The Final Verdict On Vaseline

By Minji

  • Vaseline has been used for over a century as a cure for various skin issues with a relatively good safety record
  • However, knowing that Vaseline is a byproduct of petroleum refinement, should you be worried?  
  • Is Vaseline good or bad - read on for the final verdict!  

My favorite types of TV shows or movies are those that include complex characters.  Those types of characters like Walter White in “Breaking Bad” that start out good, but turn bad, then display characteristics too nuanced to be simply put into the good or bad buckets anymore.  They make the plot so much more interesting and juicy, don’t they?

However, when it comes to skincare, “complicated” is not a feature I’m looking for.  Of all the products out there that confuse me, I would have to say the “Walter White” of skincare is Vaseline.

Good old Vaseline!  In my youth, similar to tiger balm, Vaseline was considered almost a miracle cure-all for various skin issues.  Dry nose? Put on some Vaseline.  Cracked skin or paper cut? Vaseline again was often the prescribed cure.

Vaseline has been used for over a century as a cure for dry skin issues and wounds with a relatively good safety record.

True Vaseline fans swear by it as a skincare product for not just your body, but your entire face too. There’s something called “slugging” where you slather Vaseline all over your face after going through your nighttime skincare steps as an overnight face mask! Proponents swear you will wake up with baby soft skin you’ve never experienced before. In line with this trend, there are now also K-beauty facial sheet masks that use Vaseline as the main ingredient.

On the other hand of the spectrum, with the focus on clean beauty, I feel like I’ve recently heard more negatives about Vaseline than I have positives. The main thing that scares most people is knowing that Vaseline (generically known as petroleum jelly) is a mixture of mineral oils and waxes, which are byproducts of petroleum refinement and considered petrochemicals. 

Many clean beauty brands shy away from any petroleum-based ingredients for fear that any toxins present in petroleum (some of which are potentially carcinogenic) might pass through your skin.  Many also fear that the mineral oil present in Vaseline will clog up pores. 

However, based on my research, you’ll be hard pressed to find any dermatologist who tells you that vaseline is bad.  Instead, they will likely tell you that vaseline is highly-refined, triple-purified and regarded as non-carcinogenic and safe. EWG (a well-known non-profit that rates the toxicity of ingredients found in skincare products, amongst other things) scores Vaseline a 1, which is the lowest toxicity rating they give out.   

My husband’s dermatologist just recommended he use a product containing petroleum jelly for his eczema issues.  What’s really crazy is that Vaseline is even considered non-comedogenic, theoretically, it shouldn't even clog your pores.

If you’re acne prone, experts will recommend you stay away from Vaseline, but that’s not because it necessarily clogs pores, but more because it’s an occlusive that can trap in dirt and other elements that trigger breakouts.

I even asked Dr. Yoon and he explained that Vaseline acts as an effective moisturizer by preventing moisture loss by forming an oil film on the skin surface. He agrees it’s great for use on the feet, hands and lips. However, as it contains a high level of oil, on the face, he also cautions it can cause skin issues such as acne.

So what’s my final verdict? I’m pretty convinced that Vaseline is mostly good but has gotten a bad wrap with the hype of clean beauty.  I might not slather it all over my face, mainly because the texture of it is not appealing to me (and what might happen to my poor pillow!), but I definitely won’t second guess my doctor when she prescribes it as a cure for dry or cracked skin.