What is mineral oil in skincare?
When it comes to skincare, Mineral oil is a term you may hear very often. Anyway, Mineral oil is derived from petroleum, which tends to raise some concerns upon first inspection. This type of oil, in fact, constitutes a danger to the skin and, for this reason, many companies avoid using it in their cosmetics.
What is mineral oil?
First, we will explain to you what mineral oil is. Mineral oil consists of a mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from the distillation of petroleum. Mineral oil is, in other words, a colorless and odorless petrolatum derivative.
But beware: this is not pure oil to spread on your face as you mistakenly happen to read or hear. Mineral oil is carefully purified, and subjected to highly refined processes, and for pharmaceutical use does not cause any type of occlusion, as is often mistakenly believed.
“The mineral oils and waxes used in cosmetic products are highly refined and of high quality”. They are produced from crude mineral oils in various stages of refining, including distillation, extraction, and crystallization, followed by purification by acid treatment and/or catalytic hydrogenation "
It should also be known that sectors such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and food ingredients, such as liquid paraffin (petroleum) in this case, are attributed to different grades:
- Cosmetic grade
- Pharmaceutical grade
- Industrial grades
So, for years now, mineral oil (paraffin) has been used in creams and lotions for cosmetics and body care, as well as in pharmaceutical products.
Each product of this type, that is made with paraffin and intended for direct contact with humans, is obviously controlled by bodies responsible for certifying its actual suitability for human use and which have set the parameters of purity: oil mineral used in the pharmaceutical field, it must, in fact, be 99% pure and must not have chemical impurities including bacteria and heavy metals.
Paraffinum Liquidum or Mineral Oil is often present in products intended for sensitive skin precisely because it can form a film on the skin that defends it from external aggressions by hydrating it (by occlusion), or rather by forming a film, at the same time. It is used especially in the dermatological field. It has excellent skin tolerability and high protective performance and wide viscosity options.
How much paraffin or mineral oils are used in cosmetics?
The amount of mineral oil depends on the cosmetic product. In general, liquid paraffin in cosmetics does not go beyond 9-10%. Cosmetics are enriched with other oils. A face or body cream must have a certain percentage of oily phase and aqueous phase, so even if an oil defined as comedogenic or occlusive is present, the amount of aqueous phase (from 30 to 70%) reduces the formation of waterproof films.
In addition, especially in recent years, there is a tendency to formulate lighter and less heavy products for the face. Mineral oil is not a first-choice oil.
Pros and cons
Now let's see in brief what are the main benefits and downside of mineral oil:
For what about positive aspects of mineral oil do we have:
- Available over the counter: Unlike some other skincare ingredients, mineral oil products are available in most beauty and drugstores. You can find it everywhere.
- Blocks moisture in the skin. It also makes it soft and improves its skin barrier function.
For what about the downsides of mineral oil, we have:
- Not eco-friendly
- Petroleum origin
- Risks to our healthiness
- It could be very occlusive, don't use it with pore-clogging ingredients, notes Nussbaum, particularly if you start to notice blackheads and whiteheads.
The other side of mineral oil
When it comes to the downside of mineral oil someone talks about risks of occlusion and comedogenicity. The complete occlusion of the skin, according to scientific insights, can lead to impaired reproduction and maturation of epidermal cells in the epidermis and a consequence of a breakdown of the barrier in the stratum corneum. However, this undesirable effect does not occur with the use of cosmetics, only a certain occlusive effect is possible. The severity of this partial occlusive effect is identified by
- Type of base: e.g., pure oil, anhydrous fatty ointments, water-in-oil, or oil-in-water emulsions.
- Type and quantity of lipids used.
- Other additives such as emulsifiers.
- Amount of product applied and spread on the skin by massage.
According to the latest studies, there is no scientific evidence proving the unwanted effects of cosmetics containing more than 10% liquid paraffin in the oily phase. In any case, it should be noted that in many cases a certain occlusive effect is purposely required as in the treatment of dry skin, skin with barrier problems, in the field of childcare or, the applications of ointments for skin protection.
