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Petrolatum (Eczema)

Petrolatum (incl. white 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 traditionally regarded as an occlusive agent, forming a lipid barrier on the skin that traps water and limits water evaporation from the skin surface, petrolatum may also be able to penetrate into the upper skin layers and help fill the spaces between the outermost dead skin cells1.

What does the science say?

Level of evidence: A

An impaired skin barrier integrity and increased susceptibility to secondary bacterial infections in the skin are some of the characteristics of atopic dermatitis. Studies have shown that the use of petrolatum-containing ingredients can benefit people with eczema.

In children with atopic dermatitis, a petrolatum-based emollient applied three times per day for 3 weeks, was just as efficient at reducing disease severity as two prescription moisturisers2. The children had mild-to-moderate eczema, and did not use other treatments during this period. Interestingly, a recent study with people with atopic dermatitis concluded that applying petrolatum can influence the antimicrobial peptides, and upregulate components important for the skin barrier, such as filaggrin1.

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


1[Skin Therapy Lett. 2014

2[J Drugs Dermatol. 2011

3[J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016



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