What Exactly Is Baby Oil?

Updated 05/16/19

Baby oil is one of those products so ubiquitous in modern life that most people don't stop to think about what it actually is. Nevertheless, some claim baby oil is the best body moisturizer out there. Others say it's a dangerous product that you should steer clear of—an unsettling notion, given that baby oil is used on the tender skin of babies. That makes baby oil worth a second look.

The most commonly used brand of baby oil in the U.S. is Johnson and Johnson's. You've probably seen the familiar clear bottle with the pink cap a million times; it lines the baby care aisles in most drug, department, and grocery stores. 

What Is Baby Oil?

The ingredients in most commercial baby oil products are mineral oil and fragrance—specifically, 98% mineral oil and 2% fragrance

Mineral oil is inert, which means it does not change or react with other substances that it comes in contact with. In addition, mineral oil won't clog your pores; it actually sits on top of your skin and creates a protective barrier for your skin so your skin will not lose moisture. This ingredient will soften and soothe your skin and will help your skin retain moisture. 

But Wait Isn't Mineral Oil Bad for My Skin?

Mineral oil can be a controversial skin care ingredient, and many people avoid using it which is a shame. There is nothing wrong with using mineral oil on your skin or your baby's skin. This ingredient can be great for your skin. Despite what you might read, mineral oil is safe for your skin. Skin care expert Paula Begoun is a fan of mineral oil and scoffs at people who scorn it. Begoun writes: 

This recurring, foolish, misinformation about mineral oil and petrolatum is maddening. After all, crude oil is as natural as any other earth-derived substance. Moreover, lots of ingredients are derived from awful-sounding sources, but are nevertheless benign and totally safe. (read more of her thoughts on mineral oil 404)

Mineral oil is regulated by the FDA and is highly refined and purified - completely safe to use on your skin. In fact, it is known as one of the best moisturizers you can use on your skin.

Why the Bad Rep?

If you do a little Google search you'll find horror stories and scary information about mineral oil page after page. False claims include that mineral oil clogs pores (it doesn't, but should be avoided if you have overly oily skin), causes premature aging, and even causes cancer. False, false, false. Don't believe us? Check out the two-part series on mineral oil from The Beauty Brains. Instead of falling for misinformation and scare tactics about mineral oil be sure to do some of your own research to learn the truth about this skin care ingredient.

What about Vaseline?

Vaseline is pure petroleum. It gets lumped in with mineral oil when the subject of this ingredient comes up. We talked with Dermatologist Helen Torok, Medical Director at Trillium Creek Dermatology, and she was happy to respond with her thoughts on petrolatum. In short - she routinely recommends her patients use it whenever they have skin irritations. Here are some more of her thoughts on petrolatum. (aka Vaseline)

What Consumers are Saying About Baby Oil 

If you do a little digging at online reviews of baby oil, you'll find that consumers are very happy with baby oil. At Makeupalley.com, it has a 4.8 out of 5 stars and 94% of people would purchase again. Baby oil has many uses other uses other than just as a moisturizer. It can be used as a make-up remover, to smooth hair, to clean and condition make-up brushes, remove wax, and soften cracked heels.

Bottom Line 

Baby oil (mineral oil) is safe, effective, reasonably priced and something that is recommended by skin care professionals on a regular basis. Apply to damp skin after your shower or bath to seal in the moisture. Not only is baby oil great for dry skin, but it also has numerous other uses. The sky's the limit when it comes to using baby oil.

Related Stories