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Because You Can Take My Curel Out of My Cold, Dead Hands

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,
OK, this is driving me crazy, and I figure if anyone can find out this answer you can. I used to just use whatever makeup and moisturizers worked well for me. But, then, about two years ago, I started hearing about how bad mineral oil and petroleum-based products were for my skin. Now, I must say that this information all came from a company called Arbonne, and Arbonne products do not contain mineral oil, so I realize that they have an ulterior motive. BUT, some of the stuff I heard is pretty scary. I’ve heard that mineral oil is the second-most aging thing that our skin encounters (after the sun). I’ve heard that it makes our skin “addicted” to moisturizing. I’ve heard that it is actually drying, and prevents moisture from getting in. I’ve heard that it prevents our skin from breathing, and can actually be dangerous when used by people exercising (because the sweat can’t leave your body). I’ve even heard tales of it warping plastic. So, I started avoiding it, and I continued avoiding it even after I stopped using Arbonne.
BUT, I love some of the products that contain mineral oil. Philosophy Hope in a Tube? has it. The Curel that you recommended, and that I bought and used this morning and that I now love? has it. My old favorite Bobbi Brown tinted moisturizer? Yep, has it.
So, what do you think? Is it really bad for us? Can you help me feel better about slathering this stuff on my face and body?

How’s that for an answer?
So I’m not a doctor or a pharmacist or anything, but I have a very strong sense of ulterior motives. The anti-mineral-oil claims almost all originate from the marketing materials for “natural” lines of cosmetics and skincare products (Aveda, Arbonne, etc.).The thing is, mineral oil does come from a “natural” substance, albeit one that sounds kind of scary (crude oil). But…salt? Sodium and chloride? Chlorine? Anyone?
It’s all about the refining process and the final compound, which in this case, is a gentle cosmetics-grade substance that has been proven to be safe, non-comedogenic and effectively moisturizuring in a whole slew of published studies. Sure, you shouldn’t be slathering other derivatives of petroleum on your face, but…you aren’t.
Remember that old crazy email forward that used to go around blaming every disease known to man on aspartame? I’m always reminded of that whenever someone gets going with a long laundry list of evil side effects caused by whatever the toxin du jour is. Maybe there’s some merit to the claims, but maybe we should all just calm down and think about the source of those claims a little more. My doctor? A scientific journal? Anonymous email forward? A glossy marketing brochure?
While on a crazy crusade to find an effective treatment for Noah’s eczema, I stumbled across a few natural and holistic-type websites making the claims that mineral oil and petrolatum (Vaseline) were exactly what you SHOULDN’T be putting on ultra-dry skin. And I had a momentary freakout because OMG! MY POOR BAYBEE! I’ve been doing everything wrong and am the world’s worst mother! WAH.
And then I promptly ordered a &$*@ing $42 bottle of moisturizer from them. Which kept Noah’s skin moisturized for about…oh, 20 minutes. It had zero “staying power” and I had to re-apply it a million times a day. Then I bought the Curel. Heh.
I’ve also read all of Arbonne’s packaging and materials AND used a slew of free samples. They made my face break out and I didn’t see any of the amazing anti-aging results they promised from the body moisturizers and tonics or whatever. They actually didn’t moisturize that well at all. (And while we’re on the subject of wild marketing promises: Arbonne also claimed that my stretch marks would fade after two weeks of use, which come on.)
(You know I still applied that stuff faithfully every day
Obviously, my skin is not your skin or anybody else’s skin. I’ve heard certain Arbonne products praised to the sky, and I am ALL about people using whatever works for them. (I actually really love Arbonne’s line of baby products, although again, I found the moisturizer useless in the onslaught of Noah’s eczema.)
In my experience, what they claim is “suffocating” the skin is precisely why I LIKE products with mineral oil, because it actually DOES stay on the skin and forms a barrier against stuff like dry air and pollution. And I think poorly moisturized and unprotected skin is EXTREMELY prone to premature aging.
If ditching mineral oil from your skincare routine works for you, then awesome. But ditch it because of that fact and not because some marketing genius found a way to scare the crap out of you.

Published November 13, 2006. Last updated November 13, 2006.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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