Baby oil is a rather common product in most households with infants and toddlers. It is supposed to keep the skin of babies soft and supple and is usually applied to their skin during a nice, stimulating massage or after they are bathed using other baby-safe products like the no-tears soaps and shampoos. Baby oil as a nourishing and convenient product is also extremely popular among adults. Even more than babies, some may add! Many people have extensive skincare and haircare routines where baby oil is an ever-lasting staple. People claim that certain baby oils work even better than products specifically targeted for their skin and hair concerns, and swear by them as their holy grails!
It is common human nature to fall for products popularized and advertised in a manner that no one can find any flaws, case in point being baby oil, however one can’t help but wonder, if it is the right product to apply on our skin? After all, the effectiveness, potency, and compatibility with one’s skin cannot be established solely on the basis of the popularity of the said product.
So, if all the rave about the miracles of baby oil has piqued your interest and you wish to try it out for purposes other than the originally intended (nourishing babies’ skin), then this guide which dissects all the pros, cons, and uses of this baby-care product can help you make a better and a more informed decision whether or not to invest in the product itself.
What is Baby Oil?
Baby oil, as the name suggests, is an oil that is specifically formulated for babies and well, young children, to keep skin moisturized since dry skin can be extremely painful and a cause for deep discomfort in babies due to their sensitive skin. Most commercially produced baby oils are mineral oils that have minuscule concentrations of fragrances added to them.
If you remember science lessons from the 7th grade of middle school, you must know that Mineral Oil is a by-product of the distillation of crude oil that is extracted from the ground in the form of petroleum with the intention of creating petrol. The mineral oil thus obtained is then refined in extreme temperatures to a level where it is safe to use on the skin that is as sensitive as that of babies. It is more often than not clear and has no natural fragrance of its own. The fragrance is an element, even a chemical substance which is added later, for the purpose of increasing the product’s appeal so that it sells better.
Is Baby Oil Good for You?
Mineral oil, a major and perhaps the most primary ingredient of baby oil, is an occlusive product that creates an almost invisible layer on the skin which acts as a physical barrier between the skin and the environment, thus preventing trans epidermal water loss.
So, when applied to damp skin, baby oil certainly has the ability to lock the moisture provided to the skin by the water. The same science is applicable for locking the moisture in one’s hair. One reason why baby oil may be a good product for you to use as an adult is that people are rarely allergic to mineral oil (the base ingredient), which makes it a rather safe ingredient to be used on the skin.
It is also non-comedogenic, hence it does not clog the pores on your skin. Baby oil is free of parabens and preservatives as the substance of petroleum rarely goes rancid, if stored properly. However, just like any other product you may use, it is advised that you do a patch test near your ankles, elbows, neck, or wrists before you slather some on your body, chasing for the dream of silky, smooth, and supple skin.
Besides, one really simple logic behind the usage of baby oil for adults, is that if it is good enough for babies, it is good enough for you, provided you’re not allergic to petroleum and fragrances.
Can Baby Oil be Applied to the Face?
Now that we are aware of the fact that baby oil is non-comedogenic and safe for the skin of both adults and infants, it is only safe to assume that this magical product can be applied to the often-sensitive skin of your face as well. Although it must be noted that the physical barrier over the skin’s surface, created with the usage of baby oil, given its occlusive properties, can easily trap the dirt and impurities already present in one’s pores. It is therefore often advised that people with oily and acne-prone skin steer clear of baby oil because it holds the potential of making the skin more susceptible to bacterial acne which may lead to inflammation. People with a more sensitive type of skin are also likely to react to the artificial fragrance used in the formulation of the oil, which is why it is best to also do a patch test near your jaw and underneath your chin before going all in and applying it to the rest of your face.
Another thing to be careful of when using baby oil on your face is to ensure that you’re not over-using it. Because of its extremely effective occlusive properties, if used in quantities more than what your skin needs, it can create layers on the surface of your skin, so thick, that it may not even allow your pores to breathe, which is essential for your skin’s health.
Baby Oil and Clogged Pores; What’s the Relation?
Pores are essentially small openings of hair follicles in the skin that release natural oils and sweat. They are capable of growing a shaft of the hair. The hair may/may not be visible on top of one’s skin (especially on the face), as pores run deep, through various layers of the skin. The pores or hair follicles often get clogged because of sebum production due to the presence of natural oils of the skin, dirt, and moisturizers that are comedogenic (capable of clogging pores) in nature.
The clogging may further result in whiteheads (coagulated impurities and oil that get stuck in these pores), blackheads (oxidized whiteheads that are tougher to extract), and pimples (acne). People with oily skin come across this issue more than those with normal or dry skin, as their skin produces more sebum, which is an oily, waxy substance produced from sebaceous glands. These glands open into hair follicles, which is why hair follicles have sebum present in them. The oiliness and waxiness of the sebum often attract dirt to the skin, which in turn results in congestion and clogging of these pores.
We already know that baby oil is non-comedogenic so it obviously won't clog your pores. However, its occlusive properties develop a physical barrier on the skin. So, if your pores are already clogged due to excess sebum production, dirt, or any other reason, they would remain so, because of the barrier, thereby causing/worsening the acne.
