Quick Tips: Are petroleum-based face creams good for sensitive skin?

oil skincare

Keeping skin hydrated and moisturized is important for all skin types, especially when the weather is cool and skin is more likely to dry out. Our dermatology experts suggest adding a petroleum-based skin-care product to your routine (even if your skin is sensitive) to keep your complexion healthy and moisturized.

According to some dermatologists, up to half of patients have sensitive skin [AAD], which includes four categories: acne, rosacea, burning and stinging and contact dermatitis. Though these different types of sensitive skin have varying symptoms, they are all marked by inflammation and redness of the skin. Certain ingredients and fragrances in standard skin-care products can easily irritate those with sensitive skin, so it's important to look for moisturizers with minimal ingredients.


Petroleum jelly is one such moisturizer. With just one ingredient, petrolatum, it is an occlusive moisturizer. That means it keeps skin moist by acting as a barrier, literally sealing water in your skin so it can't evaporate, says Deirdre Hooper, MD, dermatologist at Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans. In some cases, especially in acne-prone skin, this seal can lead to clogged pores. But for other sensitive skin types, the occlusive effect works to make your skin more tolerant, she says: "It actually helps to repair the barrier that is ineffective in sensitive skin." Dr. Hooper says Vaseline is the prototypical product here, and Eucerin cream is also a good choice.

"There's a conception out there that oils and petrolatum make you break out," says Valerie Goldburt, MD, PhD, and dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery. "That's not true of everyone. You have to try it for yourself. It's heavy and shiny, but for most people it's a great moisturizer."

"I alternate between using Vaseline, Aquaphor and olive oil on my face at night," says Dr. Goldburt. "It's my biggest secret. My patients who have been using petroleum for years have great complexions and very few wrinkles. It's important to get oil on your face."

Dr. Goldburt acknowledges that petroleum and petroleum-based face creams may make your skin too shiny for daytime use, especially if you apply makeup, so she suggests applying a thinner moisturizer in the morning. And, if you use the heavier moisturizers in the evening, you may find that you don't need to use moisturizers in the morning, she says. For most people, a moisturizer with SPF is sufficient to apply in the morning. If your makeup has SPF in it already, like a BB cream, that's good enough to use as a moisturizer. [Dr. Goldburt]

Using pure petroleum jelly is also a gentle option for healing and moisturizing sensitive, irritated skin on the hands that occurs from frequently working with abrasive household cleaning products [WebMD.com]. Petroleum jelly is also recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology as a safe, gentle dry skin soother for your face and body. [AAD]

You might also want to read Top 10 Tips for Moisturizing Sensitive Skin.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Dry Skin: Tips for Relieving." http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/a---d/dry-skin/tips
  • Goldburt, Valerie , MD, personal correspondence, October 2, 2013.
  • Hooper, Deirdre O'Boyle, MD, Personal correspondence, Oct 1, 2013
  • McCoppin, Holly. MD. WEBMD.com "America Asks About Household Irritants: 7 Steps To Soothe Dry, Irritated Skin."
  • http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/america-asks-10/dry-skin