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Pros and Cons of Mineral Oil for the Skin

Winter is here, and the battle against dry skin and the effects of close fitting clothing begins.  With all the new research and conflicting opinions, it can be difficult to decide what’s the best and safest way to moisturize one’s skin.  I hope in this article, to help you to figure out what choices are best for you as an individual.

Mineral Oil vs. Animal Oils vs. Vegetable Oils

The research came out a few years ago, that cosmetic grade mineral oil is relatively safe for skin.  Since then, there has been an intense debate between scientists, estheticians, and laypersons, about whether or not it is truly safe, or if the claims of safety are just propaganda.

I don’t personally know who is right about mineral oil, but I am certain that anything that is mass produced has some risk of contamination.  So the olive oil that you use in your salad, and actually ingest, may be more unsafe than your facial cream, since you eat the salad oil and don’t eat face cream.  If something isn’t causing you  problems, then there’s no reason other than personal preference to choose one thing over another.

Taking personal choice into account though, the more relevant question about mineral oil vs. others is what you need an oil to do for you.   Would your needs be better served by mineral oil or some other?  Superiority
is a more relevant question than safety.

Mineral oil is an emollient.  It basically creates a seal over your skin that helps to hold moisture in, and keep other things out. 

For people who live in climates that are colder and/or drier than they are naturally adapted to, mineral oil has been helpful in preventing cracking and flaking, as well as in keeping warm.  We also know that well moisturized skin is better protected against bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

…but is there something better?

Recently, it has been found that well refined sunflower oil is better than mineral oil at protecting the skin and preventing infection. 

Emu oil is also bacteriostatic, and shea butter even helps to kill bacteria while balancing the skin’s natural protective oil, sebum.  So why is anyone still using mineral oil, when there are so many alternatives?

Well, for one, it’s cheaper than some, and it tends not to aggravate allergies.  For a generally sold product, this is a good thing.  It also blends well with other oils and extracts, so if you mix them yourself, you can make a nice, smooth suspension in your own kitchen.

So mineral oil might not be the evil that proponents of “natural” cosmetics made it out to be, but it’s certainly not the best choice either.  It’s also not an either-or choice.  You can use a mixture, and get the benefits of many oils at once.  Just whatever you do, don’t do it blindly.  Try different things and see which is right for you.

Ah…what’s right…

Well, there is another thing to consider before choosing whether or not to use mineral oil or others.  That is the contribution, albeit very small, to the fossil fuels industry.  Mineral oil is a petroleum product, and regardless of which political side you’re on, we can all agree that there are a few people getting rich on the backs of the poor. 

Big oil companies are so ingrained in the world’s infrastructure that almost nobody can completely avoid any use of any products in their chain, but if everyone did what little they could, it would still make a difference.

Even when you use a plant oil, those plants were harvested and processed using machines that are directly or indirectly powered by fossil fuels.  However, plant and animal derived oils support farmers more than they support
oil fields.  If you live in the right area, you may even be boosting your local economy by choosing the non mineral option.

So if you’re the type of person who doesn’t drive, or drives a hybrid car to reduce your environmental impact and contributions to big oil, then you should be using a plant oil whenever you can.  In the long run, this is better for your skin and your world.