Did you know that mineral oil can be used to remedy a range of everyday complaints, ranging from dry skin to a flaky scalp? Yep, it might just be one of the most versatile products in your beauty arsenal. But before we get into the myriad of uses for mineral oil, what is it exactly?
Mineral oil is a natural byproduct of petroleum oil production, so it doesn’t exactly get the eco-friendly seal of approval—and from a marketing standpoint, you can file that under the ‘cons’ column. That said, science shows that mineral oil has been unfairly maligned in recent years. (More on that later, but don’t worry—it won’t clog your pores.) We spoke to Kerry E. Yates, beauty expert and CEO of Colour Collective, and learned that mineral oil does indeed deserve to have a place in your self-care beauty closet.
When it comes to skincare products, mineral oil “helps define the product texture while providing skin protective and conditioning benefits,” says Yates. And when used for the body, it’s often used as a skin conditioning agent and skin protector, she also tells us. Noticing a theme? It turns out that mineral oil has numerous benefits in the cosmetic world and beyond, thanks to its “natural attributes [that] help to lock in moisture,” per Yates. So, with that in mind, read on for some surprising uses for mineral oil that will do right by your body.
1. Soothes minor burns and skin irritation
Mineral oil is an emollient and when applied topically, it creates a barrier on the skin that locks in moisture and protects the stratum corneum (i.e., the skin’s outermost layer). As such, it can be used along the same lines as petroleum jelly to promote healing of minor burns and minimizes scarring by keeping the affected skin soft and moist—and the same goes for other minor skin irritations and rashes that are exacerbated by dryness. In fact, according to the National Eczema Association, when applied as a topical ointment, mineral oil is one of the most effective moisturizers for controlling flare-ups of this common skin condition.
How to soothe minor burns and skin irritations with mineral oil
Step 1: Cleanse the affected area with warm water and mild soap.
Step 2: Saturate a cotton ball with mineral oil and apply to the affected area.
Step 3: Repeat as needed.
2. Prevents diaper rash
Knowing what you know now about how mineral oil creates a protective barrier on the skin, it should come as no surprise that the stuff also does a bang-up job of preventing diaper rash from occurring (or from getting worse if already present). Plus, because mineral oil is water-insoluble, the protective layer it provides won’t wash away when the baby pees. (Hint: You’ll find mineral oil featured on the ingredient list of many popular brand name diaper rash creams.)
How to use mineral oil for diaper rash prevention
Step 1: Clean the diaper area with a warm washcloth. (Pro tip: A cotton ball saturated with mineral oil is also an excellent way to remove stubborn stool.)
Step 2: Apply a generous layer of mineral oil to the diaper region—with either your hands or a cotton ball that’s been soaked with the stuff.
Step 3: Re-diaper the baby and you’re done.
3. Softens dry, cracked feet
When the skin on your feet gets dry and starts to crack, it can cause a lot of discomfort. The damage is also particularly hard to repair. The solution? Mineral oil, which works as a conditioning agent to soften the skin whilst preventing your parched tootsies from losing any additional moisture.
How to treat dry, cracked feet with mineral oil
Step 1: Slather your feet with cosmetic-grade mineral oil—ideally at bedtime.
Step 2: Slip on a pair of socks to prevent the oil from soaking into and staining your sheets.
Step 3: Wake up to softer, more hydrated feet.
4. Moisturizes dry skin
This one is pretty self-explanatory given that most of the benefits of mineral oil are owed to the fact that it creates a barrier that locks in moisture while protecting the skin from external irritants that remove the skin’s natural surface lipids (ironically, water is one such culprit). But what about the claim that mineral oil will clog your pores? Yates says this is possible, but unlikely, and research has shown that cosmetic-grade mineral oil itself is non-comedogenic. The pimple potential here comes from the fact that it could possibly trap other pore-clogging ingredients, so your best bet is to apply pure cosmetic-grade mineral oil to clean skin.
