20 Amazingly Practical Uses for Petroleum Jelly

By: Alia Hoyt  | 

petroleum jelly
Petroleum jelly has hundreds of uses for skincare, beauty care and even DIY hacks. Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

Petroleum jelly is one of those products that has a ridiculous amount of untapped potential. Sure, everyone knows that it'll hydrate your lips or skin but what about its lesser-known capabilities? We've got a ton of ideas for you.

First a little about the product. Petroleum jelly is a mix of mineral oils and waxes. It was discovered by a chemist named Robert August Chesebrough in 1859. He had noticed that oil workers suffering from burns and other wounds got relief from rod wax, an unrefined byproduct of petroleum. Petroleum is known for providing a water-repelling barrier, which allows the skin to heal. After years of tweaking, Chesebrough developed the product Vaseline, and began selling it in 1870. More than 150 years later, the formula hasn't changed much.

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1881 vaseline ad
This 1881 ad shows some of the many uses for Vaseline petroleum jelly.
Jay Paull/Getty Images

Petroleum jelly has an exceptionally long shelf life of three to 10 years, not that you'll need it to last that long once you start incorporating all of these uses into your daily life. To keep it fresh and clean longer, don't use your fingers to scoop the good stuff out. This puts bacteria and other yucky stuff in the jar, and no one wants that to start growing. Instead, use a clean spoon, cotton swab or cotton pad.

Looking to make the most of your petroleum jelly purchase? Check out this list of 20 ways that you could be using this product to your benefit.

1. Prevent dyed skin. Any DIY hair-dyer knows that an unwanted side effect is dyed skin. Avoid coloring anything other than your hair by rubbing petroleum jelly in high-risk areas, such as on the neck, around the ears and at the hairline.

2. Revitalize the heels. If your feet are in a bad way, rub some petroleum jelly on them before bed, then put on socks to keep it from getting all over the sheets. You'll wake up with softer, smoother skin!

3. Prevent chafing. Sometimes our thighs stick together a little more than we'd like. Avoid chafing by applying petroleum jelly to prone areas, such as men's nipples (which get chafed from contact with shirts) and the thighs when exercising or just walking around on a hot day.

4. Stop squeaking. All out of WD-40? Lubricate that squeaky door hinge using a bit of petroleum jelly.

5. Bring back the shine. Leather goods like purses, couches, jackets or shoes can get dried out and start to crack over time. Rub a little petroleum jelly in and watch it come back to life!

6. Remove makeup. You don't need a fancy face wash to take off makeup. Get a little bit of petroleum jelly and rub it into the eyelids, then wipe off eye makeup with a washcloth or cotton pad.

7. Keep glue fresh. Superglue and other such adhesives are prone to drying out after the first use. Prevent this problem by applying a bit of petroleum jelly both around the rim and under the cap when closing it up.

8. Unstick a zipper. Resist the urge to keep tugging on a stuck zipper until something rips. Instead, free a jammed-up zipper by gliding petroleum jelly on both sides.

9. Prevent lipstick problems. All too often, lipstick winds up on the teeth, where it has no business being. Keep this from happening by rubbing a bit of petroleum jelly on the front teeth. Performers also swear by this hack to keep their lips from sticking to the teeth when singing or smiling a lot.

10. Hydrate your hair. Don't drop another dime on a pricy hair mask! Instead, use a dollop of petroleum jelly. Leave it for a while, then rinse it out. Don't stop with the hair on your head, either. Eyelashes are also hair, and while petroleum jelly doesn't help them grow, it does hydrate them, thus helping them appear fuller!

11. Get a fire going. It does come from petroleum after all. Roll a cotton ball in the jelly and place it on your grill or fire pit. Light it and voila! You've made a fire starter.

12. Rejuvenate a manicure. A thin layer of petroleum jelly is all it takes on the fingernails to make a dulling manicure pop once more.

13. Take the sting out. It's not unusual for parts of your body to get sore or itchy after waxing, threading or shaving. Apply some petroleum jelly to the affected area and feel the discomfort fade away almost instantly. It does quite a number on razor burn, too!

14. Soothe a scab. Dried-out scabs are downright uncomfortable, not to mention unsightly. Bring a bit of moisture back to the healing area with a touch of petroleum jelly. This also protects the scab from water and other irritants while still healing.

15. Make a scrub. Add some salt or sugar to petroleum jelly for an effective, budget-friendly body scrub!

16. Tame a tattoo. Tats look great once they're all healed, but the first days can be painful. Keep the new ink moisturized with a thin layer of petroleum jelly.

17. Remove a ring. The ring that just won't budge is no match for petroleum jelly. Apply a bit and watch the offending jewelry slide right off.

18. Treat diaper rash. If your wee one is prone to diaper rash, start using petroleum jelly between changes to prevent wet diapers from further irritating the skin. If it doesn't clear up in a few days, it's time to consult a doctor.

19. Care for cuticles. Between manicures, apply petroleum jelly to the cuticles and nails to keep them from drying out and getting brittle. It's best done on damp nails.

20. Spot treat the skin. Whether it's the corner of your mouth, the knees or anywhere else on your body, treat dry, scaly patches with petroleum jelly. This is especially important if you're heading into extreme weather areas because it traps the moisture in the skin.

Clearly, petroleum jelly is the unsung hero of the pharmacy section. Try a few of these hacks and reap the benefits for just pennies on the dollar!

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