In researching my new eBook Know Thy Curls: The Ultimate Product Ingredient Dictionary for YOUR Curls, I’ve found it interesting the number of misconceptions I had about certain ingredients. Mineral oil is definitely one ingredient that challenged my existing knowledge. I had always assumed that mineral oil was linked to cancer and mostly synthetic but I was completely wrong.
Where Does Mineral Oil Come From?
Mineral Oil, also known as Parraffinum Liquidum and Huile Minérale , is a natural oil derived from petroleum which is a form of fossil fuel. It is a colorless and odorless oil that’s commonly used in cosmetics because it is inexpensive to produce. Although it is a mineral and natural material, it does not have the best image as a natural ingredient because it is derived from petroleum.
Is Mineral Oil Dangerous?
Despite its dubious origins, most products containing mineral oil will not put you in mortal danger. Mineral oil used in cosmetics, such as lotions, creams and various hair products, has to be “cosmetic grade” meaning it is more purified than “technical grade” mineral oil used in the mechanical/engineering industry.
Studies have not linked mineral oil with cancer, but scientists have expressed their concerns. Primarily about contamination via toxins. Researchers stated in a 2011 study, “There is strong evidence that mineral oil hydrocarbons are the greatest contaminant of the human body, amounting to approximately 1 gram per person. Possible routes of contamination include air inhalation, food intake, and dermal [skin] absorption.”.
So if you want to reduce the amount of mineral oil you are exposed to, cutting out hair products and food that contain it is a good start.
Why Do Cosmetic Companies Still Use Mineral Oil?
Well, simply put it is cheap and until there is conclusive proof that it effects our health, companies will continue to use it. Mineral oil doesn’t have any nutritional benefits. It is used because it is a “filler” ingredient meaning it helps fill up the beauty jar!
When applied to hair, it leaves a thin layer on the surface preventing anything else from penetrating the hair shaft. It pretty much clogs up the hair (and skin) so using mineral oil-based products to seal in moisture is the only “beneficial” use I can think of (but there are plenty of more hair-friendly alternatives).
That said, there are other ingredients to be more concerned about, for example, “Fragrance”. Fragrances are added to products to mask an odor or create a pleasant one. Typically all the components used to make up the fragrance are not fully listed on labels. They are usually combinations of natural and/or synthetic substances but cosmetic companies are not required to list any of them… scary!
How Do I Avoid Mineral Oil?
If you choose to avoid mineral oil completely it’s important that you start reading the labels of products you purchase to determine the ingredients used to make it. The first five ingredients listed are present in higher concentrations. Anything after that is an extremely low concentration (less than 1% each). So in theory if mineral is listed 6th or beyond you should be okay!
If you’re interested in learning more about the most popular synthetic and natural ingredients listed in hair products on the market today, buy our product ingredient dictionary!