Anti-Mineral Oil Hype and Why I’m NOT Convinced

Ok, so there seems to be a growing rejection of mineral oil as an ingredient in cosmetic products. Seeing as this is an ingredient in one of my favorite hair care products, I’m not so quick to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You can consider that my official disclaimer of potential biased.

Here’s the thing about Mineral oil, it is exactly what it says it is. An oil produced by minerals, meaning non-vegetable sources. It is essentially distilled petroleum which is a naturally occurring liquid found beneath the earth’s surface composed of hydro-carbon compounds.

The complex hydro-carbon compounds translates into an awesome moisture barrier. Sealing in the moisture you want and protecting against the frizzies when humidity attacks.

So what’s the issue you may wonder…
Some people believe that mineral oil causes breakouts or acne. As someone who has experienced adult acne I found this to be a valid concern.  So I researched (no not wikipedia and random blogs, real research) and what I found it that this is false. Mineral oil does not clog pores and has a comedogenic rating of 0 to 1. Meaning, mineral oil does not cause breakouts.

Just to be sure I consulted with my dermatologist who informed me that the belief that mineral oil causes breakout is a myth that has been debunked by much scientific evidence. In fact, it is often used as a base to carry other agents when doing allergy testing.

I also asked him about the theory that mineral oil causes cancer. He gave me this look that said, “Don’t you work for a medical college?” I almost felt embarrassed for asking. The truth is that this notion comes from a misconception that mineral oil as a petroleum derivative may contain carcinogenetic contaminates.

When in reality the mineral oil used for cosmetic products is highly refined and not classified as a carcinogen. So no, it’s not the same as the gasoline you are putting in your car.  So you can let that go.

Another concern is that mineral oil’s larger molecular structure means that while it does form a protective barrier it is not readily absorbed by hair or easily rinsed away with water. Thus, it requires a surfactant such sulfates for removal, or it could lead to buildup. If you are someone concerned about using sulfates then you can opt for castile soap or a mild co-surfacatant like coco betaine which is also known for thickening and conditioning properties.

Though, I would not use mineral oil in isolation. From my prospective as an additive in small amounts to hair care products, the good certainly out weighs the bad. After writing off concerns about causing breakouts, cancer or buildup. All that’s left is an ingredient that seals in moisture while controlling the frizz and that’s defiantly a win in my book!

If you have some compelling evidence that you think will change my mind. Shoot me a link and I’ll look into it. Until then I wont be swearing off mineral oil any time soon.


Claudia Fruijtier-Pölloth, Safety assessment on polyethylene glycols (PEGs) and their derivatives as used in cosmetic products, Toxicology, Volume 214, Issues 1–2, 15 October 2005, Pages 1-38, ISSN 0300-483X,

DiNardo, J. C. (2005), Is mineral oil carcinogenic?. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 4: 2–3. doi: 10.1111/j.1473-2165.2005.00150.x

Nash, J.F., Gettings, S.D., Diembeck, W., Chudowski, M. and Kraus, A.L. A toxicological review of topical exposure to white mineral oils. Food Chem. Toxic. 34, 213–225 (1996).

Osborne, G.E. and Gerraughty, R.J. Protective barriers for the skin. J. Soc. Cosmet. Chem. 12, 271–279 (1961).

Rawlings, A. V. and Lombard, K. J. (2012), A review on the extensive skin benefits of mineral oil. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 34: 511–518. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2012.00752.x


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