Mineral oil is an ingredient you may likely find on the labels of many beauty products, from soaps to lotions to makeup to hair products. From the name, you may imagine that mineral oil is some type of natural oil high in nutritious minerals (sounds like a wonderful thing, doesn’t it?). But in reality, mineral oil is an odorless and colorless fluid that is created as a byproduct of making gasoline (via Healthline). It’s been a popular moisturizing ingredient in beauty products for the simple reason that it works and it’s incredibly cheap.
Might you know mineral oil by another name? Yes, indeed. Petroleum jelly is mineral oil-based and is also known as simply petrolatum. Other names you may see on bottles that represent this petroleum byproduct are paraffin oil, white mineral oil, and liquid paraffin (via madesafe.com).
There has been a great deal of discussion and argument over the safety of using this product topically, as exposure to the type of mineral oil used in an occupational setting may increase your risk of developing cancer. That said, the type of mineral oil used in hygiene products is highly refined and highly purified, and is deemed safe by the FDA (via Healthline). So what’s the real deal?
Why you may want to avoid mineral oil
The reason the FDA says mineral oil is safe is because, generally, the type used in beauty products has been highly refined. This matters because when mineral oil is manufactured, it can be contaminated by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), some of which are known carcinogens while others are considered potential carcinogens. The refining process, when done completely and properly, completely removes PAHs. However, it is common for mineral oil products to not be fully refined, at least in the U.S., and unless the company provides the entire refining history of the product in question, it is very difficult to prove that it is safe (madesafe.com).
If you would like a more natural alternative to mineral oil for smoothing and moisturizing your hair, try coconut oil, argan oil, and olive oil. When you are buying beauty products, you can check the labels to ensure you are using the safest types of oils available to both get the soft tresses you want and avoid the potential chemicals you don’t.
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