Petrolatum at a glance

  • One of the best ingredients for dry skin
  • Highly purified before being used in cosmetics
  • FDA-approved skin protectant
  • Widely used in healthcare settings and applications
  • Also known as petroleum jelly

Petrolatum description

Petrolatum is a rich emollient and FDA-approved skin protectant. It is one of the best ingredients for dry to very dry skin, including around the eyes. Although derived from crude oil (thus making petrolatum a natural ingredient), it is highly purified prior to being used in cosmetics, so there’s no risk of exposure to unwanted chemicals. For some unknown and unsubstantiated reason (and despite solid research to the contrary), petrolatum has attained a negative image regarding skin. Topical application of petrolatum can help replenish, soothe, and beautifully moisturised skin’s outer layer. It’s widely considered safe and highly effective. Extensive clinical data has shown petrolatum to be a gentle ingredient. Small amounts of petrolatum are commonly found in moisturisers, but you can also find products with 100% concentrations, such as Vaseline®.

Petrolatum references

  • PLoSOne, ePublication, September 2020
  • Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, June 2020, pages 1399-1403
  • The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, April 2016, pages 1,091-1,102
  • Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, May 2011, pages 531-537
  • Contact Dermatitis, June 2006, pages 338-343
  • Acta Dermato-Venereology, November-December 2000, pages 412-415
  • Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, November 2003, pages 890-901
  • Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, March 1992, pages 387-396

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.