Crude Oil Derivatives v Plant Extracts in Skincare

Crude Oil Derivatives v Plant Extracts in Skincare

Petrolatum acts as a skin barrier, but do you really want to put a crude oil derivative on your skin? Is the ingredient petrolatum in all skincare created equally? No. Does it moisturise your skin? No. Should some skin types avoid it? Yes. Do we think an ingredient exists from natural botanical sources with better skin barrier properties that also re-hydrates and doesn’t have side effects? Yes, several in fact. Ditch the mineral grease and discover luxurious, safe, plant based skin loving ingredients with us. 

What is Petrolatum?

Petrolatum, petroleum jelly, mineral jelly, mineral grease, paraffin, synthetic wax, mineral oil are just a few of the names that this ingredient can go by on an ingredient list. Different name, same origin, it’s a by-product of the crude oil and gas industry, refined to filter out impurities and placed into everything from lip balms, moisturisers, baby rash creams, healing balms, hair products and makeup. It finds its way into formulations that are described as jelly, lotion, cream, oil, serum, balm.

How Did We Get Here (as in how did we end up putting mineral grease on our bodies)?

The use of a crude oil derivative in skincare all started when a chemist discovered oil drilling workers in the 1800s were using an unrefined form of leftover petroleum and applying it to wounded and burnt skin for healing. As an unprocessed mineral oil, this would have been extremely carcinogenic. 

As a short term solution, petroleum jelly can provide the illusion of hydration and creates a sufficient water-proof barrier over the skin, however it does not provide a real, long-lasting solution. It is occlusive in nature, it seals moisture in and it prevents moisture loss, but it doesn’t add moisture to your skin.  

Side Effects of Mineral Oils in Skincare 

Petroleum jelly can aggravate skin conditions like acne, rosacea, dry skin and dermatitis. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, if you are acne-prone you should avoid petroleum jelly as it can cause more breakouts. 

It can cause skin to dry out further as it doesn’t allow a regular exchange between outside moisture and air with your skin.

Researchers cite one of the main causes of dermatitis is the use of topical corticosteroids, which can contain light mineral oil and petrolatum and is best avoided by sufferers of rosacea and dermatitis. Avoiding topical steroids is the current advice according to Medical News Today when treating dermatitis

Petroleum jelly is not suitable for sun damage or sun burn as it traps in heat and can aggravate symptoms like redness further.

Studies also show that petroleum jelly permeates through the stratum corneum (the outer layer of the skin). This makes it an effective occlusive, preventing water loss and helping to trap moisture in, but there are many natural plant alternatives that can do this and can also provide moisture, so why would we choose to put petroleum on our skin where it gets absorbed? 

When is Petrolatum a Carcinogen & When is it Not?

As mentioned above, those poor souls in the 1800s putting unrefined rod wax on their skin, were unknowingly exposing themselves to cancer causing properties. The mineral oils used in skincare today are not as horrible as that though. The EU has much stricter regulations on the use of mineral oils and waxes which require additional purification steps to remove impurities and reduce levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are considered carcinogenic. 

For cosmetic use, the refining history of the petrolatum must be known and proven to be non-carcinogenic to meet EU standards. However, no such standard exists in the USA or Australia which means some petroleum and mineral oils used in skincare may be contaminated with PAHs. Unless the product is labelled as “white petrolatum”, which is fully refined, it is best avoided.

However, even white petrolatum is derived from crude oil, a non-renewable resource that comes from oil and gas production, the most polluting industry on the planet. 

When nature offers us ways to lock in moisture, re-hydrate the skin safely and without risk of absorbing carcinogens or relying on a derivative of crude oil, why would we choose petrolatum? 

Key Takeaways

  • Mineral oil, petrolatum is derived from crude oil
  • The raw ingredient before proper refinement contains carcinogens 
  • Only skincare products following EU guidelines will be guaranteed free of the carcinogen  
  • Mineral oil doesn’t re-hydrate skin, it creates a barrier to lock in moisture
  • Mineral oil is not ideal for acne-prone skin, dermatitis, rosacea or sun exposed skin

Nature’s Alternatives That Perform Above & Beyond What Mineral Petroleum Oil Does

Petroleum doesn’t contain any additional nutritive value like antioxidants or anti-inflammatory properties. It provides a barrier seal and that’s about it! These plant extracts and oils can provide skin barriers that are more breathable, as well as properties that heal and deeply hydrate.

Skin Barriers, Hydrators & Healers:

A wonderful skin barrier that provides a protective film on the surface of the skin without blocking pores or preventing the skin from breathing. Beeswax locks moisture in. Unlike petrolatum, beeswax has emollient properties which soften and rehydrate skin. It is high in vitamin A which aids skin restoration and regeneration and it is non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores.  Beeswax has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties which makes it helpful for acne prone skin. 

Hemp seed oil 
Restores skin barrier and retains moisture while also helping to control oil production to moisturise without greasiness or clogging pores. Hemp seed oil is very emollient, absorbs easily and quickly and helps to rehydrate skin. It is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and omega fatty acids, nutrients and minerals. 

Candelilla Wax
Candelilla Wax is extracted from the leaves of the candelilla shrub native to Mexico. It is similar to beeswax and has many of the same benefits. It is a great humectant, absorbs easily and hydrates dry skin. It is non-comedogenic and won’t clog pores so is ideal for oily and acne prone skin types. 

Hydrators & Healers: 

Mango seed oil
An excellent emollient to soften and smooth skin. It is high in antioxidant phenolic compounds, including ferulic acid which can help protect skin from sun damage. It is a rich source of fatty acids and essential amino acids which makes it nourishing for the skin.

Olive oil
Deeply moisturises the skin with its high content of squalene and vitamin E which both support the skin’s ability to retain moisture and its capacity to absorb water. High in antioxidants it can help to soothe inflammation, calm redness and irritated skin and protects from sun damage and oxidative stress.

Shea butter 
Where petroleum jelly sits on top of the skin like a barrier, and leads to clogged pores, Shea butter is absorbed more easily into the skin to provide a rehydrating function. Like the other natural plant oils, shea butter contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties helping to soothe skin and fight free radical damage. 

Macadamia oil
Macadamia oil is the closest match to the naturally occurring sebum in the skin. It is also non-comedogenic so great for oily skin or acne prone skin as it won’t clog pores. It is rich in squalene, oleic acid and vitamin E making it perfect for regenerating and restoring dry skin. It is high in omegas especially 6 and 7 and provides a light barrier on the skin. 

How ETTO Skin Balm Replaces Petroleum Jelly 


In every way! ETTO The Skin Balm is a direct replacement for straight up petroleum jelly and other balms that use petrolatum. With a luxurious combination of skin barrier, hydrating and skin healing plant based oils and waxes, plus plant extracts like carrot oil and chamomile oil that aid in regenerating skin, this balm is truly restorative, hydrating and protecting for ultimate skin health.

The Skin Balm is made with the addition of ETTO's high-grade terpinen-4-ol rich pure Tea Tree oil, known for it's anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic and antibacterial properties making it ideal for healing minor wounds and skin irritations.  

It has many uses, try it instead of petroleum jelly and see the difference for:

  • Lip balm
  • Healing for minor cuts, scratches and burns 
  • Ideal after surgery and on scars for fast skin regeneration
  • Diaper/nappy rash
  • Cradle cap
  • Cracked and very dry hands, elbows and heels
  • Dry skin on the face and body
  • Suitable for eczema and dermatitis 
  • Ideal for acne prone skin spot treatment with Tea tree
  • On ends of hair for hydration and preventing split ends 

Shop The Skin Balm, 80g, $40



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