Mineral Oils (Paraffinum Liquidum, Petrolatum,…)

BY MSc. Bára Haliková

We might already sound repetitive, but yet again a controversial one: mineral oils in cosmetics. Controversial how exactly? Well, in the EU, mineral oils are prohibited in food products BUT are allowed in cosmetics. Ironically, mineral oils are largely used in lip balms and lipsticks, which we unintentionally end up eating, as you can read in this article. Funny, huh?

Picture source: unsplash.com

Scientific research is inconclusive on this subject matter, as you can see for yourself, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment made a conclusion saying that: “Highly refined mineral oils in cosmetics: Health risks are not to be expected given the current state of knowledge” [1].

When it comes to food, here is a scientific opinion from The European Food Safety Authority, EFSA for short. They believe that an exposure to mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH), if they are in aromatic form, may function as genotoxic carcinogens, while if they are in a saturated form, they may cause liver problems [2]. Either way, it doesn’t sound very pleasant!

That is quite a different assessment. So where is the truth?  I’d say stop eating your lipsticks ladies but I guess it’s pretty unavoidable.

Another problem with mineral oils is… I’ll give you a few seconds to take a guess… yes you’ve guessed it! It’s their effect on the environment and this we absolutely have to talk about.

Picture source: pixabay.com

When it comes to environmental destruction, of course there is the whole issue of mineral extraction – but, to be fair, other industries have a much bigger share in that. Another problem is that mineral oils have poor biodegradability and therefore accumulate in nature [3].

This means that, as with most plastic, our planet will be covered in this stuff for years and years to come. Crude oil, for example, is extremely problematic for our environment due to the fact that its extraction and exploitation comes with a high risk. This oil doesn’t even have any beneficial components for our skin, even though it is added to many cosmetic products [4]. So what do you think? It’s the protection of our environment against more filling in our face creams.

Fact sheet on mineral oils

What is it:
  • is a colorless and odorless petrolatum derivative
Where can we find it:
  • It’s Vaseline’s main component
  • due to long shelf life, they are also used in in face and body creams, as well as, eye creams, foundations, liquid makeup removers, and wipes and often also in children skin care
Health effect:
  • In food carcinogenic and may cause liver problems, when it comes to cosmetics, health effect not yet proven
Effect environment:
  • extremely problematic for the environment, mainly due to the increasingly risky extraction and exploitation

GS tip: Not an active ingredient and it’s bad for the environment. Try to limit the use of products with mineral oils.


  • MSc. Bára Haliková

    Completed her master studies in environmental management and waste management at GCU in Glasgow. Currently, she works for the organisation CEEV Živica on project GreenGate, whose main goal is to educate the public about dangerous substances in cosmetics. She currently lives with her partner and daughter in the countryside of Slovakia, in a small mobile home, which they built themselves.


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