Mineral oil is a component of many skincare products, including facial moisturizers and body lotions. Despite it’s bad rap, this highly refined petroleum-based oil is a good emollient. It locks moisture in and improves your skin barrier function, allowing it to heal.
Unfortunately, even though mineral oil is a good treatment option for eczema and can relieve itching, pure mineral oil is not suitable for seborrheic dermatitis. Mineral oil can leave your skin feeling greasy, cause clogged pores, and even trigger a flare. However, when mineral oil is used in skincare products with other active compounds, you may reap the benefits of mineral oil without its side effects.
Let’s take a deep dive:
What is mineral oil?
Mineral oil is a broad term used to describe any oil from a mineral source, particularly petroleum. Paraffinum liquidum, petrolatum, microcrystalline wax, parafin and synthetic waxes are common examples of mineral all.
You’ll recall seeing them on the ingredient list of many skincare products. This is because it’s cheap and does the job. One of the concerns about mineral oil is that it can cause clog pores. However, the highly refined and purified mineral oil used in cosmetic and skincare products does not clog pores (supposedly).
Bio-oil plays it down but if you look at their ingredient list, paraffinum liquidum is the first compound listed. Bio-oil also contains other oils and vitamins that can help improve skin. I still don’t recommend it for seborrheic dermatitis but you can use it on stretch marks, cellulite and other problem areas.
Can mineral oil be used to treat seborrheic dermatitis?
Mineral oil is mostly recommended for use on the scalp of infants to treat cradle cap. It’s not a well-known fact but baby oil is actually mineral oil.
You massage the mineral oil into the scalp for a few minutes to soften the scales then use a warm wash cloth to gently scrub the flakes off. Make sure you remove all traces of mineral oil with shampoo so there is no residual.
Other than cradle cap, I see no value in using mineral oil. Even then, there are plenty of other plant-based options on the market to treat cradle cap in infants like Babyganics Infant Cleansing Oil that uses sunflower seed oil, sweet almond oil and other plant-based compounds to clear cradle cap:
Petroleum-based oils don’t have any anti-fungal or anti-inflammatory properties and mainly function as an emollient. In fact, mineral oil may make SD worse by leaving a greasy residue, cause clogged pores and worsen inflammation.
If you have seborrheic dermatitis, or really anyone for that matter, the best way to use mineral oil is as a support ingredient in a skincare product filled with other active compounds. This way, you benefit from mineral oil’s protective emollient function but don’t expose yourself to its side effects.
Cerave moisturizer is a crowd favorite among some SD sufferers but it actually contains mineral oil:
For scalp seborrheic dermatitis, there are plenty of other hair and scalp oils that can help combat dandruff and leave your hair shiny and silky at the same time.
Further reading: Best carrier oils for seborrheic dermatitis
Are there any side effects with using mineral oil to treat seborrheic dermatitis?
Other than the fact that it doesn’t work, there are a few potential side effects associated with mineral oil. These include mild skin itching, increased redness, scalp pustules, oily skin and oily hair.
If you’re trying mineral oil, make sure you don’t leave it on overnight. Unlike natural oils like MCT oil, mineral oil is a chemical and shouldn’t be left on the skin. If you’re looking for a natural version of hydrocarbon oils, squalane oil is a plant version that most resembles mineral oil.
However, if you are using a skincare product that contains mineral oil, this ‘diluted version’ of mineral oil is safe to leave on.
Mineral oil vs Vaseline
Mineral oil and Vaseline are both products that are often used to treat seborrheic dermatitis. They have similar prices and functions.
Vaseline is made of 100% pure petroleum jelly which is a blend of mineral oils and waxes. Mineral oils refer to a group of liquid compounds derived from petroleum. In other words, Vaseline is a type of mineral oil but not all mineral oil is petroleum jelly (Vaseline).
Spoiler alert, Vaseline isn’t good for seborrheic dermatitis either.
To wrap up
Mineral oil should not be used to treat seborrheic dermatitis. It can actually worsen the condition and cause more irritation. There are other more effective, treatments that can be used to get rid of seborrheic dermatitis.