Benefits of Baby Oil
Creates a Physical Barrier - This is probably the 20th time we’re mentioning this but yes! Baby oil, being occlusive in nature, when applied on the skin, creates a physical barrier, thereby ensuring that the skin behind it is protected from all the impurities present in the environment so that no substances are able to penetrate through the otherwise permeable layers of the skin.
Locks in Moisture - The occlusive properties of the baby oil make it prevent trans epidermal water loss, as we have already discussed, which, in simple terms, means that it locks the moisture and prevents dryness in areas it is applied. It works best when applied straight out of the shower, when the skin is damp, or right after the application of moisturizer.
Simple in Formulation - Baby oil is pretty simple in its formulation, considering it is mostly only made up of two ingredients (mineral oil and fragrance). Various other skincare products are made up of complex ingredients, which consumers can find deeply intimidating, so it is a great product for people who look for simple ingredients in products they use.
Easily Available and Affordable - You can find baby oil in the smallest of stores in the smallest of towns. It is quite a popular product for babies, that is mostly in demand all year round. For the same reason, it is mostly priced appropriately, which makes it affordable to the masses. One might argue about the affordability of the product, but when one compares its price with other skincare products/moisturizers, it is found that baby oil is relatively, pretty affordable.
Fairly Safe - Baby oil is mostly made up of only two ingredients and is not known to cause any allergic reactions, which makes it a product that is fairly safe to be applied on the face, as well as the body.
Side Effects of Baby Oil
Unclear formulation - The ingredient list of baby oil is shady, to say the least. The other ingredient in baby oil is mineral oil, which is made from the distillation of petrol. It cannot be ascertained how pure the product is. Similarly, often brands have different suppliers for mineral oil, so even if there is homogeneity in the product, we cannot be certain as to the extent of purity of the product in each bottle.
Maybe Triggering for Sensitive Skin - Apart from the mineral oil, baby oil also includes fragrance, which is sometimes known to react with sensitive skin. So, if your skin reacts to fragrance, it is best that you skip using the product, unless there is a fragrance-free variant available. Or, if your skin is sensitive, it is recommended that you do a patch test before applying it to the face or the body.
Acne Inducing - Baby oil does not get absorbed, it merely sits on top of your skin, given that it is occlusive. People who have oily skin, that generates more sebum, or acne-prone skin, that has congested pores are likely to face more acne considering the pores could get congested because of the physical barrier created by the product.
Can be Carcinogenic - If you’re familiar with the world of beauty, you must know that a lot of cosmetic brands and their products are often not regulated. Because of this very reason, it is always possible that the brand-in-question may actually not have purified petroleum to an extent that is safe for human skin. Only under-purified petroleum liquid can cause serious and irreversible damage to your skin.
Other Uses of Baby Oil in Your Regime
Massage - One of the major uses of baby oil is to use it for a nice, relaxing baby massage. It is often used on growing babies and can also be used as a massage oil for adults. Its non-sticky texture makes it an excellent choice for body oil to be used for the same purpose.
Smoothens Hair - Baby oil can be applied both before and after washing the hair, for silky smooth hair. People with oily hair are advised to use it before shampoo so that the excess oil is washed away, and people with dry hair are advised to use it after washing their hair, for a clean, non-frizzy look.
Removes Makeup - One of the most astonishing uses of baby oil is that it can be used as a makeup remover. Yes! You read that right! You can either apply some on a cotton pad and wipe away the makeup off of the face, or you can directly apply oil onto your face, gently massage it, and then wipe away the remnants using a cotton pad or a face towel. It is a particularly great hack for people with dry/very dry skin, because it leaves the skin soft and radiant, after being washed away with a cleanser.
Removes bubble gum - Another difficult-to-believe use of baby oil is that it successfully removes bubble gum stuck in one’s hair. If you have kids around you, you've probably encountered a situation of bubble gum being stuck in someone’s hair, getting rid of it by cutting the hair that is stuck and a bucket full of tears that the kid in question has shed. All you have to do is apply baby oil to the portion of hair that is stuck together, and leave it for a few minutes. Then you may either comb the portion to get the gum out pull the gum out using your hands. Repeat as necessary and be prepared to slide out of the sloppy situation without any tears at all!
Adds Shine and Lustrous to Hair- Baby oil is a great way of adding shine and leaving your hair silky smooth. Apply some on your scalp and your hair and leave overnight. Shampoo the next day and voila! Soft and manageable hair galore! You can also add a few drops of baby oil to any DIY hydrating hair mask and elevate your hair game to the next level. My personal favourite is where you take an egg white, 3-4 tablespoons of curd, 1 tablespoon of honey, and a few drops of baby oil.
Baby Oil is like any other beauty product, it has many pros and many cons. Some people may not benefit from one usage while others may. Some people may want to only use it for its intended purpose i.e. to give baby massage, while other people may invest in baby oils for themselves.Either way, there are a few things and points of research that should always be on the back of someone’s mind when considering baby oil as a viable skincare and haircare product. It is imperative that one understands all its merits and demerits and works to ensure that they’re non-intrusive.