Hidden Chemicals: Petrolatum

Is The Risk Worth It?

Petrolatum, derived from petroleum, is a mineral oil that is used as a barrier in cosmetics to lock in moisture.  It is also used in hair care products to make hair shiny. Petrolatum is a byproduct of petroleum refining (1). As the melting point is closed to body temperature, this oil softens when used and forms a water-repellant barrier on the applied area.  When it is properly refined, petrolatum has no known health concerns. However, it is often not fully refined in the US or Canada, which means it may be contaminated with toxic chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.  Without a refining history, it is impossible to know whether or not the petroleum in your moisturizers are clean or contaminated.  While the EU mandates that, for cosmetic use, the full refining history of the petrolatum must be known and non carcinogenic, however the USA has no such requirements.  


  • lotions
  • cosmetics
  • hair hair products


Petrolatum, Petroleum Jelly, Paraffin Oil, Mineral Oil, and White Petrolatum (refined and safe for use)


Cancer:  The primary concern is that the petrolatum has been contaminated with PAHs, a suspected carcinogen (2)

Read More:

  1. BHA
  2. Coal Tar Dyes
  3. DEA
  4. Dibutyl Phthalate
  5. Formaldehyde
  6. Parabens
  7. Parfum
  8. PEG Compounds
  9. Petrolatum
  10. Siloxanes
  11. Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  12. Triclosan


International Agency for Research on Cancer. (2014). Agents classified by the IARC monographs, volumes 1–112.