Thursday, February 11, 2016

What's the Deal with Mineral Oil?

Hi, friends! It's been awhile since I did a full post focused on any ingredient, so today I'd like to talk about something that's been bugging me for awhile: the ridiculous controversy over the use of mineral oil in beauty products.

If you follow me on Pinterest, you'll know I'm pretty active over there, so I've seen a lot of pins. There's a lot of great information on there--delicious recipes, foolproof makeup tips--but there's also a ton of misinformation. Myths and rumors get spread around and are eventually seen as true, just by the sheer number of people saying it's so. One thing I see on Pinterest a lot that really grinds my gears (boils my pasta, steams my broccoli, etc.) is the amount of false information circulating on mineral oil in skincare. And I can understand that, but today's post is going to put all that confusion to rest! I've done a stupid amount of research for this post, so I hope it's helpful to you!

*This post is all about the use of mineral oil in skincare ingredients (NOT ingestion--I am not a doctor)

What is mineral oil, anyway?

Mineral oil (paraffinum liquidum, in Latin) is a clear oil that is often found in beauty products, especially leave-on skincare products like moisturizers. You may also hear it being referred to as Petrolatum, which is the same thing as mineral oil, just at a different thickness/texture. You all know Vaseline, right? Vaseline is Petrolatum--that gooey, not-quite-liquid-not-quite-solid freak of nature product. You know, that magical stuff that has a billion uses? That's mineral oil at work.

Where it gets its bad reputation

Well, when people hear that it's a by-product of petroleum or crude oil, they tend to Freak. Out. (even though it's "all-natural," hahaha!). I'm telling you now: don't worry about it. This doesn't mean you're putting gasoline on your face!

There are different grades of mineral oil, and beauty products are made with Cosmetic Grade mineral oil, which has been HIGHLY refined and purified of all the impurities that it collects when it's in the ground. (For the record, plants have to be cleaned and purified when they come out of the ground too). It's not "dirty" and you're not using the same Industrial Grade version that's going into the gas tanks of your cars. Mineral oil that passes these standards is certified as USP (United States Pharmacopeia), or BP (British Pharmacopeia) in the UK. It's not exactly printed on product labels (because that's unnecessary), but if you're buying a beauty product from a reputable brand or store, you're gonna be good to go.

I'm pretty unfamiliar with indie skincare brands and those who sell skincare products in Etsy shops, so if you buy or sell skincare products on there, I'd love to hear more about that!

You can also buy Cosmetic Grade mineral oil in huge bottles at most drugstores.

The benefits of mineral oil in skincare

Mineral oil is a superstar when it comes to helping dry skin retain moisture and softening the skin. It mainly helps maintain the skin's moisture balance, keeping the hydration in while blocking the stuff you don't want, out. It's in a lot of beauty products because it's not likely to cause allergic reactions in people, and it works! 

Busting the myths

"Does mineral oil clog your pores and/or cause acne?"

I don't know where this started, but many websites spread the belief that it is comedogenic (clogs pores). On a scientific level, the molecules are too big to fit into your pores, so it's basically impossible. Granted, everyone's skin is unique and there's always a possibility that something will react, but for the most part you're in the clear (literally, clear skin, aha?).

Mineral oil can be occlusive. What does that mean, exactly? Basically, it can stop some of the air flow to your pores, potentially trapping in other ingredients that you don't want there (ex. irritating ingredients, heavy fragrances, essential oils, etc.). It can exacerbate acne in some people, but for most, it's a-okay. To some, it can feel heavy, depending on how much you put on, what it's formulated with, and how oily your skin is. Using a moisturizer that's too thick and rich for your skin type could potentially clog your pores or occlude airflow. It's not an ingredient that's really going to cause inflammation in the pores and cause acne... as long as you're using a well-formulated skincare product without very irritating ingredients to your skin type.

In the end, everyone is different, and some individuals just can't handle certain ingredients. Sometimes skin reacts in ways we can't explain. There's always going to be that person that inexplicably can't use a product that seems fine for everyone else. Like that friend who doesn't like chocolate. Ludicrous, but true.

"Does mineral oil prevent the skin from breathing?"

LOL, Imagine each of your pores breathing--wouldn't that get very loud? Skin doesn't breathe, but if it did, you'd have nothing to worry about! Mineral oil isn't like a thick wall on your face, blocking everything out in that way. It's kind of like silicone, in that it creates a moisture barrier to protect your skin, but it's not like you're wearing a mask. Think of it as a net, like putting a tennis racket in front of your face. It'll catch the bad stuff, but you can clearly still see and feel the environment through it.

That being said, skin may not breathe, but it is communicative with the environment. Your skin feels drier when you've had the heat blasting, and feels more hydrated when you've had a humidifier going in your bedroom. It can communicate with the outside world! It's aliiiiive! 

"Does mineral oil cause cancer?"

As seen with parabens, people like to read the abstracts of studies, rather than the actual study itself, and MCFREAKIN LOSE IT. Yes, mineral oil is listed in the 2011 Substances Listed in the Thirteenth Report on Carcinogens, but if you actually look into it and read the mineral oil section, it's specified as the untreated and mildly treated versions such as those found in metalworking and the newspaper printing industry. As stated above, Mineral oil has different grades for various industries and markets. So this study doesn't apply to the beauty world at all.

Think about it: Cosmetic Grade Mineral oil has been approved by government agencies. Do you really think they would want to cause your harm? No! People want to create things that will help other people! Also, from a legal standpoint, why would a company put a dangerous ingredient in their skincare products? That's just asking for a lawsuit! Before mineral oil goes into any of your beauty products, it has to pass certain testing and regulations. Also, if you look in any aesthetician textbook, they'll have nothing but good things to say about mineral oil.

If you're ever in doubt about something--and this goes for anything--look to the pros and the experts, rather than the first result in Google. Scare tactics and crazy headlines get all the views--they're clickbait, don't believe them! I know when we were writing research papers in school, generally if a lot of sources said the same thing there's a good chance it's true, but that doesn't apply to certain "widely accepted myths" of the beauty world.  (Also, don't read the abstracts of studies).

(The short answer: NO)

For more information

Okay, that was pretty long. Remember when I said last week that I would try to make my posts shorter? LOL. Oh well. I made this as short and sweet as possible!

I hope this post was helpful to you! If you have any more questions on mineral oil, feel free to ask me in a comment below and I'll answer the best I can!

What's your take on mineral oil?

Want to see me rant about ingredients some more? Click here!

Let's be friends!

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Disclaimer: New information comes out all the time, so I might edit this post from time to time to make it more accurate. Also, again, I'm not a doctor so if you're really concerned about something talk to your dermatologist or aesthetician.