Oils: mineral vs. palm, in particular. Mineral oil has suffered terribly from fallacious reasoning and careless, ignorant, and even stupid misreading and misinterpretation of available evidence. One could blame simple minds who struggle with the non-simple, and verily complicated, notion that Things Might Be A Bit More Complicated than trite polarities, and a resulting “conclusion” that mineral oil = evil.
I for one use alternatives where available and (pragmatically, practically) possible.
Though noting that mineral oil is one of the things that works the best on my skin. And that in some circumstances mineral oil and mineral-oil-based products are, environmentally-speaking, the best options: compared, say, to palm-oil- and soybean-oil-based “natural lines” from the P&G and J&J groups. If, say, you’re out of moisturising unguents and urgently need some as you’re desiccating at a rate of knots, but are in a small town with one shop, and have no access to transport to shop elsewhere nor to the interweb, postal services, other shipping so as to shop elsewhere online (and, say, no credit card or not with you). The nearest thing to a primal survival situation in the wilds outside the comforts of the cosmopolis… Such things do happen.
PART THE FIRST
On the virtues of using those pesky pernicious “synthetic” ingredients–and the evils of unsustainably-sourced palm oil:
On palm oil, going back over the last few years… here’s a sample, also from The Guardian’s “Environment” column, going back as far as 2004:
Full search here:
The first articles I’d seen on this angle on plant-based not necessarily being the most environmentally conscious option would be, oooh, some point around 1996 or so?
PART THE SECOND
Want to reduce use of petroleum products and hydrocarbon dependency? Here are some things that make a bigger difference than not using mineral oil:
1. Avoid fuel consumption. Walk. Cycle. Use public transport.
2. If you have to use a car: carpool, car-share, don’t own one but use zipcars and other cooperative schemes.
3. If you have to fly–which does happen, let’s face it, living in the real–non-black-and-white–world: carbon offset.
3. Reduce, refuse, reuse, recycle, renew.
PART THE THIRD
(original post) “Is Vaseline Bad For You?”
(reply 1) “Not sure… there was a study that linked the impurities to breast cancer
A study linking the petrolatum impurity polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs to breast cancer was completed at Columbia University. The study indicates that breast tissue of women with breast cancer were 2.6 times more likely to have increased amounts of PAHs attached to their DNA than the breast tissue of women without breast cancer. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are found in oil, coal and tar deposits as byproducts of fuel burning. Researchers June K.Dunnick, Michael R.Elwell, James Huff and J.Carl Barrett of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC also found that PAHs were found in the mutated genes of test animals with mammary gland cancer.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon impurities (PAH’s) in petrolatum can cause hypersensitivity reactions.
(yours truly) careful, careful, nicely, nicely, tread softly: my quibbles:
1. there’s a difference between “oil, coal and tar deposits as byproducts of fuel burning” and cosmetic-grade petrolatum.
2. My reading of the study would have suggested that a much more likely source for the PAHs would be precisely those “byproducts of fuel burning”: car exhaust fumes and the like.
3. On that link: and link is absolutely the word, because there’s links and links, as there’s a difference between
—finding substance X in cancerous tissue (= coincidence)
—*always* finding substance X in cancerous tissue and *never* in non-cancerous tissue (= correlation)
—X causes cancer, which requires further and more evidence and proof (= causation).
PART THE FOURTH
A sequence of posts: “Is using mineral oil long-term bad for you?”
I note the following:
1. On all comedogenicity and irritancy scales, it scores a 0.
2. See: The Beauty Brains, “The Top Five Myths about Mineral Oil”
3. To distinguish: whether or not an item works vs. other criteria in judgement, selection, considerations determining use.
