Mineral oil, also known as base oil or lubricant base oil, is a colorless and odorless substance obtained through the distillation of crude petroleum oil. Depending on the refining process, mineral oil comes in varying qualities.
Cosmetic-grade mineral oil is used in the preparation of cosmetic products for adults as well as babies. Commercial baby oil is mineral oil with added fragrance. Parents have been using mineral oil for ages now. However, it often comes under scrutiny, raising concerns about its safety for babies.
This post answers your queries about mineral oil safety, its uses, side effects, and precautions to take when using it for babies.
Is Mineral Oil Safe For Babies?
When used appropriately, mineral oil’s topical application is likely safe for newborns and older babies. Research shows that mineral oil works as a stable emollient that promotes the skin’s barrier and moisturizes it by reducing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) (1) (2). However, its improper use or overuse could lead to adverse effects, such as skin irritation and rashes.
Consult a pediatrician before using mineral oil as they can guide you about its appropriate use for babies. Oral use of mineral oil for children under 12 years is not advisable (3).
Note: The use of mineral oil in children over 12 years is often advised under medical guidance to treat chronic constipation.
How Is Mineral Oil Used For Babies?
Topical application of mineral oil on the babies’ body and hair is common. Several parents and caregivers use mineral oil to massage babies before bath. Experts recommend applying mineral oil on the baby’s body after bath to retain moisture and treat/manage skin conditions, such as eczema (4) (5). Applying mineral oil an hour before shampooing could help alleviate cradle cap by loosening the dry scales (6).
However, not all these uses are always effective and recommended. For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that mineral oil use is “not very helpful or unnecessary” to treat or manage cradle cap (7). Thus, it is advisable to first discuss your intent of mineral oil use with a pediatrician.
Are There Any Side Effects Of Using Mineral Oil For Babies?
The topical use of mineral oil may cause the following side effects in babies.
- Allergic reaction: In rare instances, mineral oil could cause allergic reactions in sensitive babies. Red, itchy rashes and swelling are some common signs of an allergic reaction.
- Acne: Cosmetic-grade mineral oil is non-comedogenic, meaning it does not clog the pores (8). But, some individuals have reported breakouts and acne after using mineral oil on their skin. Babies with sensitive skin may display this side effect, as well.
Unless the baby has sensitive skin, the topical use of mineral oil under pediatric guidance is generally safe. Yet, you can follow some precautions for extra safety.
Precautions To Take While Using Mineral Oil For Babies
Observing the following precautionary measures can let you use mineral oil safely on your baby’s skin.
- Buy pure mineral oil from a reputable and trustworthy manufacturer and seller.
- Use the product as directed. Consult your doctor if you are unsure about the appropriate use.
- Check the label carefully to determine if the product contains additives.
- Avoid overusing mineral oil and apply it only as many times as told by the doctor.
- Do not apply mineral oil around the eyes, nose, and mouth. Mineral oil inhalation may cause respiratory issues, and accidental ingestion could have adverse effects, such as abdominal cramps and nausea.
- Unless directed by a doctor, prefer applying mineral oil before baby’s bath. It will let you wash away the oil from the baby’s body and scalp. Letting mineral oil sit on the skin for too long may worsen some skin conditions, such as cradle cap. If the baby has eczema or very dry skin, you may apply mineral oil post-bath after seeking a doctor’s approval.
Mineral oil use in babies is common to treat and manage dry skin conditions. You can apply mineral oil to the baby’s body and scalp as directed by your pediatrician. Use the oil as directed and avoid overuse to avert adverse effects. When used appropriately, mineral oil can help keep your little one’s skin soft and moisturized.
2. A. V. Rawlings and K. J. Lombard; A review on the extensive skin benefits of mineral oil; Wiley Online Library
3. Mineral oil (oral/rectal); C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
4. What We Know Today About Applying Oils To Newborn Skin; Dermatology Education Foundation
5. Baby massage: tips and benefits; NCT
6. Cradle Cap; University of Michigan
7. Cradle Cap; Healthy Children; AAP
8. Mineral Oil; Chemical Safety Facts