Mineral oil vs Baby Oil – Are they safe?

Mineral oil vs baby oil – what it is the difference and are they ok to use on my little one?

Baby oil is mineral oil with added fragrance. Mineral oil is also labeled as paraffin or petroleum.

Mineral oil is an ingredient widely used in the cosmetics industry and found in a lot of very common baby products and it is made from petroleum as a byproduct of making gasoline.

We are all extra careful of everything regarding our babies, this is partly mother nature wanting us to protect them but it is also heightened by society constantly freaking us out about the infinite possible dangers that may (or may not) occur.

I am a big believer of not worrying yourself sick and pondering things for too long in your head. Once I have made a decision I try to not think about the “what ifs”. I like to do my research and then decide what I am going to priortise and stick with it. I don’t then get overly worried when other people give me conflicting advice.

So why may you ask am I here scaremongering about mineral oil…..because it is important, having now read extensively and having seen this research from the Environmental working group which found that children are more vulnerable to the effects of carcinogens than adults: Up to 10x more vulnerable!

By a child’s second birthday they have accumulated up to 50% of their lifetime risk of cancer – this comes from an EWG article based a report from the EPA, their latest comprehensive handbook detailing child exposure factors, is available to download it here.

A lot of chemicals in cosmetics have been linked to cancer in one way or another, I have a general guide of what to avoid here.

But mineral oil is synonymous with one of the best-selling baby products of all time Johnson and Johnson’s baby oil. So I thought it was important to highlight this and give you 4 clear reasons why mineral oil should be kept at arms length!

4 reasons why you should avoid ingredients derived from petroleum:

1. It is a recognised carcinogen

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 80% of all beauty products may be contaminated with one or more of the two dozen recognized cosmetic impurities that are linked to cancer. Petroleum derived products are amongst them.

A major concern with petroleum based products is that they can generate 1,4 dioxane. 1,4 dioxane is known to cause cancer, it is a kidney and respiratory toxicant and neurotoxicant. And it is not required to be listed on the ingredients list in the US even though in 2001 after a study, the FDA acknowledged that 1,4 dioxane was found in worryingly high levels in some children’s shampoos but no law was passed to change this.

2. It stays in the body…forever!

Mineral oil can not be metabolised. This means it can’t be broken down and therefore lingers in the body and doesn’t leave. There was a study done in 2011 published in the Journal of women’s health citing mineral oil hydrocarbons as possibly the biggest contaminator of the human body and how this contamination is linked to the cosmetics we use over our lifetimes.

3. It does not let the skin breathe

Petroleum or mineral oil are occlusive agents meaning that they seal off the skin, creating a complete barrier and therefore do not allow the skin to breathe. If you are a long distance cold water swimmer then Vaseline might have a role in your life but otherwise I doubt you want to cut off all moisture to your skin. It might lock the moisture in but there needs to be enough to start with….it does not act as a moisturiser!

Anyone who is even slightly acne-prone should hear alarm bells ringing. Blocked pores mean trapped dirt and oil – leading to blackheads, breakouts, millia etc

The barrier that petroleum and mineral oil create on your skin can also create a warm, moist environment for yeast and fungus to grow. I am sure you will agree that your baby’s bottom does not need any encouragement in this regard!!

4. It is an endocrine disruptor

Petroleum and hence mineral oil is an endocrine disruptor causing estrogen dominance. You may wonder why this is a problem for small babies but a baby girl is born with all her eggs for future childbearing (ahhhh can not think about that!). The health of the eggs is influenced from inside her mother’s womb.

Many fertility issues in women are linked to excess estrogen – early onset of puberty, endometriosis, PCOS and more. For men, it can lead to a hormonal imbalance with testosterone, low sperm count and poor sperm health.

It is important to minimise your children’s exposure to endocrine disruptors right from the very start.

Baby oil is not the only product to avoid…

Check your products for the following ingredients all of which are petrochemicals commonly found in cosmetics:

  • Toluene
  • Benzene
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Anything with PEG (polyethylene glycol)
  • Anything ending in ‘eth’ indicates that it required ethylene oxide (a petrochemical) to produce e.g. myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth
  • Anything with DEA (diethanolamine) or MEA (ethanolamine)
  • Butanol and any word with ‘butyl’butyl alcohol, butylparaben, butylene glycol
  • Any word with“propyl” – isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol, propyl alcohol, cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Ethanol and word with ‘ethyl’ ethyl alcohol, ethylene glycol, ethylene dichloride, ethylhexylglycerin, EDTA (ethylene-diamine-tetracetatic acid)
  • Methanol and any word with ‘methyl’methyl alcohol, methylcellulose, methylparaben
  • Parfum or fragrance – 95% of chemicals used in fragrance are from petroleulm

What should I use instead?

There are so many possibilities that are better than petroleum based products.

For a start go to your kitchen:)

  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • jojoba oil
  • vitamin E
  • shea butter
  • cocoa butter


Mineral oil vs. baby oil can easily be avoided when buying products for your babies (& yourselves).

  • It is derived from petroleum,
  • It has been linked to cancer
  • It has no nutritive value for the skin at all!

There are other great products readily available that you can use for baby bath products and for sunscreens see my past posts.

If there are any specific products that you want me to look into, do leave me a comment below and I will come back with some suggestions.

Image by Chantal Huijbers brands of capture life



  • Rebecca

    April 26, 2018

    Hi! Thanks for sharing your post. I never knew how harmful mineral oil is and I thought all baby products are safe which includes baby oil. Now that i know, these are products everyone must avoid. Thanks for including the alternative or substitute oils, I like these oils actually. I use them in my body, such as avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, argan oil and i guess there’s more. It is good to be educated about the safety of th products we use for ourselves and for our children.

    • Allie

      April 26, 2018

      Thanks Rebecca. It is interesting how so many of us assume products designed for babies are safe….I am glad you already use a lot of the natural oils. They all work well.

  • Cooki

    April 26, 2018

    Hey Allie,

    You are so right. My mother has been using Vaseline and baby oil all my life. I didn’t know anything else until I became an adult.

    I just changed my whole eating habits to alkaline vegan. It has opened my mind to so much what has been put in our food.

    Now to know from your article, it has been put in our cosmetics also. I ran to look at all of my cosmetics I have now, low and behold, Petroleum is in all of it, with different wording.

    I want to throw it all away but all the money I spent on them will go down the drain too. Well, I guess that the cost of preventing problems to my health in the long run.

    I have made this one of my favorites to show others in the future. Thank you for sharing.

    • Allie

      April 27, 2018

      Chrisie, I am so glad you came to the site and so many people have the same experience as you.

      Don’t throw out everything all at once – just change out the key products first – the ones that you use closest to your skin and every day. I have another post about how to clean out your bathroom cabinet which might help you: https://bit.ly/2qio7hv

      Thanks again & let me know if you have any specific questions. 

  • Lanta Eco News

    April 27, 2018

    This is a great article – really informative. Thanks for sharing this info. A lot of people aren’t aware of the harm some of the baby products can do. It’s crazy though that companies are allowed to use petroleum based ingredients in any cosmetics, let alone in products that are made for babies. Most people trust that baby products will be safe to use on babies! Luckily we have lots of coconut oil in Thailand, so we have a great substitute widely available.

    • Allie

      April 27, 2018

      Great thank you! Yes you are lucky in Thailand – lots of coconuts! And warm weather so the coconut oil doesn’t solidify! 

      Thanks for dropping by.


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