Is Mineral Oil Bad for Your Skin?

Is Mineral Oil Bad for Your Skin?

Just the thought of cradle cap, eczema, or an angry diaper rash makes many parents want to slather on the strongest thing they can find. They just want something that WORKS.

And, while many of our own parents treated infant and toddler skin flare-ups with mineral oil based-lotions, petroleum jelly or that thick white zinc ointment that got all over everything, today the solution is not as clear. Some parents are left wondering whether that old cure-all mineral oil is bad for your skin. We are here to tell you that the most natural choice can also be the most effective. Case in point: coconut oil, which is a better solution for caring for and healing babies’ sensitive skin. Here, we break it down further.


What is mineral oil, exactly, and what’s it in?

Mineral oil is a clear, odorless oil that is created as a byproduct when petroleum is distilled into gasoline. For years, it has been the go-to main ingredient in lotions for moisturizing kiddos after baths; rubbing on during before-sleep massages; and treating skin conditions like cradle cap and diaper rash. Cosmetic and pharmaceutical grade mineral oils, which are both commonly used in skincare products, are highly refined and sometimes listed as liquid paraffin, paraffin oil, unscented baby oil, paraffin liquidum, liquid petroleum or petrolatum or white oil on labels. They can be found in everything from Johnson’s Baby Oil to Vaseline to Aquaphor.

Mineral Oil vs. Coconut Oil

Is mineral oil bad for babies’ skin?

While mineral oil is shelf-stable and does have many emollient qualities,  because it is derived from petroleum,  it just sits on the surface of the skin, rather than absorbs into it.  In other words, it forms a barrier to trap whatever moisture is there, but it doesn’t actually hydrate the skin.

On your bub’s head and other parts of the body that see the light of day, the fact that mineral oil doesn’t absorb means that it can clog pores, absorb natural moisture, and even lead to further skin irritation. What’s more, it reflects the sun. Remember those stories of teen girls in the 1970s sunbathing with baby oil? Yeah, like that.

As for the parts of your bub where the sun doesn’t shine? In addition to the absorption issues, petroleum-based diaper rash creams and ointments can break down the first layer of a diaper, rendering it ineffective and making a shredded, oily mess of things. 


Is mineral oil toxic?

While refined mineral oils are reportedly non-toxic, there aren’t a lot of regulations to ensure that there aren’t contaminants and carcinogens and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) left over from its days as crude oil. Prolonged exposure to PAHs has been associated with everything from skin irritation, to cataracts, to liver and kidney damage and certain types of cancer. Also, as a byproduct of gasoline, mineral oil is not exactly the most earth-friendly product you can put on your baby.


When I’m looking for the best baby oil or cream, what ingredients should I watch out for?

There is no shortage of products that market themselves as nourishing for sensitive baby skin and soothing for rashes. 

Some of the most popular rash creams contain zinc oxide, or “the white stuff,” as their main ingredient. But most parents who are concerned about natural, non-toxic products for our children try to avoid these. One of the oldest, well-known diaper creams (a household name in generations past) is listed by the Environmental Working Group as having contamination concerns, causing skin, eye and lung irritation, and organ-system toxicity. Newer products containing zinc oxide are generally better on the surface, but they often contain ingredients such as castor oil, which can irritate babies with eczema and cause dermatitis.

Even all-natural treatments can be problematic. Olive oil, avocado oil, and soybean oil—key ingredients in many baby products—have oleic acid, which can make inflammation worse, and is especially not recommended for babies with sensitive skin or eczema.


 Coconut Oil for Kids


Is coconut oil the best baby oil? Is it actually effective?

Coconut oil is the best baby oil! It contains essential fatty acids that have antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties—similar to those found in breast milk. These healthy fats help repair the skin’s barrier and allow coconut oil to absorb right into the baby's skin. 

Our founder, Sweta Doshi, a beauty industry veteran, was so impressed with the healing properties of coconut oil on her daughter’s baby eczema that she created all of our pediatrician- and dermatologist-tested products around it. (Bubbsi products are a lot less messy than straight coconut oil in a jar!)

But the evidence is more than just anecdotal. The healing effects of coconut oil for eczema are backed by science! This 2014 clinical study found that among patients with mild to moderate atopic dermatitis, the use of coconut oil for eight weeks produced better results than the use of mineral oil. Another study from 2017 affirmed these findings, concluding that coconut oil improves a multitude of skin conditions, like eczema, by moisturizing and soothing the skin with its anti-inflammatory properties.

Not only can coconut oil heal eczema, it can actually prevent it from happening in the first place. Recent research has found that the consistent use of emollients—or ingredients used to moisturize skin, like coconut oil—on infants predisposed to atopic dermatitis can actually prevent the skin condition.

Additionally, research on pre-term infant massage therapy conducted by the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami Medical School found that the use of coconut oil in massages enhanced the ability of premature babies to gain weight and resulted in a shorter hospital stay.


Why does Bubbsi have the best baby oil?

If you’re still wondering whether mineral oil is bad for your skin, rest assured that Bubbsi contains none. Bubbsi products are paraben-, phthalate- and sulfate-free. They don’t contain common natural irritants, allergens, endocrine-disruptors, or any of the nearly 1,400 ingredients that are banned for cosmetic use in the EU.

Our answer to those looking for the best baby oil is Bubbsi’s Coconut Oil Balm, which is especially effective when used in tandem with our whole Newborn Starter Set. Parents all around the country have shared how coconut oil is the best baby oil for all their child’s skin concerns—from cradle cap (or baby dandruff), to eczema, to diaper rash.


Newborn Bathtime Starter Set


Does coconut oil have other uses or benefits?

Parents can make coconut oil a part of a bonding ritual with their children by using Bubbsi’s Whipped Coconut Oil Body Cream in daily massages. This vegan formula contains organic, cold-pressed coconut oil and shea butter to replenish skin’s hydration, while the massage promotes brain development, circulation and sleep in little ones. 

Coconut oil also makes an effective cleanser because it attracts oil-based impurities so that they can be washed away. And, of course, unlike harsh soaps, it helps maintain hydration in the skin.

Many families start by using coconut oil on their little ones, and quickly find that it’s a helpful solution to skin conditions for all ages. One loyal fan has told us that her 49-year old husband found it’s the first thing that’s ever worked on his eczema. And, while we don’t expect many adults to get cradle cap or diaper rash, we love that our Newborn Starter Set has become a daily part of the skincare routine for the whole fam!


Treating skin concerns such as eczema, diaper rash and cradle cap doesn’t have to be tough! Try soothing rough patches using the best baby oil AKA our Coconut Oil Balm, as part of a skincare routine with Newborn Starter Set. Our trio has all the goodness of moisturizing coconut oil without all of the mess!


Shop the Post

Bubbsi Coconut Oil Balm - soothing balm for dry skin
coconut oil balm
deep moisture for bath + body + bum
refill me!
Bubbsi Whipped Coconut Oil Body Cream
whipped coconut oil body cream
face + body daily moisturizer
Bubbsi Newborn Starter Set
newborn starter set
body cream + oil balm + shampoo wash