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What is in Aquaphor? A review and look at the ingredients

The many uses of aquaphor

In my pediatrics 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.

Yes, Aquaphor seemed to be the answer for absolutely everything related to the skin in pediatrics. But what is in Aquaphor? Here’s a look at the ingredients list of Aquaphor, and a list of all the different things you can do with Aquaphor!

A review of the ingredients in Aquaphor. Is it ok to use?

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 allergens 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?

You can buy Aquaphor at Amazon
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About Me

I’m a doctor, a mommy and a bit of a beauty addict. If you let me, I can take 2 hours to get ready in the morning. Really. I'm on a quest for faster beauty that works!

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  1. 2.26.14

    Knew I loved this stuff! Been using it as a lip balm since last summer. Thanks for giving me more ideas.

  2. 2.27.14

    I first discovered Aquaphor when it was recommended by my tattoo artist as aftercare. I have since used it for all of my moisturizing needs! I love putting it on my lips at night; I wake up with them super soft.

  3. 2.27.14
    Deb said:

    Hi Christine. I have had two laser peels (a few years apart) and as anyone who's done it knows, the recovery period is not fun. On the first peel, my derm gave me Aquaphor and I used it diligently for the recovery process. Of course, I hated it smeared all over my face every day but that was what had to be done. For the second peel, I had stumbled across a product called Waxelene before I had the procedure. It has no petrolatum, is all natural, and only has 4 ingredients. I purchased it ahead of the procedure and took it in with me on the day of the peel. My derm very carefully reviewed the ingredients and said "definitely try this, it's got nothing bad in it and all of the ingredients are natural and organic". So I used it throughout the recovery process. It worked beautifully and I think I actually healed faster the second time using this. It is designed specifically to be an alternative to petrolatum products and it's not occlusive and allows the skin to breathe. All I can say is that for me, it was a godsend. It does feel a little heavy and is highly emollient but it's not as heavy and greasy as Aquaphor. It made the second recovery so much more pleasant. Of course, I'm NOT a doctor and am not pretending to be an expert but I just wanted to throw this out there for information. I know you pay very close attention to ingredient lists and I thought this might be worth looking into for those people who don't want to, or can't, use petrolatum.

  4. 9.22.19
    Cindy said:

    Is petrolatum safe for pregnancy? I read some articles saying it may harm the fetus in a way. But most of the moisturizer I found in the market contains petrolatum.

  5. 3.6.22
    Nancy Margeson said:

    My aunt used Aquaphor ointment and she said it raised her blood sugar. She a diabetic

    • 3.7.22
      Christine said:

      That’s physiologically impossible. Something else raised her blood sugar.