Skincare Competence

Mineral Oil in Cosmetics

29 April 2024

Mineral oil is a common ingredient found in topical cosmetics and personal care products. It is inexpensive, chemically stable, and inert, making it an ideal base ingredient. However, the impact of mineral oil on human and environmental health has been subject to debate.

In this article, we will discuss what mineral oil is, the uses of mineral oil, its advantages and disadvantages, and what scientific evidence tells us about the safety of using mineral oil in cosmetics.

What is Mineral Oil?

Mineral oil is a byproduct of refined crude oil. It is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless liquid. There are several types of mineral oil, which are used for very different purposes. Mineral oil may be used in cosmetics, in industrial/mechanical applications, for tools related to food preparation, and in biomedicine.

Mineral oil is an inexpensive and versatile product that has been in use since its discovery in the mid-19th century. While refined mineral oils have been safely used in cosmetics for many decades, occupational exposure to unrefined mineral oils that can cause skin cancer has resulted in controversy about their safety.

Mineral oil comes in several different grades, based on how refined it is. Less refined mineral oils are used for industrial applications, such as lubricants. The more refined mineral oils are food-grade approved for direct or indirect human consumption (wood preservatives, laxatives, cosmetics, etc.).

The Function of Mineral Oil in Cosmetics

When mineral oil is used as an ingredient in cosmetics, it always has the same function. It is an occlusive moisturizer and emollient, meaning it is non-absorbent and softens the skin. When applied externally, mineral oil creates a superficial barrier that protects the skin from dehydration. It also helps soothe, moisturize, soften, and cleanse.

The safety of the mineral oil used in cosmetics has been confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has classified it as a Group 3 non-carcinogenic and non-comedogenic ingredient.

Mineral Oil-based Ingredients

Mineral oil is a highly versatile and cost-effective product, making it ideal for a multitude of applications. It can either be used on its own, as a lubricant, or as a base ingredient. Ingredients that are mineral oil-based include:

  • Petrolatum
  • Paraffin
  • Paraffinum Liquidum
  • Paraffinum Subliquidum
  • Cera Microcrystalline
  • Microcrystalline Wax
  • Ceresin
  • Ozokerite
  • Isoparaffin

Is Mineral Oil in Cosmetics Good or Bad?

Using mineral oil in cosmetics has its pros and cons. While it promotes healthier skin, it also has some downsides, especially for the environment.


  • Hypoallergenic and ideal for sensitive skin
  • Keeps the skin hydrated and soft
  • Odorless and colorless, therefore ideal for mixing with other ingredients
  • Highly stable and not susceptible to rancidity


  • Non-biodegradable
  • An environmental contaminant for soil and water

Is Mineral Oil Safe in Cosmetics?

Unlike industrial mineral oils, the mineral oil used in cosmetics has been classified by the WHO as non-carcinogenic. Its use in cosmetics and other personal care products over the past several decades has proven it to be safe.

Mineral oil is a chemically stable and inert ingredient. In addition to its notable benefits for the skin, its non-biodegradable nature also makes it an ideal preservative for both cosmetics and food-grade use. The use of mineral oil in certain topical products, such as skin and eye moisturizers or protectants, has also been permitted by the FDA.

Why ADA Cosmetics Avoids Mineral Oil in its Products

Mineral oil is known to have a positive effect on the skin, but a negative impact on the environment. Therefore, ADA Cosmetics avoids the use of mineral oil and our product portfolio is mineral oil-free. The mineral oil is replaced with an alternative ingredient that has similar skin benefits, while being healthy for both humans and the environment.


What is mineral oil used for in cosmetics?

Mineral oil is used as a base ingredient in several types of cosmetic products. It is most commonly added to protect the skin from dehydration. Cosmetics that are formulated with mineral oil include:
● Lotions
● Skin creams
● Ointments
● Lip care products

Does mineral oil in cosmetics cause cancer?

Cancer caused by mineral oil in cosmetics is highly unlikely. There are many grades of mineral oil, with differing levels of safety. The more refined the mineral oil is, the safer it will be.

Cosmetics usually contain highly refined mineral oils classified as Group 3, which have been identified as non-carcinogenic and non-comedogenic by the WHO. Minimally refined or treated mineral oils, which are never used in cosmetics, have been classified as Carcinogens Group 1.

Is mineral oil bad for your skin?

Cosmetic-grade mineral oil can actually have great benefits for your skin; however, because it is an occlusive moisturizer, there is a chance that it may clog pores, leading to potential skin irritation or acne.