Petroleum Jelly: Beauty Fact or Myth?

As we all anxiously await the fashionably late arrival of spring, many of us are still trying to combat winter's tight, dry grip on our skin.  The cold months are more like moisture bandits, making it difficult to keep skin nourished and hydrated.  A supposed go-to for many years, petroleum jelly has been known to be the ultimate source for moisture.  But when fancy lotions and body butters don't cut it, are we truly to turn to this medicine cabinet staple?  We wondered...

Before slothing on your petroleum jelly, there are a few important things to know.  First, the name 'petroleum.'  If you think this skin emollient could possibly derive from oil based on the name, you're right.  The starting source material for petroleum jelly is a black waxy material driller's called "rod wax" during the 19th century.  Rod wax gummed up oil drilling machinery, but workers found that it seemed to aid in the healing of cuts and burns.  A chemist by the name of Robert Chesebrough distilled this "rod wax" and filtered the residue through bone char (carbon).  He then patented the process to make the product we know as petroleum jelly today and marketed it as a cure-all remedy.  People have used petroleum jelly for years since, but coming from a crude oil, is this stuff truly OK for skin?

Yes!  Despite its dubious origins, when skin is seriously dry, nothing beats this old school moisturizer.  Petroleum jelly "forms an occlusive barrier on the skin to reduce loss of water," says Houston-based dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Peterson.  The staying power of this emollient is hard to beat and it's extremely effective at preventing water that's in your skin from evaporating.  Many dermatologist, however, do specify which areas of the body petroleum jelly should and should not be applied.  Because this moisturizer is a bit greasy, most women wouldn't think of applying it to their face, and this is proper beauty instinct.  Petroleum jelly is too heavy and can cause breakouts on normal and oily facial skin.

Dr. Jeanine Downie suggests using petroleum jelly on extra dry elbows and knees at night, as a protective coating to seal up your skins' own moisture.  Celebrity esthetician, Scott-Vincent Borba recommends the following at-home paraffin treatment: Use a nickel size dollop of Vaseline and olive oil (or shea butter) and apply to hands and feet.  Next wrap cling wrap to treated areas and cover with clean, dry cotton socks to lock in deep moisture.

So despite the grease factor, petroleum jelly is a legit source of hydrating moisture.  Found in many lotions and cosmetics, petroleum jelly also has many other cool uses.  It protects surfaces from rust, it can be used to prevent fungal infections on skin, it can extend the life of your perfume by putting a small spot of this jelly on your wrists and then applying your fragrance, and adding petroleum jelly to your cuticles before applying nail polish prevents the polish from running.  Who knew!  Petroleum jelly is now a confirmed beauty fact.

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