Time for another product information-post, Vaseline: The chemical name of Petroleum jelly is petrolatum, Vaseline is a trademark, though Vaseline is pure Petroleum jelly. It is a bi-product from the petro-chemical industry. Other bi-products are: wax, kerosene, diesel, tar, mineral oil, bitumen, roofing shingles, asphalt. For the history of Vaseline look here. (Quite interesting).
(The pic below is from this blog, read it, very funny about Vaseline in hair)
For a long time Vaseline was considered to be a miracle product for healing burns and softening skin. Aside from that, it is extremely cheap, stable and emulsifying. To this day Petroleum jelly and mineral oil is used in many creams and lotions, though research has shown that it, in fact, does nothing for the skin. The healing properties Vaseline was thought to have are due to its “sealing effect on cuts and burns, which inhibits germs from getting into the wound and keeps the injured area supple by preventing the skin’s moisture from evaporating”. (Wikipedia) In other words; Vaseline is like a plastic coating that hinders the skin’s natural secreting action, making it turn dry and brittle over time, creating what’s popularly known as Vaseline-dependency.
I would never, ever use Petroleum jelly in any formulations for skin-care. That said, I do use Vaseline (drum-roll and a shocked intake of breath) in some cases/products. The plastic-coating-property is very useful when you need something protective that the skin will not absorb:
- When infection eats away the tissue (necrosis). The infected tissue needs to be cut away, leaving deep open wounds. These wounds tend to heal first on the surface, leaving bacteria to fester in the wound. Such wounds need to be kept open and clean so they heal from the inside out. The best way to do this is by inserting a compress or tampon steeped in petroleum jelly. It doesn’t stick to the skin-tissue so it’s easily removed without causing tearing. The Vaseline can then be loaded with healing agents that will do the business.
- Mud-fever on horses. Mud-fever can turn septic quickly and in very bad cases the infection spreads up the leg, under the skin, causing big patches of skin and fur to fall off, leaving heavily infected and raw patches. Here Vaseline rules! It protects the area, keeping it soft; the “spreadable plastic” effect. Again, I load the Vaseline with healing agents. If you catch the mud-fever at an early stage, healing is rapid. Vaseline is perfect because it creates an inert barrier to humidity and dirt in a way that no bandaging can do.
So how is Vaseline to work with? Sort of disgusting, to be honest. It is fatty but not in the same as vegetable fats, more like some kind of plastic goo that covers everything with a greasy film. It’s rather heavy and compact, making it hard to stir. I don’t melt it, I work it in its raw state. But no matter what you put in it, be it water- or fat-soluble, Vaseline just swallows it without ever separating – amazing. The more fats that are blended into the Vaseline, the softer it gets, but it still leaves that greasy, gooey film.
Last, but not least, the question of Petroleum Jelly being from an unsustainable source: It is a bi-product which means that as long as you put gas in your car, heat your house with oil, use plastic, asphalt and a bunch of other things that we consider necessary, Petroleum Jelly will be around, and as long as this is the case, the argument is not really valid, is it?