What Is Vaseline?Vaseline is a brand name for petroleum jelly. This substance is viscous and oily, and the FDA has approved it as an over-the-counter skin protectant. Petroleum jelly is a common component in other skin care products, and Vaseline is the original brand name of this substance.
Petroleum jelly first appeared on oil rigs in the mid 19th century as a natural byproduct of the oil production process. This slippery substance got in the way of rig workers, but they noted that if they applied it to their cuts and burns, these wounds seemed to heal faster. A chemist named Robert Chesebrough visited these rigs and discovered that he could distill the substance that the workers called "rod wax" to create a therapeutic treatment. To sell Vaseline, Chesebrough would burn himself and then use his product to demonstrate its effectiveness.
Over the ensuing 150 years, more and more Americans have started using Vaseline as a cure-all; lack of true scientific understanding of this substance has led many people to believe that it truly has the power to solve most minor ailments. However, petroleum jelly has never truly escaped the stigma of being an oil refining byproduct. Many have wondered if Vaseline is truly as safe as it seems, and further research into this substance has revealed that petroleum jelly may actually pose a number of dangers to your health.
Vaseline May Be a CarcinogenThe substance that Robert Chesebrough discovered on oil rigs in the 1800s contained plenty of carcinogens that the oil refining process creates. Manufacturers now create petroleum jelly in factory settings, but the principles behind the creation of this product remain the same, and the original, undistilled substance that eventually becomes petroleum jelly is still chock-full of carcinogens.
Marketers of this product, such as Vaseline, assert that they remove all of the carcinogens in petroleum jelly before they sell it to customers. Admittedly, Vaseline is filtered three times before it is packaged, and there's every reason to believe that the makers of this substance do everything that they can to ensure that it does not contain carcinogens. However, no manufacturing environment is completely free from errors, and knowing that a substance naturally contains carcinogens inevitably leads to some raised eyebrows among conscientious consumers.
There's also the fact that Vaseline doesn't make all of the world's petroleum jelly; in fact, many different companies make this substance, and it's hard to tell if all of them follow this company's strict production standards. When you see "petroleum jelly" listed in the ingredients of another cosmetic product, for instance, it's close to impossible to determine how this product was made and whether or not it's safe to use. Consumer advocates have noted that the purity of petroleum jelly varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, which means that it's only logical to suppose that at least some of the petroleum jelly on the market is carcinogenic.
Petroleum Jelly Contains HydrocarbonsPetroleum jelly doesn't just contain hydrocarbons; it is, itself, a hydrocarbon. Not only is this substance entirely devoid of nutrients that your body can use to heal and bolster your skin, but whenever it makes contact with your body, it runs the risk of contributing to the buildup of hydrocarbons in your bodily tissues.
A 2011 study found that hydrocarbons are the single most significant type of contamination in the human body and that you can absorb these toxins through the air you breathe, food you eat, and the products that you apply to your skin. As if storing these carcinogenic chemicals in your body isn't enough, this study also found that mothers pass these substances to their babies through breast milk. While hydrocarbons may not harm your health at all, they will continue to accumulate in your body while you use vaseline and they could one day pose serious dangers.
Petroleum Jelly Suffocates Your PoresWhen you slather a layer of petroleum jelly on your lips or your face, you may be rewarded with skin or lips that immediately feel softer. Since this substance traps moisture in your skin, it may actually preserve some moisture if you're in an extremely arid environment, but it also completely blocks your pores from connecting with the air around them. To stay healthy, pores need to be able to breathe, but Vaseline slowly suffocates your pores by insulating them in a completely sealed environment.
Vaseline Is Hard to Wash OffIf you've ever used petroleum jelly, you know that this substance is oily, greasy, and it gets everywhere. Once you get Vaseline on your face, it can be almost impossible to wash it off without irritating your skin, and while it's on there, it can do significant damage to your skin.
Petroleum jelly doesn't allow your pores to breathe, and it also doesn't allow anything to get out of your pores. So, unless your face is perfectly clean, whenever you apply petroleum jelly to your skin, you're trapping whatever dirt or other particles may be present on your face. When particles are trapped in your pores, they cause inflammation, which can make your skin look red and blotchy. Since modern medical theories regarding acne agree that inflammation exacerbates this condition, you could be more prone to breakouts if you use Vaseline on your skin. Some scientists even go so far as to postulate that acne is caused, at its root, by inflammation, so even if you enjoy perfectly clear skin, you could ruin your complexion if you apply petroleum jelly to it.
