No, Vaseline is not bad for you. There are some rumors that petroleum is linked to breast cancer, but there is currently no scientific evidence to definitively prove the correlation.
A fairly standard staple in the American medicine cabinet, Vaseline has many uses. The petroleum jelly is typically applied to chapped lips or dry skin to lock in moisture. It is also a popular beauty product; Vaseline is sometimes used to reduce or prevent the appearance of fine lines around the eye area or as a makeup remover. Additionally, Vaseline serves first-aid purposes and can be applied over cuts, scrapes, and burns to help protect the wounds.
So what could possibly be unsafe about this all-healing jelly?
Recently, there have been some news stories reporting that petroleum may contain carcinogens. Typically found in rocks, petroleum is a liquefied mixture of hydrocarbons that is extracted and then refined in order to make fuels like kerosene and gasoline. It’s also used to make Vaseline—in 1859, Robert Chesebrough discovered that oil workers in Pennsylvania had been using a "rod wax" removed from oil rig pumps to heal cuts and burns. Fascinated, Chesebrough took samples back to his home in New York and learned how to extract the usable petroleum jelly to create a medical salve. He began manufacturing the product and soon obtained a patent.
Modern Vaseline is made in much the same way. However, the jelly now undergoes an even more meticulous triple purification process, which involves distillation, de-aeration, and filtration. So if the raw petroleum does contain any impurities, they are most likely filtered out during the extensive manufacturing process.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) agrees. The EWG regularly reviews branded products like Vaseline to determine and report on any potentially toxic or otherwise harmful effects. Triple-purified Vaseline currently holds a hazard-ranking of "low.” The rating also includes a “zero” risk for cancer, reproductive, and developmental toxicity.
However, it’s important to note that the EWG rating only holds true for the brand name Vaseline. There are generic, store-brand variations of petroleum jelly which the EWG has not tested. Vaseline touts their triple-purification process as highly proprietary, so it’s unlikely that other jellies undergo the same rigorous filtration techniques—which could mean impurities with carcinogens making their way into those finished products.
More research is needed to determine if there is a definite correlation between cancer and impurities in any type of petroleum jelly. For right now, most dermatologists and physicians agree that Vaseline is generally safe to use—but of course, everyone is different. Discontinue use of the jelly if it causes your skin to break out with acne or any type of rash. Allergic reactions to this product are rare, but it’s important to realize that they can happen.
Possible short-term side effects
- allergic reaction
Ingredients to be aware of
- locks in moisture
- soothes dry/irritated skin
- protects cuts and burns
- reduced appearance of fine lines
- decreases itching/flaking of dry patches