On to the meat and potatoes…
My MUA buddy mej5s (Who Is Wise) responded aptly:
All complete nonsense propogated by many less scrupulous green companies whowant you to feel that mineral oil is a threatening “toxic” substance so you will buy their products instead
Mineral oil is of the Earth
Mineral oil (pharmaceutical and cosmetical grade) is highly-refined and does not contain cancer-causing substances
Mineral oil reduces trans-epidermal water loss but does not result in complete occlusion of the skin – it is non-comedogenic and non acnegenic
Mineral oil does not accelerate drying – it holds water in *see transepidermal water loss comment above* which decreases dry skin and thereby reduces the signs of aging
For those with acne and/or fungal conditions (seb derm) mineral oil is a BETTER choice than most plant oils because these can feed the yeast that causes those conditions – fungus loves oleic acid and many plant oils are full of this
The choice is always yours but the stories out there on mineral oil are 99% nonsense
I did so more longwindedly:
Where do the claims come from? Excellent question. Someone could probably get a PhD out of researching the history of the myth… Quick answer:
(a) environmentalism and (reasonable) distrust of big companies (and government agencies), more interested in making money than consumer and planet protection.
(b) green marketing (fairly reasonable, but still ethically dubious) by small companies, to get into the skincare/cosmetics market, and fight against the Big Guys.
(c) greenwashing and fear-mongering (ethically dubious) by aforementioned green companies, plus bigger ones trying to get into the green market.
(d) ignorance and fear of science, overtly anti-science stances, distrust and dislike of everything associated with science: labs, men in lab-coats, man-made stuff, sterility, synthetic, and the “chemical = toxic” fallacy. Add in bad science (see blog of same name), and the misreading and misinterpretation and deliberate misconstrual of actual science.
This is all often (as seen on this here green board) for understandable reasons–environmentalist, feminist–but is nevertheless a bad thing. Rooted in ignorance and fear. Fighting ignorance and fear not through (self-)education and attempts to understand, but by knee-jerk reactions and blind prejudice.
On mineral oil:
1. Yes, it’s cheap. There is no connection between cheapness and badness, or indeed price and quality.
2. Palm oil and soybean oil are cheap too, and often used by companies as a cheap oil (and greenwashing to pander to customer niggles about petrochemicals). Very cheap if produced from GMO crops on de-rainforest-ed land, complete with forced evictions, near-slave labour, and use of cheap fertilizers exacerbating desertification and poisoning (I use the word carefully and in its proper sense) of the soil.
3. Byproduct of the petrochemical industry, yes indeed. Note re. toxicity issues: if you look at the research (which has been widely misreported, in some cases deliberately so), that is in relation to gasoline/petrol and its fumes, NOT cosmetic- and food-grade mineral oil.
4. Mineral oil doesn’t clog pores. This is an urban myth. 0 on all comedogenicity indices. Probability close to 0. It’s one of the best-tolerated oils on even super-sensitive and fragile skin.
5. Mineral oil doesn’t hinder your skin’s ability to breathe any more than any other oil does. Clogging is mainly a matter of molecule size and pore size, combined with spreadability. I have small pores, which are not clogged by mineral oil (or, indeed, sunflower and the like). But clogged like crazy by coconut oil.
6. Oils don’t suffocate your skin and stop it breathing. Myth. This is to do with, again, molecular structure and how molecules are arranged. There’s a world of difference between an oil (any oil) and an impermeable material like, say, clingfilm. Try out the following experiment (needs an assistant): wet both hands. Apply even coating of oil to one (solid ones or waxes actually work best–coconut, shea, or indeed Vaseline). Wrap other hand in clingfilm. Wait. Look to see which hand starts wrinkling up and feeling horrid first.
7. While I often read and love [a source that was cited as authoritative, falling into the “seeing is believing” trap: if it’s been published, then it’s true, and it’s “an article.” SIGH.], I read it as a *blog*: it is categorically *not* a source of equivalent status to a peer-reviewed science journal. Just because something is published, online or otherwise, doesn’t give it any greater authority than any other human utterance.
