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Mineral Oil: Why is it in Your Moisturizer, and Is It Bad For You?

mineral oil, skin care, is it bad for skin?
Since I’m beginning my Johnson’s skin care challenge, I knew that this topic would be brought up in comments. It has come up many times in the past, and honestly the people that usually bring it up are so rude to me about it that I don’t publish their comments. So, if you’ve been wondering about this, here’s the answer. And, if you have strong opinions about mineral oil, and were thinking of writing a not so nice comment about it, here’s why you should stop for a moment first.

Mineral oil has a bad rap in cosmetics for the wrong reasons. There are many people that now believe anything that is not 100% natural is bad for you, and that something labelled “natural” is good. That thinking is incorrect, there are lots of things that are “natural” that aren’t any good. And lots of things that are synthetic that are just fine.

Mineral oil is derived from the distillation of petroleum in the production of gasoline. True. There are many grades of mineral oil. Most people get confused by this and rather than considering only cosmetic grade mineral oil, they generalize the effects of all mineral oils (including industrial grade, which is extremely different from cosmetic grade).

Industrial grade is the big baddie here. With protracted exposure (via the skin or inhalation), industrial grade mineral oil has been found to be associated with increased risk of several types of cancer (reference). Industrial grade mineral oil has also been found to be comedogenic, meaning it can clog your pores.

Cosmetic grade mineral oil is a very different story. It has been used in cosmetics for over 100 years, and is still one of the most popular ingredients in items like body wash, moisturizer and sunscreen. It has been found to be just as safe and effective as extra virgin coconut oil to treat dry skin. It has never been linked to cancer. And it isn’t even comedogenic!

Since I’ll be posting about quite a few products that contain mineral oil as their #1 or 2 ingredient over the next few weeks, I’ll be referring back to this post quite a bit. The moral of the story is to remember that there are different grades of mineral oil. And there is a reason we don’t use the industrial stuff in our moisturizers or ingest it as a laxative.

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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. 9.24.11
    Jeni said:

    I've read a hundred times that mineral oil causes acne, but I really don't think it does! I think on a scale of 0-5, it's a 0 in terms of clogging pores, but I know most people with acne stay away from mineral oil. Anyway, I'm not afraid of it!

  2. 9.25.11
    Rae said:

    Ii am very acne prone. And I sometimes use pure mineral oil to remove makeup. It didn't break me out.

    I've read stuff about this. They said that the molecules of mineral oil is too big to clog pores. I'm bound to agree. Got to LOVE mineral oil.

    It's in my fave cream too… Nivea Creme 😛

  3. 9.25.11
    Grace said:

    I wasn't even too sure about what exactly mineral oil was, thanks!
    Grace xx

  4. 9.25.11
    swati said:

    that's absolutely true that mineral oil is abused a lot for no good reasons!!! and mineral oil goes through huge amount of refining processes before being used in cosmetics so one can stay calm on that score!!!

  5. 9.25.11
    Jean D said:

    Thank you for explaining the difference. Your posts are always so educational and easy to understand. Your readers appreciate it. I think anything Johnson's makes is great and safe.

  6. 9.26.11

    great post!! i also love how you link to valid scientific studies and references! thanks for the info!! 🙂

  7. 2.9.12
    Anonymous said:

    I always try and use natural/ organic (if its beneficial) products, but I have done my research and cosmetic grade mineral oil is fine/safe like you said! After my shower I use Aveeno body oil – which works for my sensitive/dry skin and oh my -it has mineral oil. Many natural products have given me a rash as the products tend to have unnecessary essential oils added. Thanks for the post! Hopefully it helps more people to understand.

  8. 4.7.12
    Anonymous said:

    I dont belive that the mineral oil in Nivia cream is danger for human my sister used it all her life sense she was 20 and is 56 now and she as no wrinkle and me that never used it is full and im 55 with very dry skin so i started to use nivia to maybe to late now but i trust it.

  9. 10.25.12
    Anonymous said:

    Glad to see this post about mineral oil. Many people have a knee-jerk reaction against it and won't even listen to the facts. As to believing that anything "natural" is good, while anything "synthetic" is bad, there are lots of natural plant extracts that are very harsh on the skin, e.g., lavender oil, grapefruit extract. They sound and even smell great, but they are not good products for caring for your skin.


  10. 11.24.23
    Nicole Chan said:

    I read so many things about mineral oil, I recently bought a moisturizer with mineral as its #2 ingredient. I wanted to ask if the moisturizer was still safe to use during pregnancy?

    • 11.25.23
      Christine said:

      Topical mineral oil is fine