Mineral Oil is a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum.
Hydrocarbons are the group of compounds containing only the elements carbon and hydrogen. Hydrocarbons are generally derived from petrochemicals by a refining process, but some of them are found in the plant and animal kingdom.
Mineral oil is widely used as an emollient and vehicle in cosmetics because of its oily feel and movement on the skin. It provides products with the ability to enhance suppleness and gloss in hair-care products and, by its ability to remain on the skin surface, it can act as a lubricant to reduce flaking and to improve the skin's appearance.
Rumours frequently circulate regarding the safety of mineral oil because it is sourced from petrochemicals. But petrochemicals are the source of a whole range of substances, some of which would never be used in cosmetics and some of which are used in the food industry. In fact, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has set values for the Acceptable Daily Intake* of those hydrocarbons likely to be ingested. It all comes down to knowing which substances are safe to use.
Only the purest grades of mineral oil will be used to make cosmetic products, and where the products are likely to come into contact with the lips (e.g. lipsticks and lipsalves) then the JECFA Acceptable Daily Intake values will be adhered to.
In the US, some products containing mineral oil require child resistant closures. In the UK and Europe, personal care products containing mineral oil have been used safely for decades and, when stored properly, are safe in the home. As an added precaution and to facilitate normal use, UK baby oils are packed with a cap which limits the amount of oil dispensed. To avoid accidental swallowing, care should be taken to ensure that all products are stored out of the reach of young children.
* Acceptable Daily Intake or ADI is that amount that you can safely consume each day for life without appreciable risk of harm.