PART THE FIFTH
An intermission, in the form of some more links on mineral oil:
- Colin’s Beauty Pages (“A cosmetic scientist shares his news and views on beauty products and the science behind them”)
- Point of Interest! / Swifty Crafty Monkey (“Join Susan as she obsesses about cosmetic chemistry and other things (some possibly related to monkeys). Often strange, occasionally useful, and always worth a stop as a point of interest on your journey through the Intertron.”)
- errrm, not quite the same actual factual quality as the previous two, and some hilarious comments, but… “Mineral Oil: The Truth!” on Beaut.ie
- the EU COSING information
PART THE SIXTH
Uses of mineral oil: can be adapted to any other oil too; on sensitive skin, for most purposes, plain supermarket cooking-grade sunflower or safflower work just as well (and, given where and how they grow, don’t involve the de-rainforestation issues of peanut, palm, soybean, etc.).
A. MINERAL OIL ALONE/NEAT
1. I keep some mineral oil plain and simple in the bathroom, for use when/if skin is in disastrous condition and all else fails. Anyone with serious skin issues, fragility, sensitivity, irritability, contact dermatitis, eczema, … will probably know what I’m talking about.
2. Some kitchen/household purposes: cleaning stuff ex. stubborn grubby sticky bits on work-surfaces and window-sills; rubbing into wooden chopping-boards and cooking implements.
B. MINERAL OIL MIXED WITH OTHER OILS [more updated version = posts on here on the multi-purpose oil]
Otherwise, mostly (daily) I use mineral oil the same way as I use any other; indeed, my usual approach is to mix together a bunch of oils and use them as my Universal DIY Oil Blend, and mineral oil is usually there:
currently (fall/winter) =
1/3 vol mineral
1/3 sunflower or safflower
1/6 sweet almond
1/6 jojoba and borage (1/12 each)
2/5 sunflower or safflower
Adding more borage if skin’s very dry and/or eczematic. I’m currently on extra borage, maybe another 1/10 vol. Using different, heavier stuff for cuticles, hands, feet (olive oil, shea butter, etc.). I’ve also used sesame, avocado, rice bran, and others; I prefer non-odourous, long-lasting oils that also work on/with my skin.
HOW I USE AN OIL MIX:
1. eye make-up removal, esp for w/p mascara (BWC)
2. body moisturising, either at end of shower then rinse off (summer), or after shower, pat into damp skin, let dry (takes a couple of minutes)
3. shaving armpits; and legs too in summer
4. (winter/drier skin) mixed in with face moisturiser, just a couple of drops
5. occasionally, as pre-cleanse if wearing very heavy sunscreen or more makeup than usual (usual = none); then wash with regular face wash.
6. removing any stuff I’ve foolishly experimented with and that’s caused fast-onset irritation. Used like (5) above, but not using cleanser after, just lots of water and leaving slight residue on skin afterwards
More on notepad. More elsewhere, indeed. This really is just the tip of the iceberg–there’s loads more uses on babies, old people, seriously ill people in hospitals.
C. VIABLE ALTERNATIVES
For many purposes (including many of the medical-grade uses), sunflower oil can be substituted as a more or less inert, non-reactive, sensitive-friendly, 0-comedogenicity, cheap, odourless, long-lasting oil.
Sesame and sweet almond to some extent too, though more expensive in most places.
There’s been quite a lot of research on this over the last ten years, with hospitals in India in particular, to find suitable alternatives that are cheaper, can be produced locally, and thus support the local/regional economy and reduce costs (and dependency) on foreign imports. J&J Corp. has as much of a stranglehold on medical use (hospitals, clinics, doctors–as opposed to the more cosmetic end of things) worldwide as it has in the US. With some rebellion in the EU, using domestic brands: some for mineral oil and petrolatum, some for plant-based alternatives–ex. Ovelle and E45 in the UK, Weleda etc. in Germany.
Sunflower seems to be the winner for liquid oils, and coconut (to a high degree–especially hospital use) as substitute for Vaseline/petrolatum.
PART THE SIXTH AND LAST
My very own genuine bona and bonus review of mineral oil (and look: a top rating for helpfulness!!!)