A by-product of petroleum, mineral oil is obtained after the process of fractional distillation. It is often described as a distillate of petroleum that is free-flowing and clear as water. This distillate is often used in a variety of home appliances, cosmetics, lubrication oils, lotions, different types of paints and polishes, soaps, and even baby care products.
Though the use of mineral oil is very widespread, concerns have been raised about the side effects of mineral oil on the skin. Though it might help improve the texture of skin, especially in case of individuals affected by dry skin, certain studies have revealed the adverse effects of mineral oil.
The Known Dangers of Mineral Oil
When the process of fractional distillation of petroleum was performed initially, many by-products were derived. These by-products were inflammable and had a high calorific value. They were virtually useless, until manufacturers began to use them in cosmetics and home appliances. One of the biggest drawbacks of using mineral oil as a cosmetic is that it is forms a coating on the human skin. It tends to form a thin layer on the skin, which resembles a layer of plastic.
The human skin performs various important functions, which range from production of vitamin D, cooling down of the body temperature, to protection from pathogens and elements. The thin plastic-like layer that forms on the skin drastically slows down the production of vitamin D. The mineral oil film on the skin prevents the skin from producing vitamin D on being exposed to the sunlight. If the process of sweating is hampered, the human body also takes a very long time to cool down. To add to that, some people could develop an allergic reaction on applying this oil on the skin. Also, the layer of mineral oil that coats the skin inhibits the skin's ability to breathe and absorb moisture. Also, it might contribute to premature aging of the skin.
Also, in pediatric population, aspiration of mineral oil could occur during oral administration of mineral oil for treating constipation. This could put one at a risk of developing lipoid pneumonia. It is strongly recommended that the use of mineral oil-based cosmetics should be avoided by women during pregnancy, as even the tiny droplets that are inhaled can prove to be dangerous.
Seek medical help immediately in the event of an allergic reaction. The symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives, difficult breathing, and the swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. In some cases, the topical application of this oil could cause contact dermatitis, which might cause a burning or stinging sensation, redness, or irritation at the area where the oil was applied.
Manufacturers of cosmetic products use mineral oil, as it can be purchased at a very reasonable price due to being a by-product that is of virtually no value to the oil refinery. It is used in such products due to its free-flowing property. In the long run, it could cause adverse effects. Thus, it is advisable to exercise caution, or consult your healthcare provider regarding the use of such products.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.