applied over the skin. Occlusive moisturizers diffuse into the intercellular lipid domains and herein lay their effectiveness. Published studies show that although Vaseline exhibits what appears to be occlusive properties when applied to the skin it neither forms nor acts as an impermeable barrier but rather permeates slowly throughout the SC interstices, allowing for normal skin recovery.

In layman’s term Vaseline PJ does not clog skin pores but slowly diffuses throughout the skin lipid layer and even assists the body in skin repair.

Myth: PJ is inexpensive poor moisturizer.

Fact: True, White USP PJ is an inexpensive product but on the contrary it is still the most cost-effective moisturizer used today in the cosmetic industry. Petroleum jelly at minimum concentrations reduces transepidermal water loss (TEWL) by more than 98% and is followed by lanolin, mineral oil, and the silicones, which are effective in the range from 20%-30%. Other substances such as beeswax, stearic acid, shea butter, jojoba oil, coconut oil, and sunflower seed oil TEWL values are below twenty percent.

Michael Ortiz

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