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Petrolatum (Dry skin)

Petrolatum (incl. white soft paraffin and yellow soft paraffin) is a semi-solid hydrophobic yellow/white substance consisting of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum. Petrolatum has been used for more than a 100 years as a healing ointment. Although its primary effect stems from being occlusive, forming a lipid barrier on the skin that traps water and limits water evaporation from the surface of the skin, petrolatum may also be able to penetrate into the upper skin layers and help fill the spaces between the outermost dead skin cells.

What does the science say?

Level of evidence: B

HelloSkin’s experts were unable to find any scientific data or clinical trials on the use of petrolatum in people with dry skin (xerosis). But in skin care products in general, petrolatum acts as an emollient, thereby decreasing water evaporation across the surface of the skin1. In a study involving 186 normal and 37 atopic infants, petrolatum applied 4 times daily for to days improved skin hydration from 2% to 7%2.

Furthermore, petrolatum is expected to be able to improve the appearance of fine lines caused by dehydration3, thereby capable for giving the skin a more smooth look. HelloSkin’s experts were unable to find any published data to substantiate these claims.

The concentration of an ingredient is important for its efficacy, and therefore products containing the same ingredient may not necessarily have the same effect as in the studies mentioned above. Updated: July. 2017

Updated: July 2017


1Skin Therapy Lett. 2005

2J Dermatol. 2007

3Dermatol Ther. 2012



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