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  • James Murray, DNP

Petrolatum (petroleum jelly): A dermatologist’s favorite ingredient


In skincare, cosmetic grade petroleum jelly is used in a variety of products or just by itself. It is odorless, non-allergic, and non-comedogenic (will not clog pores). It is also very affordable, readily available, and extremely versatile.


Petrolatum is able to penetrate all layers of the stratum corneum and initiate skin barrier repair, stimulate lipid synthesis, and act as an emollient to soften skin.


Besides being used as an occlusive ingredient in skincare, one of the most frequent ways that dermatologists use petrolatum is in wound care or for post treatment skin care. Many patients will assume that using bacitracin or Neosporin is equivalent to using plain petroleum jelly, but your dermatologist will advise you that this is not true.


Bacitracin, Neosporin, and other OTC antibiotic ointments have one or more added ingredients: such as propylene glycol, cocoa butter, shea butter, mineral oil, cotton oil, olive oil, sodium pyruvate, Tocopheryl Acetate, and more which can lead to allergic dermatitis reactions. Many wounds do not need an antibiotic topial as long as they are following discharge instructions from their provider.

Although Petrolatum has a “greasy” texture that may be unappealing to some, it proves itself repeatedly to be safe and effective for skin care, wound care, and baby care.