The raw material for petroleum jelly was discovered in 1859, in the state of Pennsylvania, on some of the country's first oil rigs. Workers disliked the greasy material forming on rigs as a bi-product of the extraction process because it caused their machines to malfunction, but they started to use it on cuts and burns because they believed it hastened healing. As a result, Vaseline was originally promoted as an ointment for scrapes, burns and cuts - it became an essential in any household first aid box or medicine cabinet. Not only was it included in World War II survival kits, but it was also used as a sunscreen as it was believed it provided protection against the sun's rays.
However, studies have since shown that Vaseline offers no medicinal benefit, nor is it absorbed by the skin. Petroleum jelly's effectiveness in accelerating wound healing stems from its 'sealing effect' on cuts and burns, which inhibits germs from getting into the wound; it also keeps the area supple by preventing the skin's moisture from evaporating. In simple terms: Vaseline does in no way hydrate, nor does it attract moisture. When used excessively it actually prevents the skin from absorbing moisture from the environment, which (over a longer period of time) causes skin to become dull and dehydrated. It’s much like locking yourself away in a windowless room for a month and wondering why your skin is pale, vitamin starved and in need of a serious moisture injection.
Vaseline should not be used to hydrate the skin, treat wounds or accelerate healing - and it certainly shouldn't be used to remove makeup or as a face treatment. Not only is this unsustainable resource damaging to the environment (it's a bi-product of oil extraction,) but it can also disrupt the bodies process of elimination of toxins through the pores, potentially trapping them under the skin. It's also been discussed that petroleum jelly slows cellular regeneration, which can damage collagen, elastin and connective tissue, contributing to the appearance of aging. It’s also water-repellant and not water-soluble, making it difficult to cleanse from the skin; this means it could be sitting on the surface and blocking your pores for days to come.
There's no doubt it has useful features and remains a firm favourite with sports enthusiasts, but when used in excess for beauty purposes it’s only going to cause more problems than it actually solves. However, here are eight ways you can actually use Vaseline without worrying about the side effects...
1. MANICURE HERO: Put a little Vaseline under the cap of your nail polish bottles to prevent crunchy residue, so you don't struggle opening them mid-mani.
2. LIPSTICK PRO: Apply a little to your teeth before adding lipstick, ensuring you'll never get lipstick teeth or a sticky smile again.
3. TAN-TASTIC: Rub a small amount onto the backs of ankles, knees and hands to stop those telltale tan lines and excessively dark patches forming.
4. HEAVEN SCENTED: Maintain your perfume scent all day long, by rubbing a little Vaseline onto your wrists and neck before you spritz. It prevents the skin from absorbing your fragrance.
5. REFUSE TO SPLIT: Beat split ends between trims by rubbing a (very small) amount of Vaseline between your fingers, touching up frizz and damage - albeit temporarily.
6. STAIN NO MORE: Prevent those embarrassing hair dye stains on your forehead by softly dabbing all over your hairline. Just wash away using an effective cleanser afterwards.
7. SLIP & SLIDE: Do you ever struggle putting in your earrings? Use a little Vaseline on the stem and they should slide right in!
8. JUST BLUSH: Vamp up your eyeshadow or blush and turn them into creams using some Vaseline; mix in the palm of your hands and apply sparingly.
Do you use Vaseline as a lip balm, beauty product or treatment? Are you ditching the petroleum jelly now in favour of a much more targeted and effective alternative?