Petroleum jelly is a staple skincare product in every household worldwide. From dry skin problems to wound healing, petroleum jelly has been a proven treatment for ages. However, there are some potential side effects of petroleum jelly that everyone should be aware of.
In this article, let’s understand how petroleum jelly benefits your skin, how to use it the right way, and when you should avoid using it to prevent certain side effects.
What Is Petroleum Jelly?
Petroleum jelly is made of a combination of waxes and mineral oils. Also known as multi-hydrocarbon, white petrolatum, or soft paraffin, petroleum jelly is a semi-solid jelly-like substance, predominantly known for its coating and lubricating properties.
It is also one of the most used ingredients in a variety of skin lotions, creams, and cosmetics for its skin protective and healing properties .
Benefits Of Petroleum Jelly For Skin
1. Relieves From Dry Skin
Applying petroleum jelly forms a protective layer on the epidermis and prevents moisture loss from the skin .
2. Aids In Skin Healing
Petroleum jelly helps in sealing skin wounds caused by minor cuts, scratches, and scrapes. While it helps in keeping the wounded skin moist, which is essential for faster healing, it also prevents itchiness and scarring.
3. Helps To Prevent Chafing
Chafing is a type of skin irritation caused due to friction in the skin folds (for example, underarms, inner thighs, etc.) or between the skin and ill-fitting clothing. The best way to prevent chafing is to apply petroleum jelly to such areas.
4. Treats Diaper Rash
Applying petroleum jelly to the baby's skin between each diaper change can help in controlling the rash within 4-5 days. However, the baby's skin needs to be as clean and dry as possible to prevent diaper rash .
5. Rehydrates Nails
Applying petroleum jelly to cuticles and nails regularly helps in controlling the brittleness and chipping of fingernails. You must apply petroleum jelly to your nails when they are damp for the best results.
Side Effects Of Petroleum Jelly
Here are some potential yet rare side effects of using petroleum jelly:
Some people, especially those with oily skin, can develop acne breakouts due to clogged pores caused by excessive application of petroleum jelly. To avoid breakouts, you need to clean your skin thoroughly before applying petroleum jelly, and do not leave it on for a long time.
Some people tend to be sensitive to petroleum-derived products and may develop allergies when petroleum jelly is applied.
Some people, especially children, may develop aspiration pneumonia  when petroleum jelly is applied around the nose area.
If you do not clean your skin or allow it to dry properly before the application of petroleum jelly, then it may result in certain bacterial or fungal infections. Also, bacteria can spread from contaminated jars of petroleum jelly.
Seek medical help immediately if you notice any above-mentioned side effects or any symptoms such as itching/swelling, rash, trouble breathing, dizziness, etc. after using petroleum jelly.
Petroleum jelly is meant only for external use. Do not take the product internally in any way.
How To Use Petroleum Jelly?
- Take a little amount of petroleum jelly using your fingers and apply it gently as a thin layer to your clean hands, legs, and feet.
- You can also apply it lightly to your face and neck if you have severe dry patches.
- It is better to apply petroleum jelly on slightly damp skin to lock in moisture.
- Avoid applying it in excessive amounts, as it can form a thick layer on your skin.
- You can apply petroleum jelly once a day after bathing to fight the dryness of your skin.
- However, avoid using it for skin if you are in humid environments.
Refined Petroleum Jelly Vs. Unrefined Petroleum Jelly
The difference between refined and unrefined petroleum jelly lies in the manufacturing process of the two. Refined petroleum jelly is a result of rigorous distillation processes, and is safe to use. On the other hand, unrefined petroleum jelly contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) , which have been listed as carcinogens and are linked to different types of cancers.
Also, researchers suspect PAHs to be endocrine disruptors, which manipulate hormonal functionality in humans. This may lead to fertility-related and other health conditions related to the immune system, kidneys, blood, spleen, lungs, liver, fetus development, etc.
Besides PAHs, untreated mineral oils and petrolatum content in unrefined petroleum jelly are harmful to human health and are listed under carcinogens. Hence, you should never use petroleum jelly in an unrefined form.
Properly refined petroleum jelly often incorporates refining processes that eliminate even the slightest traces of PAHs and other carcinogens from petroleum jelly. However, it is better to opt for refined petroleum jelly manufactured by trusted brands to reduce the potential risks.
When Should You Not Use Petroleum Jelly?
Dermatologists suggest avoiding the use of vaseline or petroleum jelly when you have acne-prone, oily or combination skin. This is because it can clog the pores and leave your skin heavy and greasy. Also, it is not safe to use vaseline as an immediate treatment for sunburns on the skin as it can aggravate the symptoms by sealing in the heat.
Did You Know?
The word 'Vaseline' is a combination of the words 'wasser' (water in German) and 'elaion' (olive oil in Greek).
How Do You Remove Petroleum Jelly From Skin?
Petroleum jelly leaves a waxy coating on your skin, which repels water. Hence, using just water and a normal soap may not give your skin an efficient cleansing. Besides warm soap water, it is recommended to use a konjac sponge or a damp microfiber cloth to remove the petroleum jelly from your skin.
To remove vaseline from your facial skin, use a cleansing oil to dissolve the product, dirt, and sebum on the face before washing. Additionally, use a gentle facial toner after washing. Micellar water is one of the effective options to remove petroleum jelly from the facial skin.
Alternatives To Petroleum Jelly
Some of the natural alternatives to petroleum jelly include beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter, avocado oil, jojoba oil, cocoa butter, olive oil, etc. All these alternative options are deeply nourishing and exceptionally great for your skin.
- Petroleum jelly contains a combination of waxes and mineral oils, which have exceptional coating and lubricative properties.
- Petroleum jelly is best used to treat dry skin-related problems.
- Excessive and improper usage of petroleum jelly can result in certain side effects such as clogged pores, pneumonia, allergies, and infections.
- You need to avoid using petroleum jelly if you have acne-prone, oily, or combination skin.
- Always opt for refined petroleum jelly, as the unrefined form can cause potential and severe health problems.
- Natural ingredients such as shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, olive oil, etc. which have a plethora of benefits for your skin, are always better alternatives to petroleum jelly.
1. Rheological evaluation of petroleum jelly as a base material in ointment and cream formulations: Steady shear flow behavior, February-2010
2. Petroleum jelly baths: A tip for easy emollient application, June 2020
3. Efficacy of petrolatum jelly for the prevention of diaper rash: A randomized clinical trial, March-2013
4. Exogenous Lipoid Pneumonia Due to Nasal Application of Petroleum Jelly, March-1994
5. The significance of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as environmental carcinogens, January-2009
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