Concerns have recently been raised about the potentially harmful health effects of mineral oils. To be able to assess the risk to the consumer, it is necessary to assess the skin penetration potential of these ingredients.
The production process is designed to exclude substances with carcinogenic potential such as polycyclic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and to minimize the presence of aromatic compounds that are inevitably present in the raw mineral oil starting material.
The mineral oils and waxes used in European cosmetic products are of pharmaceutical quality according to the specifications of the European Pharmacopoeia and in full compliance with the cosmetic regulations of the European Union.
How to evaluate the quality of a cosmetic?
The "goodness" of a cosmetic can be compromised by the INCI composition, today we are talking about Paraffinum Liquidum, occlusivity, and comedogenicity. Obviously, as for every topic treated by Cosmesidoc, even for liquid paraffin every piece of information in this article is supported by scientific studies.
If "the INCI is good", the cosmetic will be well reviewed, recommended, and consequently sold. If so, many demonized compounds are present in the composition, and controversy arises, often unsubstantiated criticisms.
Why do major cosmetic companies use mineral oils?
The major cosmetic companies often decide to put mineral oils in their cosmetics, basically for two reasons:
1) The production process is inexpensive and the mark-up for cosmetic companies is higher: go to the supermarket and look at the list of anybody’s oil from large retailers. You will notice that it is a mixture of mineral oils and silicone: they do not bring any benefit to the body. If, on the other hand, you go to an organic shop and pick up a certified organic body oil (such as avocado or borage) you will see that silicone and mineral oils are nowhere to be found. Obviously, the price of the product will be higher, but also the quality. However, if you go to perfumery and check the list of ingredients of a "branded" body oil you will notice that the composition is mostly poor (also here a mix of mineral oils, silicone, and synthetic fragrances) and the cost is exorbitant (even € 60 per 100 ml). In this case, you are paying for the "added value" of marketing and advertising. Higher price does not always correspond to quality: always check the list of ingredients!
2) Because they have an occlusive power and give a feeling of hydration: in reality, mineral oils do not hydrate at all. In fact, they only form a film on the skin that prevents water from evaporating. This gives a temporary feeling of hydration which wears off very quickly as mineral oils do not provide any nutrients to the skin. Also, consider that the production of mineral oils is highly polluting for the environment.
These reasons make us understand that mineral oils are not so good for the skin but represent only a temporary "palliative" of hydration. In the long run, they could create serious problems for your skin. They are used, in essence, precisely because of their cheapness. Instead of buying cosmetic products with mineral oils, buy certified organic and vegan products. For the body, you can use oils such as avocado, coconut, and almond. These are natural oils that nourish the skin and are produced with eco-sustainable methods. As for makeup, avoid all products that contain mineral oils, and in particular lip products. Do you really want to ingest a vital component in the manufacture of lubricant for your car's engine? Many brands on the market specifically exclude mineral oils from their compositions.
Even though many cosmetic things decide to include mineral oils, it doesn't mean that all of them do. There are companies, as we will see below, such as Hebe Botanica that have decided not to include mineral oils in their products, according to their corporate logic of producing only vegan products.
Hebe Botanica: the right vegan brand without mineral oils
If you are looking for a brand that can provide you with excellent plant-based acne care products, vegan and above all, without any kind of mineral oils, Hebe Botanica is the right choice.
The brand has decided to not include mineral oils in their products because of their side effects and for the reason of better, vegan, and natural skincare.
Thanks to our no mineral oil policy, in fact, our company can guarantee its customers fantastic skin in the long term, hydrated and without imperfections. We are a company that uses ingredients that are also suitable for the needs of the most sensitive skins or with rather relevant problems. Which, the use of mineral oils would mean that the situation could worsen sharply.
At Hebe Botanica, as the website says: “we harness the power of nature and use in-depth research to provide you with only the best skincare products made from the safest ingredients. We are also Leaping Bunny-Certified, meaning no animals were harmed in making our products”.
Hebe Botanica products are 100% plant-based formulas and ethically sourced to bring you concentrated products that illuminate your skin while being kind to the planet.
So, cruelty-free and all-natural vegan products: what better cure for your skin troubles?