Vaseline Can Cause PneumoniaOn every bottle of Vaseline, a little label that says "for external use only" is easy to see. While most consumers would gloss over this warning with little thought, there's actually a very good reason why the manufacturers of this substance make sure to warn their customers not to let petroleum jelly enter their bodies. If you ingest Vaseline by mouth, you may introduce a number of different toxins into your body, but it's more likely that this substance, which doesn't go out of its way to bond with any human tissues, would simply go in one way and out the other. If Vaseline gets into your lungs, however, that's an entirely different story.
Many people only use petroleum jelly on their lips and nose when the weather gets cold and dry. However, your nose is one of the most dangerous places you can apply Vaseline; if this substance enters your nostrils and manages to find its way into your lungs, you could develop a condition called lipid pneumonia, which can be deadly. Even though petroleum jelly isn't technically a type of fat, it behaves the same way as fats when it enters your lungs, and lipid pneumonia can cause chest pain, a chronic cough, hemoptysis, and serious infections that can lead to your death.
Other IssuesVaseline can also cause a variety of other issues that take away from any beautifying effects that it may have. For instance, it appears that petroleum jelly causes collagen breakdown in the skin. While collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, collagen levels in the skin decrease as you age, which makes your face look less plump. Many women go out of their way to increase their collagen levels, which means that Vaseline is the last thing that these women should use on their face.
Scientists speculate that this collagen breakdown occurs because Vaseline blocks your skin's natural ability to create new cells. When your skin makes new skin cells, it also makes more collagen, and when it can't draw nutrients from the environment, it reaches within when it makes new cells and harms the collagen that is already present in your face.
Petroleum jelly also contains xenoestrogens, which are also known as estrogen mimickers. As the name suggests, these substances mimic the composition and function of estrogen, and when you introduce them to your body in any way, they can disrupt your hormonal balance. In men, xenoestrogens can cause lower sperm counts and decreased male virility, and in women, these substances can lead to accelerated aging, immune disorders, and even infertility. No matter how old you are or what your sex is, you don't want to have excess levels of estrogen in your body.
Why Would Anyone Use Vaseline?Since Vaseline feels so icky to the touch, why would anyone use it in the first place? For starters, petroleum jelly is cheap; people use it as an inexpensive alternative to costly skin care products that they think don't impart any additional benefits. Even if they don't intend to use petroleum jelly, many consumers end up interacting with this potentially dangerous substance anyway; many large skin care product manufacturers care more about their profits than they do about the efficacy of their ingredients, and they slip petroleum jelly into their products to save money that they would have spent on superior substances.
When you give this substance the benefit of the doubt, using Vaseline on your skin does make sense under very particular circumstances; since soap removes some of your skin's natural barrier against contaminants, applying petroleum jelly after you wash your face can help your body repair that barrier. However, you might as well attach a piece of plastic or a latex glove to your face if that's the effect you're looking for. Vaseline completely blocks your skin off from the outside world, and then there are all of the other deleterious effects of this substance to consider as well. Overall, there are much better products to consider as you continue your search for the ideal skin care regimen.
What Are Some Alternatives to Petroleum Jelly?The main reason why consumers use Vaseline is that they think that this substance moisturizes their skin, and they reach this conclusion due to a combination of clever marketing techniques and ignorance. If moisturized skin is what you're after, however, there are much better ways to achieve the effect that you desire. For starters, you can try a product that actually moisturizes your skin; any garden variety moisturizer would be a step up from the potentially deadly effects of petroleum jelly. However, if you want to use products that will truly heal your skin and moisturize it from the inside out, you should try facial serums.
While even the best moisturizer only addresses the symptoms of dry skin, facial serums actually heal your skin and remove the causes of dry skin at their roots. Serums that contain antioxidants like vitamin C are the best types of products that you can use on your face if dry skin is a concern, and if these serums contain additional ingredients like hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, they're even better for your skin. To avoid the kinds of issues that petroleum jelly causes, make sure that the serum you use is water-based, and also ensure that it only contains organic or otherwise safe ingredients. Unlike petroleum jelly, which doesn't absorb into your skin at all, the ingredients in serums are supposed to pass through your skin barrier, and once they're through, they start providing seemingly miraculous bonuses to your skin health.