In my peds residency we dealt with a few common dermatology issues in our clinics, before we would refer on to dermatology. What was interesting was that with one exception (acne), we had pretty much the same answer for everything. Aquaphor.
Aquaphor is mostly petrolatum, which explains why the lotion is so greasy. While a lot of people try to avoid petrolatum because it is derived from petroleum, this mix of hydrocarbons is the gold standard for an occlusive, noncomedogenic moisturizer. Petrolatum also acts as an emollient (read more about types of moisturizers). Petrolatum’s occlusive property that helps hold moisture in the skin also forms a barrier over the skin. This barrier won’t heal anything, but it can protect the skin from allergans and irritants, letting it heal without irritation. Allergy to petrolatum is so rare that it gets reported in the medical literature.
Let’s take a quick look at the other ingredients.
Mineral Oil: Also derived from petroleum, this is another great occlusive moisturizer that can act as an emollient. Mineral oil is also noncomedogenic and while exposure in industrial situations has been linked to cancer, those exposures have massive quantities and are of a different extraction process than cosmetic grade mineral oil. Cosmetic grade mineral oil has never been linked to cancer.
Ceresin: A naturally derived wax that is used as a thickening agent.
Lanolin Alcohol: A third occlusive moisturizer with some emollient properties. Lanolin is basically derived from the sweat of sheep, it gets washed out of wool after the shearing. Lanolin has a bit of a reputation for allergies, but is actually considered a “weak allergen” in most dermatology text books.
Panthenol: A pro-vitamin of B5, this is both an emollient and humectant moisturizer and very easily penetrates the hair shaft, which is why you’ll find it in so many shampoos. In addition to hydration, it helps wound healing and helps decrease irritation.
Glycerin: This is a strong humectant.
Bisabolol: A key active ingredient in Chamomile, this is largely responsible for the anti-inflammatory action.
So, basically this is one big moisturizing powerhouse. Mostly it acts as an occlusive with some emollient and humectant properties. There’s also a little added bonus for wound healing and anti-inflammatory action.
Around my house, I swear we’ve gone through about 3 tubes of Aquaphor in the last 2 months, which is quite a bit more than usual. Maybe it is this bad winter weather, but there seem to be a lot need around my house for super hydration and barrier protection for rashes.
While I’ve been using up the Aquaphor in the house, the biggest user is actually my little 3 year old daughter. Winter has really done a number on her face, every little irritation gives her a rash! We slather it on her face a few times a day to help protect her from the cold and wind as well as offer protection so any irritation can heal.
Here’s a quick peek at everything that we’ve been using it for around my home:
1. Moisturize any dry spots.
2. Protect our faces from the super cold wind.
3. Underneath lip balm for extra moisture.
4. Over any irritations or rashes to offer extra protection.
5. Around my nose (and even in it) for irritation from blowing my nose (and to prevent it from bleeding… fun times!)
6. On my entire body after a shower to seal in moisture and help my eczema.
7. On my hands cuticles when they’re feeling dry at all, this is about 3 times a day.
8. On feet at night (under socks) to help keep my feet feeling soft.
Have you been using more moisturizer than normal this winter too?