Petroleum jelly has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Its uses are seemingly endless.  I would go to sleep many nights with my sensitive hands tucked inside a pair of socks after my Mother coated them with petroleum jelly to heal the dry, cracked skin.  As I got older I used it to keep my face moisturized and my lips soft. Just look at the ingredients on your favorite skincare products and healing ointments–chances are you will find it.  Watch for the following: petrolatum, petroleum jelly, trioxaundecanedioic acid, toluene, 4-amino-2-hydroxytoluene, BHA.

Petroleum jelly or petrolatum was discovered in the 1850s on the early oil rigs.  It wasn’t until the 1870’s that a chemist named Chesebrough patented a process of turning the unrefined black “rod wax” into a lighter gel or jelly trademarked as Vaseline.  Vaseline was touted for its healing properties and then later found to have no medicinal powers.  It does, however, do a good job of forming a barrier to keep our skin protected and moisturized.  But then you have your nay-sayers that believe it only functions to hold the bacteria in, which isn’t good.  Oh, what to believe!

It is true that there are concerns over whether or not petroleum jelly is safe for use due to the possible impurities and contamination that result from the manufacturing process. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs are common contaminants found in petroleum jelly and known to have cancer-causing effects.  Further concerns stem from not knowing how manufacturers choose to refine their products.  So is it safe or not?


Dr. Oz believes that petroleum jelly is not natural, but a by-product of oil and therefore should not be used.  USP petroleum jelly or pure white petroleum jelly is purified and refined to be safe from impurities and contaminants, and therefore a safer version.  So for all of us die-hard users, maybe the USP or white petroleum jelly is the best choice.  But don’t rule out the natural alternatives to petroleum jellies such as olive oil, Shea butter, and coconut oil, just to name a few. My petroleum jelly has recently taken a backseat to pure argan oil.  I discovered it on QVC, ordered some, and fell in love with it. Quite a bit more expensive than our $1 jars of petroleum jelly, but it goes a long way!

Another alternative is this simple recipe to make your own petroleum jelly.   Or, if you are like me and just prefer to be lazy about it, visit Again, a little more expensive, but aren’t we worth it??  Oh, did I just say that??  The good news is that we do have choices.

Caution: It is recommended that petroleum jelly not be used internally.  If applied inside the nose there may be a risk of “lipid pneumonia”.  I once had an ear, nose, and throat doctor instruct me to apply Vaseline in my nostrils with a Q-tip before bed (to soothe a winter nose) —yikes!!  No more! I found more than one reference to using castor oil to help soothe a dry winter nose.  I would definitely check with your doctor first and if he tells you to use Vaseline—smack him with your purse!!