Petroleum jelly's initial purpose was as a medicinal salve, meant to speed up the healing process, when it was patented in 1872. Since then, the FDA has approved of it as an effective over-the-counter skin protectant, and it's been used as makeup remover, lubricant and homemade lip balm. Because it stops water from being evaporated and helps plump up the top layer of skin, it's beloved by dermatologists and beauty fiends alike. And it's a steal – a typical tub is around $5. [source: HowStuffWorks.com]
Another reason Dr. Fox recommends it as a moisturizer is that it has a very low rate of allergic reactions. "After surgery in my dermatology office, we've stopped using Neosporin and now use petroleum jelly and our patients have never had an allergic reaction to it."
But, as Dr. Taha noted earlier, there's a difference between a product being a great moisturizer and being a practical moisturizer. She finds that many Caucasian women will not use petroleum jelly as a moisturizer because it's so greasy. The greasiness is the occlusive aspect and one of petroleum jelly's advantages.
"If you deal with ethnicity a bit, culturally, certain ethnicities will use it more often than others to help with dry skin," says Dr. Fox. "It does work well so I do encourage it, but if someone is resistant, it's better for them to use another moisturizer than nothing at all."
But even if you don't use it in your day-to-day skin-care routine, try it out when you're skin has been up against the elements. If you have windburn from a day on the chilly ski slopes, a bike ride, or a windy beach day, apply petroleum jelly liberally to your face or wherever you see dry skin. The jelly helps ease discomfort. [source: ReadersDigest.com]
Not only can Vaseline add moisture to the skin on your face, but it can also put an end to chapped lips, dry, cracked hands and dryness on any other body part that's the victim of cool air [source: ReadersDigest.com]
For those who are eco-conscious and skin care-conscious, the one downside of petroleum jelly is that's not a green beauty product. A byproduct of petroleum (yep, the fossil fuel), it's approved by the FDA, but some of the refining methods use toxic compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). They are removed during the refining process, but the European Union requires all products containing petroleum jelly to have a known refining history. That being said, it's generally safe to use on skin.
Learn more about using petroleum jelly as a moisturizer here.