What is mineral oil?
Mineral oil is a clear odourless liquid of petrochemical origin.
It is obtained by refining and purifying petroleum and it is very commonly used in the cosmetics industry as an emollient and skin conditioning agent 1,2.
The most common mineral oils used in skincare products are paraffin (wax), paraffin oil, petrolatum (used in Vaseline), cera microcristallina (microcrystalline wax), “baby oil” (perfumed mineral oil).3
Why is it used?
Some reasons why mineral oil is so commonly used are its low price point, long shelf-life (it does not easily oxidise) and the fact that it is odourless, colourless and allows for the product’s viscosity to be easily adapted.
Most plant-based oils on the other hand have a rather short shelf life and have their own distinctive natural colours and scents which make them less versatile.
Non-sustainability of mineral oils
One can argue that products derived from fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, coal) are natural since they were naturally formed by the decomposition of organic matter over millions of years. Despite the fact that applying petroleum-derived products on our skin sounds less than appealing (at least to us), we consider mineral oils to also pose an environmental threat.
The depletion of our non-renewable natural resources and the extraction of fossil fuels with methods such as fracking has already caused significant environmental damage.
Using mineral oils in cosmetics formulations means that we let poorly biodegradable ingredients from non-renewable resources be incorporated in our everyday skincare products and continue to harm the environment.
Plant-based oils are not only readily biodegradable but also offer a vast array of wonderful properties and active ingredients kindly supplied by nature that can benefit ones’ skin. We therefore see no advantage in using petrochemicals in our skincare formulations!
1 Mineral oil, CosmeticsInfo.org
2 Mineral Oil, ChemicalSafetyFacts.org
3 Mineral oils, Cosmile (cosmile-info.eu)