Your skin is your body’s largest and most permeable organ so you’re careful what you put on it, right?
Gentle cleansers, mild moisturizers, and careful cosmetics can be tainted with harmful chemicals. Before you rub that brand name cream on your face or body, however, you might want to read the ingredients on the label.
Carcinogenic Moisturizing Cream
The Journal of Investigative Dermatology published a study in which groups of mice with induced sunburn were treated with four popular moisturizers once a day, five days a week, for 17 weeks: Dermabase, Dermovan, Eucerin Original Moisturizing Cream (Eucerin), or Vanicream.
The control group was treated with a “Custom Blend cream” and at the end of the study, there were no ill effects to the mice treated with the custom cream. The other groups who were treated with the commercially available creams all developed cancerous tumors.
“The mechanism of the tumorigenic effects of moisturizing creams in UVB-pretreated mice is not known but may be by a tumor-promoting type of mechanism that causes inflammation and proliferation in DNA-damaged skin.” (1)
This research furthered an earlier study of the formation of tumors when treated with certain moisturizers before ultraviolet radiation exposure. In that experiment, one of the five substances tested was found to promote rapid growth of cancerous tumors by 40% (2).
What these moisturizing creams all have in common is mineral oil.
While that sounds all healthy because of the “mineral” part, mineral oil is a petroleum product, as is gasoline. The skin is incredibly absorbent, and while it does block most harmful substance, ingredients in skincare are made to penetrate these barriers and get all the way through.
Mineral oil was identified as a carcinogen in the nineteenth century (3).
Mineral oil also clogs pores, suffocating skin and leading to pimples and blackheads.
An Austrian study found traces of toxic mineral oil in the milk of breastfeeding mothers who had applied breast salves that contained the harmful ingredient. A small percentage mineral paraffins were also passed to the nursing babies (4). An earlier study of mineral oil found in breastmilk also considered infants directly ingesting the oil while suckling (5).
Moisturizing cream is not the only product that can contain mineral oil; many suntan and sunscreen products, lip balms, baby oil and rash treatments, cosmetics, shampoos, perfumes, and body cleansers contain it as well.
Mineral oil is known by several names so look for these on the labels of your personal care products too:
- Adepsine oil
- Baby oil
- Lignite oil
- Liquid paraffin
- Mineral seed oil
- Paraffin oil
- White oil
What To Use Instead
To truly moisturize your skin, look for all-natural products with easy-to-understand ingredients.
Fruit and seed oils like castor, avocado, almond, coconut, and olive; aloe vera gel; and honey are nourishing to the skin. Additionally, beeswax and shea butter are effective for relieving very dry skin. You can make your own sunscreen using coconut oil.
Fragrance-free products with few ingredients are generally safest. Preservatives are added to even “natural” products, so watch out for EDTA, polysorbate-80, potassium sorbate, and sodium benzoate. Keep in mind that anything that touches your skin will get into your body and much quicker than if you ate it. If you don’t want it in, don’t put it on.