4 Good Reasons to Ditch Vaseline (Plus the Best Natural Alternatives)
Petroleum jelly (or Vaseline) is a product commonly found in many skin care products. But the substance wasn’t originally created with skin care in mind…it was discovered as a by-product on oil rigs in the mid-1800s.
After more formulation, the jelly-like substance became used as a topical skin solution, making the skin look and feel lubricated. For hundreds of years since, people have reached for it for everything from soothing sunburn, to fending off diaper rash, to healing chapped lips.
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It’s even popular for softening dry, cracked paws on the family dog, or protect them from moisture. But petroleum jelly may not be the best choice today, when more natural, gentler products are available.
Here are a few reasons why you should put down the Vaseline and opt for a natural alternative instead:
1. Traps Toxins
Petroleum jelly’s biggest asset is at creating a seal. On your skin, it creates a barrier over the area to which it is applied. In studies, it has been shown to be 98% occlusive, meaning it prevents the passage of materials through it. Dirt, dust, perspiration and oils are trapped underneath, and fresh air and natural moisture are unable to get through to the skin. This could be a concern from those who are prone to breakouts or irritations.
2. Difficult to Remove
Any good seal is waterproof, and petroleum jelly does well in that category, also. When it comes to removal, gentle soap and water won’t do. You’ll need to use a product to break it down, or simply wait for it to wear away.
3. May Contain Chemicals
Another area to consider with petroleum jelly is the refinement process, which is an important step in production which removes potentially hazardous substances. Without proper refinement, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, may be present, which may contain carcinogens. In Europe, regulations require that the full refining history of the product be available, but such regulations are not in place in the U.S.
Vaseline, a common petroleum-jelly based product, shares that it is triple-purified, and has been granted a low hazard rating and zero risk for cancer by the Environmental Working Group. But unless the refinement history of a product is made available, the refinement process is unknown.
4. Refinement Proccess Pollutes the Environment
Finally, if you’re concerned about the environment, remember where petroleum jelly comes from: it’s a by-product of oil production. Emissions from and by-products of oil rigs are known to have a harmful impact on water and air, negatively affecting surrounding plants, sea life and animals.
Safe Natural Alternatives for Vaseline
Many natural products have risen in popularity which may be better options for your skin care routine. Produced from the African shea tree, African shea butter contains many skin-friendly ingredients, including vitamins A and E, and it doesn’t trap the surface of the skin.
Coconut oil behaves similarly to petroleum jelly, but does not create an occlusive barrier. Coconut oil also has antioxidant properties that may help prevent aging. Both of these products also work well as a lip balm, or to help keep your dog’s feet smooth and supple.
While applying a quick coat of a petroleum-jelly based product to chapped lips or to protect a baby’s bottom may seem like a good solution, it’s important to think of the whole picture. It may seem to provide immediate relief, but long term, it could actually be contributing to skin problems or straining the environment.
Debbie Swanson is a freelance writer, published in numerous national and local outlets. An avid vegetarian, animal lover and reader, she loves learning about healthy eating and finding natural cures for everyday ailments.