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Side Effects of Petroleum Jelly

Side Effects of Petroleum Jelly - Is it Really Harmful?

Petroleum jelly is often hailed as a cure-all, and has several uses in skin care. Here we discuss some of the potential side effects it can have.
Rutuja Jathar
Last Updated: Feb 2, 2018
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Petrolatum, also known as petroleum jelly, is a semisolid mixture of hydrocarbons. Pure petroleum jelly is always colorless, whereas wrongly distilled petroleum jelly is pale yellow in color. It has many uses and benefits, that make it one of the topmost ingredients for many skin care products. It also has numerous healing properties, that work not only in the case of skin care but also for several other purposes, like shining leather shoes, damaged wood, preventing wind burn, etc.
Petroleum Jelly
It is nothing but a mixture of hydrocarbons. Petroleum jelly is insoluble in water, and does not get oxidized when exposed to air. Due to many of these 'friendly' properties, petroleum jelly is widely recognized as 'the best' solution for many personal care applications like moisturizers, baby oils, lotions, and hair care products. Along with the healing properties, the biggest advantage is that it is low-cost, and has an almost unlimited shelf-life. With so many uses, can there be any side effects too? Let's find out.
Side Effects
  • Those allergic to petroleum-based products may develop allergies due to the use of petroleum jelly. As in case of any other cosmetic product, there is a possibility of skin irritation or an allergic reaction on using petroleum jelly.
  • If not applied on a clean skin, there is a risk of infections.
  • Due to the mineral oils present in petroleum jelly, applying it on the nose area, may cause nasal itchiness or trouble breathing.
  • Although not proven to be unsafe for consumption, it is not advisable to ingest petroleum jelly. In case of an accidental consumption, one must seek medical help.
  • The chances of any serious side effects of petroleum jelly are very rare. However, if effects like changes in the color or texture of the skin, or infections are experienced, it should be brought to a doctor's notice.
Many people use petroleum jelly as a lubricant, but that can have adverse effects on latex, and also on the functioning of the condom. This is because petrolatum breaks down latex, and the friction generated during intercourse, increases the chances of developing a tear in the condom, thereby making the condom ineffective.
One should be careful while choosing petroleum jelly. Only a triple-distilled and purified product should be chosen. If the jelly is contaminated, the skin absorbs those contaminants as well, leading to skin problems and posing a risk of other health disorders.
Substances that contaminate petroleum jelly include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or the PAHs. Along with PAHs, other ingredients like 1,3-butadiene and ethylene oxide have potential side effects on health.
These ingredients are also found in various other cosmetic products available in the market, including lipsticks and baby lotions. It is important to remember the fact that it is the wrong method of preparation of a product, that exposes us to such side effects. Just being aware about the dangers is not enough, as one also has to be more cautious before buying any brand of petroleum jelly.
Natural and healthy substitutes to chemical products include jojoba oil, shea butter, coconut oil, and olive oil which could be made a part of our skin care regimen, thus safeguarding us from the potential side effects of chemical products.