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Petroleum Jelly Smackdown

049400 Vaseline Petroleum Jelly has long been a best seller. Now owned by Unilever, it's been around since 1872, when it was patented by American, Robert Chesebrough. According to Wikipedia:

"In 1859, Chesebrough went to the oil fields in Titusville, Pennsylvania, and learned of a residue called "rod wax" that had to be periodically removed from oil rig pumps. The oil workers had been using the substance to heal cuts and burns. Chesebrough took samples of the rod wax back to Brooklyn, extracted the usable petroleum jelly, and began manufacturing the medicinal product he called Vaseline."

We've been using it ever since. It's not a natural product, though, so today, I'm putting the petroleum based Vaseline and the natural version, Alba's Unpetroleum Jelly, to the test in a product smackdown. Alba Unpetroleum Jelly Alba Unpetroleum JellyIngredients: Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Beeswax, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocopherol The ingredients are good in this unpetroleum jelly from Alba. Castor seed oil is a thick oil, which gives this natural 'unpetroleum' jelly the jelly-ness. Beeswax also helps to add thickness and keep the jelly in a jelly state. Coconut oil adds extra moisturisation. My only reservation with this product is that as well as natural Vitamin E, Alba uses tocopherol acetate (which is Vitamin E mixed with acetic acid) to give the product more stability and a longer shelf life. However, there are no other preservatives, as this is an oil based product, and to me, the tocopherol acetate is a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent product. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly Vaseline Petroleum JellyIngredients: Petrolatum Although there are misleading articles floating around the internet that suggests that petroleum jelly is banned in the EU, this isn't quite correct. It's only improperly refined petroleum jelly and mineral oils that can't be used in cosmetics, as they can contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Some PAHs may be carcinogenic, which is why unrefined petroluem jelly is a concern. However, if the petroleum jelly is properly refined, PAHs aren't present, and so aren't a concern. EWG's Skindeep Database lists petroleum jelly as a 4 (moderate hazard) due to contamination concerns. Petroleum jelly is of course a by product of crude oil. It's not a renewable resource, and there are environmental concerns about the way crude oil is extracted from the earth and processed. There's a good, basic article here that outlines some of the environmental impact of drilling and processing petroleum. That's not to say that there are no issues with using plant based products for cosmetics. Palm oil is a perfect example of a plant based ingredient that has a major environmental impact because of the way it's being grown. However, choosing responsibly sourced, plant based ingredients is preferable, at least in my opinion, to using petroleum based products.

Unpetroleum Jelly Uses

Wondering what to use unpetroleum jelly for? Here's a few ideas:
  • Use around your nose when you have a sore nose from blowing it too much.
  • As a barrier balm on baby's bottoms to prevent wetness sitting against delicate skin, which can cause nappy rash and irritation.
  • Use as a lip balm.
  • Pat a bit of unpetroleum jelly on your cheekbones for an instant, cheap and easy, naturally glowy look.
  • Smooth a teensy bit over your eyebrows to keep your eyebrows in place all day.
  • Fix cracked heels by slathering your feet in unpetroleum jelly, pop some socks on and go to bed. You’ll have supersoft feet by morning.
  • Use it as a cuticle balm. Just rub a bit into each of your fingers and you’ll have softer, smoother cuticles in no time.
  • You can also rub it around your cuticles before you paint your nails (with a 7 free nail polish, of course!) so that you don't get nail polish anywhere except on your nails.
  • If you haven’t worn earrings in a while, rub a bit of unpetroleum jelly on your ear lobes before you insert your earrings. Your lobes won’t hurt a bit!
  • Make a quick, moisturising body or lip scrub at home. Just add a bit of sugar to a small amount of unpetroleum jelly and use it as a lip scrub. Use a bit more for a body scrub, and switch to salt for a rougher, more effective scrub for your body.
  • Apply it to any areas that are prone to chafing.
  • Use a little tiny bit to smooth dry, split ends. Not too much, or your hair will look greasy.
  • If you've got any loose pigmented mineral makeup, add some to a bit of unpetroleum jelly to make a cream blush, lip colour or eyeshadow. Make sure that you're using organic or NaTrue certified makeup if you're doing this, so that you know it's safe to go on your lips.
  • Polish your shoes by rubbing a little unpetroleum jelly evenly into your leather boots, handbag or belts to condition and protect the leather.
  • Before applying fake tan (and of course you'll be using an organic one like the lovely Eco Tan!), rub a bit of unpetroleum jelly into dry areas like ankles and knees. It will prevent streaks by acting as a barrier, and will give you a much more even looking tan.
Have you made the switch to 'unpetroleum' jelly or are you still using Vaseline? Get the latest posts straight to your inbox every week!
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