What is Petroleum Jelly?

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petroleum jelly


Petroleum Jelly (aka Petrolatum)

What it is:

Petroleum jelly is a byproduct of the oil industry and the result of the distillation of a waxy petroleum material that forms on oil rigs (1).

What it does:

Originally marketed as a burn ointment, petroleum jelly is used in many personal care products as a lubricant, moisture barrier, and skin balm (2).

Why we’re featuring it today:

Petroleum jelly is included in our Honestly Free Guarantee because it may contain potentially harmful contaminants. In the European Union, petroleum jelly can only be used in cosmetics “if the full refining history is known and it can be shown that the substance from which it is produced is not a carcinogen (3).” There is no such  restriction in the U.S, where, in fact, petroleum jelly is approved as an over-the-counter skin protectant. The EU  restricts the use of  petroleum jelly because it can sometimes be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (4). Some animal studies suggest that exposure to PAHs — including skin contact over extended periods of time — is associated with cancer (5).

How you can avoid it:

It’s easy! Simply avoid products that list petroleum jelly or petrolatum in the ingredients label.


  1. Petroleum jelly. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2016, from http://www.fao.org/docrep/w6355e/w6355e0p.htm
  2. Park, C. W., Jaworski, B. J., & Maclnnis, D. J. (1986). Strategic brand concept-image management. The Journal of Marketing, 135-145.
  3. European Commission. Cosmetic Directive 2003/83/EC, Annex II, Ref. 904. Retrieved October 30, 2016, from http://ec.europa.eu/health/endocrine_disruptors/docs/cosmetic_1223_2009_regulation_en.pdf
  4. Goodpaster, J. V., Howerton, S. B., & McGuffin, V. L. (2001). Forensic analysis of commercial petroleum products using selective fluorescence quenching. Journal of Forensic Science, 46(6), 1358-1371.
  5. ATSDR. ToxFAQs for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). Sep 1996. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/TF.asp?id=121&tid=25


  1. For my baby’s Eczema, its been suggested by doctor to use Vaseline 100% pure baby petroleum jelly. We have been using it from last 3.5 months. Is this product not suggestible to use? Any better alternative?

  2. Babyganics eczema lotion is really nice. I put a little bit of otc hydrocortisone on eczema, then the eczema lotion when really flared. Otherwise just use babyganics eczema lotion. I sometimes incorporate petroleum jelly on top to hold the lotion in … i also use honest co healing balm. But i find the babyganics eczema lotion a key ingredient and the hydrocortisone to work best …

  3. Unfortunately I’m allergic to most products that contain essential oils or even naturally occurring oils that are used by wonderful companies like Honest. Balsam of Peru allergies like mine prevent me from using lots of less toxic body care products. Therefore after many many tests and time and expense, my dermatologist has me using only petroleum jelly for moisturization. I hate to learn it may be giving me cancer.

  4. Dream cream at pureessentials.com works amazing for babies

  5. I have very sensitive skin and have irritations all of the time. I love the honest company healing balm, it is hands down the best product I’ve bought. It’s thick like petroleum jelly and really soothes the skin. Only down side is it smells a little funny. If I’m not mistaken eczema is really dry skin, so could be worth a shot.

  6. Be careful using hydrocortisone frequently. It’s a steroid your skin can get addicted to and cause long term skin problems. I also learned that the hard way.

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