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Petrolatum in Skin Care - Is It Safe? A Dermatologist's Opinion

Should I use a Product with Petrolatum In It?

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CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, 16 oz
Lucas Nguyễn/Flickr

There are so many ingredients that seem to have a bad reputation. Sometimes it's because the ingredient isn't considered the most eco-friendly, sometimes it's because people spread the word that the ingredient is bad for your skin and sometimes it's about where the ingredients are sourced from initially. But no matter how what you read, it's good to get an opinion from your dermatologist before you make any decisions on avoiding an ingredient over a rumor.

We received an email from a reader named Roldana asking about Petrolatum. Here's a portion of her email.

I read your Cerave facial cream review and I wanted to know your thoughts on Petroletum in facial cream products. This ingredient has a bad reputation, it seems. I've been trying to use more natural products for sensitive skin so I went back to the Cerave that I've used in the past. When I looked at the label, it appears it's the same ingredients, but they added petroletum.

I don't mind using petroletum products on my hands sometimes because it helps keep me moisturized, but wondering about my face. I'm not a hard core natural freak; I really just want something that works and won't cause clogged pores. And to use products that won't cause harm to the environment is important, so is petroletum getting a bad reputation because it's not "green" or because it clogs pores?

We sent Roldana's question to Dr. Helen Torok, Medical Director at Trillium Creek Dermatology, and she was happy to respond with her thoughts on petroletum.

Here is Dr. Torok's response on the use of petroletum:

Petrolatum is a natural hydrocarbon that is added to cosmetics and skin care products due to its natural ability to prevent TEWL (trans epidermal water loss).

Petrolatum in the small concentrations used in creams like CeraVe are not comedogenic. Milia or comedones can occur with any heavy moisturizing product that is applied to thin skinned areas, like the periorbital regions. (around the eyes) Milia can occur when the skin has been compromised and there is fissure. Applications of moisturizers to fissured skin can lead to milia and this is with any moisturizers.

I recommend petrolatum to all my patients when their skin is irritated. The petrolatum calms the skin and then allows creamy moisturizers to be applied without any burning or stinging.

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So, Roldana, continue using your Cerave! You have a Dermatologist's go-ahead to keep using the product your skin loves without worrying about the petrolatum.

If you have a question you'd like us to try to get an expert opinion on, please feel free to email us at skincare@aboutguide.com. We can't promise a doctor response, but we'd be happy to make the attempt.

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