Read the labels! Just because products are for sale or are prescribed does not guarantee safety. Know your ingredients:
Mineral oils as used industrially in an untreated or mildly treated form, are listed in the Report on Carcinogens (RoC), a study of cancer-causing substances published regularly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Petrolatum and tar, other petroleum derivatives, are also on this list.
On the skin, mineral oil forms a greasy barrier that can block pores from receiving needed oxygen and nutrients, and prevent toxins from escaping. (Think of an oil spill and its effect on wildlife.) Although mineral oil as widely used in cosmetics is not covered in the RoC, the consumer can certainly shop around for products that do not contain this ingredient.
Other petrochemicals found in cosmetics and household products include benzene, used to make dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides, and toluene, used in making fingernail polish.
Propylene glycol, a petroleum derivative which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says is found in some brands of antifreeze, is also widely used in cosmetics. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), it can cause contact dermatitis and should not be used on the skin. “Although propylene glycol binds moisture to the skin, it also repels it. Therefore, the skin ends up not receiving any benefit at all from the moisturizer” (AAD Web site).