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Inert substance

Important Chemical Components:

Highly refined saturated hydrocarbons1 such as:


naphthenes (cycloalkanes)

Origin Classification:

Mineral oil is derived from petroleum, and is considered synthetic because solvents and other chemicals are used during the refining process.

Personal Care Category:

Emollient, occlusive

Recommended for the following Baumann Skin Types:

Best for dry skin types because oily ones will not like the greasiness. Does not have any anti-inflammatory properties. Best for DRNT, DRNW, DRPT, and DRPW.


Mineral oil (also known as liquid petrolatum, heavy mineral oil, light mineral oil, liquid paraffin, mineral oil mist, paraffin oil, paraffinum liquidum, petrolatum liquid, petroleum oil, white mineral oil, and white oil)1 is a complex mixture of highly refined saturated hydrocarbons derived from the distillation of petroleum in the production of gasoline.2 Along with petrolatum, lanolin, and silicones, mineral oil is among the most effective of occlusive ingredients used in skin care products (Table 13-1).3 As such, it is a popular cosmetic ingredient in moisturizers, creams, and baby lotions.

TABLE 13-1Pros and Cons of Mineral Oil


The use of petrolatum dates back to its discovery in 1872 by Robert A. Chesebrough.4 The cosmetic use of mineral oil followed shortly thereafter, incorporated in such agents since the 1880s, and remains one of the most frequently used oils in skin care formulations.2 A notable study in the more recent history of mineral oil showed, in 1989, that an emulsion containing mineral oil was more effective than various linoleic acid emulsions in reducing skin vapor loss in volunteers who received topical applications of sodium lauryl sulfate solution.5


Mineral oil is a byproduct of the process of converting petroleum to gasoline. Petroleum itself is composed of fossil plankton and algae-derived substances largely made up of hydrocarbons.1 It is refined using solvents and other methods to produce mineral oil. Refined mineral oil is composed of two hydrocarbon types: paraffinics, which are branched-chain alkanes, and naphthenics, which are alkanes containing one or more saturated cyclic structures.1 The ratio of paraffinics to naphthenics and their respective molecular weight determines the physical properties of the resulting oil. Mineral oils are classified by their viscosities. “Light” mineral oil has low viscosity. “Heavy” mineral oil has a high viscosity.

Mineral oil is known to have strong occlusive properties, and is one of the best occlusive ingredients known (second to petrolatum). It is able to form a tight barrier that prevents the passage of ...

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