Just a few short years ago, the word “oil” on any skincare product label would send chills down any customer’s spine. Was there anything more insane than putting oil on your skin? It sounds like a surefire way to wake up with a face full of red spots. While we’ve come a long way in terms of skincare education, there are still a few ingredients that have a bad reputation. Most notably is mineral oil, a colourless and odourless petrolatum derivative. The thick, jelly-like substance has been rumoured to clog pores, cause premature aging, dehydrate skin, or worse—be completely unsafe for the skin. So what’s wrong with mineral oil? Is it the terrible pore-clogging ingredient it's made out to be? In short, no.
The likely cause of all the bad PR is the fact that mineral oil is an occlusive—not a moisturizer. That means it can’t hydrate skin on its own, but rather, it locks in any moisture below it. While that makes it a great thing to layer over your serum or moisturizer a few nights per week, it also means that it can trap bacteria or other dirt if you haven’t washed your face properly. If you’re prone to cystic breakouts, using mineral oil isn’t going to make anything worse, as those under-the-skin ones aren’t usually caused by anything topical. On the other hand, if you notice milia (those little white bumps that don’t look quite like pimples, but often form in clusters), your skin might be telling you it prefers to breathe a bit more.
Still, mineral oil is great for anyone with dry or sensitive skin. It works wonders a brow conditioner or a makeshift highlighter when dotted along the top of your cheekbone—and I especially like to pair it with the Heales Finger Lime serum, which soothes skin while targeting fine lines, hyper-pigmentation, surface breakouts, eczema, and dry, flaky skin. (The mineral oil helps seal in the antioxidants.)
So there’s your verdict: If you have dry skin, mineral oil could help seal in moisture better than a serum alone. Just don’t expect it to work wonders if you’re not pairing it with the right ingredients.