Mineral oils in skincare products: All you need to know about this much-debated beauty ingredient

So many of your favourite beauty products include mineral oil for its hydrating, softening and smoothening properties, but there are many newer brands that feature the ingredient in their major no-no list, along with other “harmful” picks like parabens, phthalates, fragrances and colour. Not sure whether you should be skipping or adding mineral oil into your routines? We asked the experts.

What is mineral oil and how does it benefit your skin?

“Mineral oil is an occlusive ingredient used as a back bone of many moisturisers. Related to petrolatum or petroleum jelly, it forms a seal over the surface of the skin to help hydrate, soften, and protect,” shares New York based Dr Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research of dermatology at Mount Sinai. It creates a barrier between the skin and the environment, protecting it with elements like wind and pollution. It can slip into the cracks between the cells to create a smoother texture and prevents transepidermal water loss too. All these benefits make it “commonly used in most products you’re using already,” he says.

They’re safe, and most doctors agree with that. There’s no science that suggests that it should be avoided by everyone, says Aneesh Sheth, cosmetic scientist and founder of Dr Sheth’s. In fact, it is a great ingredient for those with dry skin. “It’s actually one of the best things for eczema. We don’t use it in our later products because people don’t want it because of fear-mongering. Clinically, there is nothing wrong with it,” adds Sheth. He dismisses the rumours of the product containing carcinogen. “There’s a difference between crude petroleum and mineral oil,” he states. It’s only if mineral oil is not refined properly that it may contain 1,4-dioxane, which is a carcinogen. “However, this is very rare as highly purified and refined ‘cosmetic-grade’ mineral oils are used in cosmetics, which do not pose the above risk,” states Delhi-based dermatologist Dr Veenu Jindal.

What can you use instead of products with mineral oils?

Still, if your skin is prone to congestion, blackheads and whiteheads, or your cell turnover isn’t up to snuff, the occlusive layer of mineral oil may cause skin to clog up and thus lead to acne, according to Dr Zeichner and Dr Jindal. Plus, mineral oils aren’t the most environmentally-friendly choice. “Mineral oil is a cheaper moisturising agent, making it key in conventional skincare and makeup products. But they are derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource, and therefore avoided by conscious and clean beauty brands these days,” says Prasanthy Gurugubelli, cosmetic scientist and founder of Daughter Earth. She prefers a botanical oil instead. “There are so many amazing botanical oils, such as jojoba, that are even biomimetic in nature, which means have similar structure as the skin’s sebum because of which the skin accepts it instead of reacting to it.”


If you’re looking for ultra-moisturising products that are better for the environment and lighter on your skin, scroll for some of our favourites.

pTatcha The Water Creamp
Tatcha The Water Cream
Image may contain Cosmetics Bottle and Shaker
Sukin Moisture Restoring Night Cream
pUma Absolute Anti Aging Body Oilp
Uma Absolute Anti Aging Body Oil
pCosrx Advanced Snail 92 All in One Creamp
Cosrx Advanced Snail 92 All in One Cream
pLOral Paris Revitalift Triple Power AntiAging Moisturiserp
L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Anti-Aging MoisturiserThe article was first published in Vogue


  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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