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Aquaphor and petroleum safety

March 12, 2008 Reviewed by Marta 8 Comments
My last post on lip balm brought to mind the morning I woke up with Pamela Anderson's lips. I also had a large hive on my left cheek and my left eye was swollen shut. The next day my lips went black and the skin fell off - as if they had been blow-torched.

Feeling remarkably sorry for myself (and not a little self-conscious), I want to see Hari at my local pharmacy (Gideon's on Broadway; once you've tried it you'll never go to Duane Read again) and, unruffled as always, he handed me a tube of Aquaphor. I was back to normal (lips like Zoe Wannamaker's) within 24 hours.

Acquaphor worked so well that I've always been too scared to see what was in it. Truth In Aging doesn't let sleeping dogs lie, however, and courage was rewarded by a pleasant surprise. Acquaphor contains mineral oil, cerasin (a mineral alternative to beeswax for those with sensitive skin), lanolin, pathenol (provitamin B5) and chamomile (an anti-inflammatory).

Then I looked again. Damn. That's the inactive ingredients list. The active ingredient is petrolatum (41%). I must confess to being perplexed as to whether petrolatum is really something to avoid. In America, it seems to be in everything, including my beloved Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream. In Europe, it used to be in everything and then in 2003 it became a blacklisted ingredient. As far as I can work out, certain impurities may be in the petrolatum and they can cause allergies and even be a carcinogen. Cosmetics should use highly refined petroleum that has been cleaned of these impurities. The EU requires product makers to provide a certificate saying the petroleum used is carcinogen-free.

This should mean that a petrolatum-based product bought in Europe is safe. In the US, where there isn't such a restriction, we frankly don't know. So, it is probably best to avoid it if possible. But if you find something that works and that you don't get a reaction to, then there is probably no need panic and go petroleum-free.

For those of you who like loose ends to be tied, the cause of my Pammie Anderson lips was an allergic reaction to a toothpaste by Tom's of Maine.
  • August 3, 2018

    by Rebecca

    What a bunch of BS these pro petro comments are!!! If they're soooooo great why does CA. insist they come with a warning? If YOU choose to use them no one cares, but don't put others down because they don't want to slather a known carcinogen on their bodies. It's not about fear, pathetic cop out, it's about informed, and healthy choices.

  • May 29, 2018

    by jean

    A pharmacist recommended aquaphor when I burned my lip. I then had cut and scar on my index finger. I put aquaphor on the cut and it has healed on the scar has just about disppeard, What disturbs me is that the ingredients are not listed on the jar, and there is no warning saying that you shoud not ingest it orally.

  • May 20, 2018

    by Jessica

    I don't like to use petroleum or petrochemicals in my beauty products, either. I support you!!

  • March 6, 2018

    by Pam

    Please stop scaring people. This causes more harm in the long fear-based lives. People have been using Petroleum Jelly for YEARS! We've spread it all over our children multiple times, in large quantities when needed, and they are not dying of cancer.

  • October 20, 2017

    by Patricia

    As a skin care formulator and organic enthusiast - who has a horrible eczema skin condition on my hands - this stuff works! I don't care what is in it, it is in my arsenal, along with prescription Triamcinolone Acetonide Cream, to keep the peeling skin, cracks, water blisters, redness, itchiness, all those embarrassing and uncomfortable symptoms at bay.

  • July 9, 2016

    by Nosh

    Since aquaphor is European make it should be regulated and fine to use . Correct?

  • January 14, 2013

    by dianna horne

    i too have decided that i love mineral oil and petroleum jelly and of course aquaphor! after using only natural oils like coconut, olive, castor oil and pretty much every one i could get my hands on over the years, my skin became more and more sensitive. all these oils started giving me cystic acne or worse made my skin dry and itchy :( i finally tried vaseline and was shocked that i didn't die! then i tried aquaphor and was amazed! right now i am using plain unscented drinkable (lol) mineral oil for my skin and hair and lo and behold it loves it!!! no clogged pores or itchy red skin and it is sooo cheap!!! once you start getting sensitive to everything and find something that works and is begign stick to it!!! i had too many bad experiences with natural oils gone rancid.

  • March 13, 2008

    by Amy Fletcher

    <p>I, too, have recently decided that petroleum is my friend. I used the magic Aquaphor religiously, mixed with anti-bacterial ointment (as recommended by my doctor), when bandaging a large second-degree burn 9 months ago... now there is no sign that there was ever a burn.</p>

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