Allergic Reaction to Mineral Oil in Baby Products

Mineral oil in many baby products causes painful allergic reactions.
Mineral oil in many baby products causes painful allergic reactions. (Image: Image by, courtesy of edwart visser)

Mineral oil is a petroleum by-product used in many cosmetics and personal care items including baby products. Used for its supposed emollient qualities, mineral oil can have negative effects on your skin. Allergic reactions are not uncommon.


Mineral oil is present in many baby products such as baby oil, lotion and body wash. Many people believe that baby oil is moisturizing but it is not. In most cases, baby oil is 100 percent mineral oil, which is not easily absorbed and leaves a plastic-like coating on the skin. This coating clogs pores and eliminates the skin's ability to breathe, causing allergic reactions such as contact dermatitis. Mineral oil also dissolves your skin’s natural oils and inhibits its oil-producing ability, further drying the skin.


Contact dermatitis is the most common allergic reaction to manifest from mineral oil contact. Symptoms include redness, swelling, blistering and itching of the skin. Depending on the severity, contact dermatitis can be quite painful until it resolves. Many baby products are designed for use from baby’s head to toes, so an allergic reaction could encompass the entire body.


Removing mineral oil from the skin is essential in stopping the allergic reaction. Wash the skin gently with a mild soap free of mineral oil. Use cool cloths to alleviate itching. Cortisone cream has been helpful in relieving the symptoms of contact dermatitis, but check with your doctor prior to using it on an infant. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help relieve discomfort as well.


Coconut oil, cocoa butter and even olive oil are all-natural alternatives to mineral oil and safe for use on both babies and adults. These products are readily absorbed into the skin without inhibiting your skin's natural processes. Soaps, shampoos and lotions are also available without mineral oil, so read the labels carefully. Natural products have become more widely available as the demand has increased due to the green movement in America. Natural baby products in particular are in high demand as parents have learned the dangers of mineral oil.


When reading baby product labels, be aware that mineral oil may be listed under a few different names. Liquidum paraffinum, paraffin oil, paraffin wax and petrolatum are all synonyms for mineral oil. Choose a product containing only natural ingredients. Check every label for every product you buy. A good rule of thumb to follow; if you cannot pronounce it, do not buy it.

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