Petroleum Jelly in Skincare

petroleum jelly

December 04, 2021

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What Is Petroleum Jelly?


Petroleum jelly, often known by the tradename Vaseline, has its roots right here in Pennsylvania.  Oil workers were using something they called ‘rod wax’ to treat their wounds.  This was a sticky residue that would build up on oil pump rods.  An American chemist named Robert Chesebrough learned of this and started to market its use as Vaseline.  There are stories about how in his attempts to convince people to use it he would burn himself and use the Vaseline to help heal his skin to prove it works!



Is petroleum jelly considered safe?

Petroleum jelly or white petrolatum is made as a by-product of oil refining. It is purified and refined and regarded as one of the safest products to use on the skin by Dermatologists.  It’s composed mainly of a mixture of waxes and mineral oils.  



What are the benefits of petroleum jelly?


It is widely used in skincare products due to its many benefits including:

  • Skin Barrier: Serves as an effective skin barrier to protect the skin from the environment.  Can be used to prevent diaper rash for example.
  • Healing: By serving as a barrier for the skin, minor cuts, and scrapes have the opportunity to heal in a moist environment protected from outside irritants.
  • Lubricant: Petroleum jelly can hydrate the skin as an occlusive moisturizer that traps hydration.

What is the difference between petroleum jelly and petrolatum?


They are actually the same thing.  In North America, it is referred to as petroleum jelly. 



What are the most common products in which one would find petrolatum? 


to Protect and Sooth Dry Skin with Hyaluronic Acid

This product contains hyaluronic acid along with petrolatum to add to its ability to add hydration to the skin.




Along with antibiotic ingredients, the base of this product is in fact petrolatum.  For clean cuts, wounds, and surgical scars, we tend to recommend plain Vaseline or petroleum jelly to heal.  The added antibiotics may not help as much as people think and have their own risk of developing contact dermatitis on a healing wound!




Aquaphor is essentially a combination of petroleum jelly and lanolin along with other ingredients such as glycerin and mineral oil.  The lanolin can make this product adhere to the skin more effectively while the other ingredients make it a bit less thick.  This makes it a great option to use as a preventative for diaper rash.




This common moisturizer is often used by patients that are eczema or sensitive skin prone. The petrolatum makes it a common choice for eczema-prone patients to choose.

What is ‘slugging’?

‘Slugging” is a Korean beauty trend.  Essentially, it describes the nightly application of a thin layer of petroleum jelly over the face.  The goal is to prevent dryness and hydrate the skin.


Is ‘slugging’ a good idea for your skin?

If your skin tends to be dry, irritated, or sensitive, this may help to hydrate and repair your skin.


Is petroleum jelly pore-clogging or comedogenic?

Petroleum jelly is considered non-comedogenic making it safe to apply to the face.  


Why apply petroleum jelly overnight?


For our skin, the following have been noted overnight:

  • At night, our skin is its most permeable- this means that it is more susceptible to absorbing applied products.  This is an ideal opportunity to use moisturizers and medications.  The skin penetration for products is at its peak overnight.
  • Blood flow to the skin increases later in the day and in the evening. 
  • Our healthy skin cells have an opportunity to repair and proliferate with their maximal activity in the middle of the night.  Interestingly, some studies have shown that cancer cells slow progression overnight.  This is an ideal scenario to help control the spread or growth of cancers.
  • Natural steroid or cortisol levels decrease by the end of the day leading to an increase in the itch sensation at night for inflammatory conditions.
  • Most importantly the repair of skin cells from UV-induced DNA damage is at its peak overnight.


If you combine the benefits of petroleum jelly for the skin along with the benefits of overnight product placement, there is a huge benefit for your skin.  I am a proponent of consideration to petroleum jelly overnight to help heal, repair, protect and hydrate the skin.

It is safe to use but it’s a mess.  Choose a pillowcase you do not care about as it will leave behind a greasy stain.  Also, if you have pets, you are going to get pet hair stuck to your face:)





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