Is It Safe To Use Petroleum Jelly For Nappy Rash?

There is a huge range of baby skincare products available today and everyone seems to have a different opinion – which actually makes sense, because all babies react differently. Petroleum jelly is the ‘one-type-suits-all’ product many moms turn to. It’s been used for years and is a traditional babycare product, so it must be safe – right? Maybe not.

The good

Petroleum jelly is a natural substance derived from oil extracted from the earth. Over the years it’s built up a good reputation for treating skin conditions like burns, scrapes, rashes, and dry cracking. It’s easy to see why it’s used for nappy rash !

The not so good

One of the skin’s main functions is to absorb and excrete certain things, and in order to do this, it needs to be able to breathe freely. Petroleum jelly blocks the pores completely, preventing this natural process. This ‘smothering’ action is why petroleum jelly is recommended to smother and kill head lice eggs.

Petroleum jelly effectively locks moisture into the epidermis layer of the skin, but it also prevents the skin from excreting waste or absorbing much-needed moisture from the atmosphere. Recent paediatric research seems to have found that this can lead to systemic infection when petroleum jelly is used regularly – so, Baby’s skin looks good, but waste and infections are trapped inside!

It’s important that a baby’s skin develops its own protective bacterial barrier. It does this naturally when Baby comes into contact with Mom’s ‘good’ bacteria at birth, and continues in the first few months as Baby adapts to the environment. Just think: the super effectiveness of petroleum jelly may be doing the same thing to the good bacteria Baby needs to fight infection as it does to lice nits…

The (possibly) ugly

There isn’t any proof that petroleum jelly has an ugly side, but that’s the point – there isn’t much proof it has a good side either! In fact, very limited research or evidence is available on the possible impact – good and bad – petroleum jelly can have on skin, overall health, and even the environment (seeing as it’s a by-product of the petroleum industry). Little is published on the refining process used to make petroleum jelly and how it might affect human health. What we do know is that the process has changed considerably since it was started by entrepreneurial chemist Robert Chesebrough between 1860 and 1870. Researchers have been able to determine that there are different degrees of refinement and that less refined products can have irritant or even carcinogenic effects.

Yes, petroleum jelly has some positive effects on the skin, but it also has a bad side…and possibly even an ugly side. With such a huge range of products available, maybe it’s best to find something with fewer risks and a little more research to back it up.