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Massage Today
July, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 07

Debunking the Myths and Telling the Truth About Mineral Oil

By Paul Rapai

Mineral oil, for several decades now, has been given an undeserved and totally erroneous reputation concerning its use in formulating many products and as a primary lubricating ingredient in massage lotions and creams.

This myth, containing distorted facts and half-truths, has been told to massage therapy students by well-meaning but misinformed instructors and gets more distorted as it is perpetuated. I intend to present the reader with the truth about mineral oil and invalidate the myth.

Mineral oil is produced by the fractional distillation of crude oil, also know as petroleum. Crude oil is an oily liquid solution of hydrocarbons formed from a combination of minerals and decaying animal and plant matter. It is "the fossil remains of prehistoric forests and sea-beds" and is found in the earth in certain rock strata.

The petroleum is extracted from the earth, taken to refineries where it is boiled and vaporized. The vapors rise in a vertical cooling column called a condenser where they convert back into their liquid state at different levels. No chemicals are used in this process. These separated fractions are then collected, some being processed into gasoline, fuel oil, diesel fuel and kerosene, and others into paraffin wax, Vasoline and mineral oil. The mineral oil is then further purified using the same process that is used in purifying nut, seed and vegetable oils.

The mineral oil used in most cosmetics, moisturizers and massage lotions and creams is a highly refined grade of light mineral oil that is food grade (NF) and has the following properties:

  • It is a clear, odorless, colorless, tasteless liquid not adding scent to products in which it is used.
  • It is non-acnegenic and non-comedogenic. Mineral oil remains liquid even at cooler temperatures unlike most vegetable, nut and seed oils.

Websters New World Dictionary (2nd College Edition) defines "natural" as "produced or existing in nature ... not artificial or manufactured; without man-made changes; wild; uncultivated." It defines crude as "in a raw or natural condition, before being prepared for use; an unrefined or unprocessed substance; specifically crude petroleum." Therefore by definition, and by geological science, crude oil/petroleum is a natural substance. However, I propose this question: Can the extracted oils from plants, nuts and seeds, when they are planted, cultivated, fertilized and sprayed with chemicals by man, be truly considered natural? The distillation of crude oil to separate its distinct constituent liquids is also a natural process. It is the same process that produces rain when the evaporating waters from oceans and lakes cool as they rise into the atmosphere and convert back into a liquid state.

Mineral oil and many other everyday useful, benign and totally safe substances are derived from combinations of chemical elements that in no way resemble the resulting substance. Water (H2O) is an excellent example: it is a liquid made up of two gases – oxygen (which we need to live) and hydrogen (a flammable gas). Common table salt (sodium chloride) is another example; without the caustic properties of chloride (a form of chlorine) or the unstable explosiveness of sodium.

Canadian WHMIS, the American FDA and OSHA classify highly refined mineral oil as a non-hazardous, non-carcinogenic and non-toxic substance. The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association has stated that "the topical use of white mineral oil does not represent a local or systemic toxicity risk to humans." The International Agency for Research on Cancer also classifies mineral oil as non-carcinogenic. FDA regulations approve its use directly and indirectly in food.

Mineral oil is considered relatively inert, stable and resistant to thermal degradation. It will not support microbial, bacterial, yeast or fungal growth. Mineral oil washes out of clothing and sheets easily "because it does not form rancidity bonds with natural fabrics." Food type ingredients such as nut, plant and seed oils are NOT stable. They decompose quickly, are subject to mold and bacterial contamination, can feed bacteria, and solidify to cause clogged pores and acne. It is due to these drawbacks in using organic oils to formulate massage lubricants and cosmetic products that higher concentrations of preservatives and fragrances must be used. Also, keep in mind that many people are allergic to certain vegetable, nut, legume and essential oils. Mineral oil, "for the most part is sensitivity free."

Mineral oil is often used as a cathartic, an agent, when taken internally, causes the bowels to evacuate. It is then excreted in the stool rather than being absorbed by the body. Did you know that 80% of cosmetics, make-up, skin care and hair care products contain mineral oil? The following are just some of the many world-wide products that are formulated using mineral oil: moisturizing cream and lotion; cold cream and make-up remover; lipstick and lip balm; eyelash ointment; products used for the removal of temporary tattoos; hair products, shampoo and conditioner; hair removal products; deodorant; sunscreen and after sun products; gel type scented candles; livestock vaccines; preservative for wooden cutting boards, salad bowls and utensils; cooking spray; coating for fruits and vegetables; laxatives; lubricants in enema preparations; soap and shaving cream; wound healing salves; baby lotion and diaper rash ointment; and massage lubricants.

Well, there you have it! No distorted information, no gossip; no hearsay, no rumours and no perpetuating of the myth. I have presented to you all of the real facts, definitions, scientific studies and data and information from books, other articles and Wikipedia that my research could uncover. You now know the truth about mineral oil. To sum it up, mineral oil has been proven to be one of the safest, non-irritating, hypo-allergenic, non-carcinogenic, non-acnegenic, non-invasive, stable, inexpensive and effective lubricants in massage creams and lotions.

Paul Rapi is the founder and President of Paradel Poducts Ltd. He is a retired massage therapist from Ontario, Canada, and takes great pride in the quality products and customer service that Paradel provides. For more information about Myo-ther Professional Massage Products please visit


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