How to moisturize dry skin with mineral oil
Step 1: Wash the skin with a mild cleanser. (This is especially important if the skin in question is on your face, since putting mineral oil on top of makeup and dirt can cause breakouts.)
Step 2: Using a cotton pad or your hands, apply a thin layer of cosmetic-grade mineral oil to the skin.
Step 3: Re-apply up to twice per day, as needed.
5. Relieves constipation
Blocked up? Fortunately, you don’t need to reach for stimulant laxatives (which can cause uncomfortable stomach cramps) to get relief. When taken orally, mineral oil is a safe and effective stool softener that can get things moving in six to eight hours. How it works: Mineral oil is a natural lubricant and when you ingest the stuff, it will coat the inside of your bowels and any stool that’s stuck there, whilst softening the latter and making it easier to pass. That said, mineral oil can interfere with the absorption of important nutrients and medications alike. For that reason, it’s best to take this as directed by your doctor. The experts at WebMD also advise using mineral oil for constipation on an empty stomach and at least two hours after taking any other medications. Note: Long-term oral use of mineral oil is also not recommended, so it’s not a good option for those who suffer from chronic constipation.
How to use mineral oil for constipation
Step 1: Measure out the correct dosage according to your doctor or the instructions on the package (this can range from 15 to 45 ml of liquid mineral oil).
Step 2: Drink the mineral oil. Note: If the mineral oil on its own is too much to stomach, you can mix it into another beverage to help the medicine go down.
Step 3: Wait roughly six to eight hours for sweet relief.
6. Treats dandruff (and conditions hair)
Dandruff is the result of dry, flaky skin on your scalp and can you leave with an uncomfortable, itchy head to boot. Good news: The Mayo Clinic recommends mineral oil as a treatment to soften and loosen scales from the scalp. Aside from minimizing flaking throughout the day, this mineral oil hair mask will also condition your locks: Per Yates, mineral oil is often found in hair conditioners and other products as it aids with product distribution and leaves behind a film that gives hair a silkier and more supple feel.
How to use mineral oil as a scalp treatment
Step 1: Apply a couple of drops of cosmetic-grade mineral oil directly to the scalp.
Step 2: Massage the oil into the scalp and distribute throughout the hair.
Step 3: Leave the mineral oil in your hair for one hour.
Step 4: When the hour is up, remove the mineral oil by thoroughly shampooing your hair.
7. Removes ear wax
Yep, mineral oil can be used to soften everything from stool to dry skin—and you can add one more thing to the list: ear wax. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you put a couple of drops of mineral oil directly into the ear canal, it will soften the wax and make it easier to remove the build-up. Note: You should not use mineral oil if you have an ear infection unless it’s recommended by your doctor.
How to remove ear wax build up with mineral oil
Step 1: Using an eye dropper, put three to four drops of mineral oil directly into the ear canal.
Step 2: Wait one to two days for the mineral oil to work its magic.
Step 3: Irrigate the ear by tilting your head to the side and squirting warm water into the ear canal with a rubber bulb syringe.
Step 4: Dry the ear and repeat the process from the beginning, if necessary. (But if symptoms don’t improve after a few treatments, make sure to consult your doctor.)
Cautions and Contraindications of Oral Mineral Oil Use
Avoid taking mineral oil orally for constipation within two hours of mealtime so it doesn’t interfere with the absorption of vitamins and minerals from your food.
Similarly, do not ingest mineral oil within two hours of taking another medication, as it may interfere with absorption and decrease the effectiveness of the drug.
Pregnant women are advised against taking mineral oil for constipation, as its use has been linked to hemorrhagic disease in newborns, likely as a result of the mother’s decreased nutrient absorption.
Don’t take mineral oil at the same time as another stool softener, or on its own for more than seven days without approval from a doctor.
Children under the age of 6 years old should not take mineral oil orally. Young kids are more likely to accidentally inhale the remedy, and inhalation of mineral oil is linked to pneumonia.