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Dangers of Petroleum Jelly

Dr. Sumaiya Khan
What are the various dangers of petroleum jelly? Is it harmful for the skin? Read on to know about the potential threats this versatile material poses and what precautions to take when using it on face and other parts of the body.
One of the most common things that you are bound to find in almost every home is the petroleum jelly. That age-old miracle cure that your grandmother used for just about anything, right from burns to chapped lips! The fact that it costs barely a fraction of what other creams and ointments cost further adds to its popularity. However, would you have ever thought that there are a few dangers of petroleum jelly that you need to wary of? As hard as it may be to believe, there are certain possible side effects that you must be aware of when using this product.

Moisturizing Misconception

It may shock you to know that despite the unquestionable popularity of petroleum jelly when it comes to dealing with dry skin, this compound is not really a moisturizer. On the contrary, it acts as a barrier when applied on the skin, and by itself has no moisturizing properties. It reinforces the moisture that is present in the skin by trapping it within. This is the reason why many people wonder if it is bad for lips. Well, if your lips are always chapped and dry, then you may need to put more than just petroleum jelly on them.

Dangerous Absorption

Now that we know that one of the dangers of this substance lies in the fact that it is a sealant rather than a moisturizing agent, let us see what other effects it brings about. The fact is that while it acts as a sealant, it is useful when you need increased absorption of topical medications.
Thus, there have been cases where people slather on this product after topically applying some kind of medication to enhance the rate and extent of absorption. However, this may lead to effects like very rapid and dangerous rates of absorption, which may even make the medication toxic.
Also, as white petroleum jelly forms a layer on the skin, it does not allow the natural toxins to escape from the pores, so it may actually hamper the rate of elimination of toxins in the form of sweat and sebum.

Other Possible Dangers

Not many people know this, but one should not use petroleum jelly as a lubricant during sexual intercourse. This is because as it is a byproduct of petroleum, it affects the structure of the latex condom and makes it weaker.
Thus, there are higher chances of conception, as there is a great likelihood that the condom may tear due to the friction and reduced strength. This is one of the major but relatively lesser known side effects of petroleum jelly.
Also, one of the other danger of this substance is the speculation surrounding its potential as a carcinogen. Nothing has been conclusively said about this though, despite the fact that some people claim that it may have a role to play in the development of breast cancer.
One of the other dangers is that it should not be used on fresh burns, because as mentioned earlier, it leads to trapping of elements within it. So, it can trap the heat in the burn wound, which would actually worsen it. Also, the efficacy of using petroleum jelly for scars is doubtful. In the end, if you do wish to use a moisturizing agent, then try something more natural, like cocoa butter, shea butter, or beeswax. And when you need to treat a medical condition like a burn, it is best to use a prescribed and certified medication rather than petroleum jelly.