Mineral Oil's Unhealthy Dark Side

Mineral Oil's Unhealthy Dark Side

In our quest for healthy, silky skin, we're bombarded with a multitude of options: lotions for dryness, moisturizers for sensitive skin, medicated creams for rashes, and so much more. But even the healthiest sounding ingredients can pose risks to our health. Case in point: mineral oil.

This ubiquitous ingredient is everywhere–from suntan lotions to baby products. It often gets dubbed "natural." But being a by-product of the petroleum process hardly sounds natural, right?

Mineral oil is produced when crude oil is turned into petroleum for your car. It's a greasy and cheap ingredient. In fact, it's cheaper to buy it from the oil industry for use in cosmetic products than it is for those companies to pay to dispose of it properly. Outrageous!

And if slathering your body with gasoline doesn't sound too appealing, just have a look at what that can lead to. According to health expert Dr. Mercola, unlike many healthy skin oils, mineral oil is comedogenic—it blocks your pores—and that can affect your ability to sweat out toxins. It can also lead to acne. Because mineral oil creates a film on your skin, it can slow or prevent the absorption of any healthy nutrients in your skin care products.

But that's not the worst of it.

According to Dr. Mercola, a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found a connection between mineral oil products and a higher risk of developing skin tumors (in mice). The risk increased by nearly 70 percent when the subjects were treated with the mineral oil products 5 days a week for 17 weeks.

A 2008 study also found mineral oils in food grade oils including sunflower oil. If applying mineral oil simply to your skin can increase the cancer risk significantly, what can happen when we ingest it?

To reduce your health risks, reduce products containing mineral oil. Definitely cut out Johnson's Baby Oil—which is just mineral oil and fragrance. The same goes for Vaseline. Read your ingredients! I know—there are sometimes a lot of them and they're written so small! But chances are, if that's the case, it's probably a good idea to look for another product altogether.

Try seeking out natural and organic skin care products. They will probably be more expensive, but when you consider than your skin absorbs 70 percent of what you put on it, you can see the benefit to using clean products.

You can also achieve a lot of the same benefits to fancy lotions and creams with oils that may be in your kitchen. Coconut oil is an incredibly effective moisturizer. It's antibacterial and antifungal as well, making it great for sensitive skin. Olive, almond, sesame and apricot kernel oil are also excellent for your skin. They moisturize and hydrate and can be mixed with herbal extracts, essential oils and other botanicals for truly natural and effective skin care.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Photo credit: suzettesuzette

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Jill Ettinger is a freelance journalist and marketing specialist primarily focused on the organic and natural industries, she bridges her love for changing the food system with her lifelong passion for writing and connecting people in their shared values. You can connect with Jill on Twitter and Instagram.