When it comes to household basics, petroleum jelly is a must-have. In fact, you probably have a jar or two in the medicine cabinet. This greasy thick jelly is commonly used to protect the skin, thanks to its ability to lock in moisture.1 It might even be your go-to for fixing water marks on furniture, polishing leather jackets, and greasing squeaky door hinges. It doesn’t stop there, though. This super-simple jelly is pretty talented, as you’ll just see!
1. Keep Skin Soft And Supple
This first one is petroleum jelly’s claim to fame. When applied to the skin, this product can work wonders. Typically, your skin’s soft and supple texture depends on its water content. Normal skin produces an oily substance called sebum. This forms a protective barrier over the skin, preventing water loss.2
Unfortunately, anything from harsh soaps to dry winter air can mess with this sebum. Even aging can deplete or overwhelm it. In turn, your skin has a hard time retaining water. The outcome is dry skin.
Use petroleum jelly on damp skin to lock in moisture.
This is where petroleum jelly comes in. It can form a protective barrier that seals in moisture. But since it contains no water, it won’t provide moisture. Instead, your best bet is to use petroleum jelly while your skin is still damp after a bath. And don’t let its greasy consistency put you off. Generally, greasiness and thickness mean that a moisturizer will work well.3 So, whether you have chapped lips or cracked heels, a little petroleum jelly can soften your skin in no time.
2. Heal Nicks And Scrapes
From cuts to scrapes, accidents happen. Luckily, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, petroleum jelly can heal your skin. If you have a superficial wound, apply petroleum jelly after cleaning it. This will keep the injury nice and moist. It’ll also stop it from drying out and forming a scab. After all, a wound takes longer to heal when a scab forms.
Use petroleum jelly on minor cuts and scrapes but not on puncture wounds and deep cuts or wounds.
A dollop of jelly can also stop a scar from becoming deep, itchy, or too large. And if you clean the wound every day, you might not even need an antibacterial ointment.4
However, do keep in mind that petroleum jelly isn’t meant for lacerations, puncture wounds, or deep wounds. You also shouldn’t use it on infected skin or animal bites. Otherwise, the jelly can actually seal in bacteria.5
3. Soothe A Diaper Rash
An irritable baby with a diaper rash can fluster any parent. To remedy the issue, keep your little one dry. Top it off by applying some petroleum jelly after a diaper change. This will keep urine and feces from touching your baby’s skin. With a little extra care, that diaper rash will eventually clear up.6
4. Deal With Cradle Cap
If your baby has cradle cap – yellow or brownish scales on the scalp – you might be searching for a gentle remedy. Well, it turns out that petroleum jelly can save the day. Simply apply it on the affected area and leave it on overnight. The crusted skin will loosen up by morning. This can be brushed off with a soft brush or cloth. Finish up with a baby shampoo for a happy, healthy baby.7
5. Get Rid Of Lice
If your child returns from school with head lice, you know you’re in trouble. Lice are notoriously tough to get rid of. And while you can buy special lotions and sprays that will kill them off, some of these aren’t suitable for young children or pregnant women. To top it off, some head lice can build a resistance to commercial pesticides, making the products useless. So, what to do?
Apply petroleum jelly on dry hair, covering the hair entirely with it, and leave overnight.
Check out petroleum jelly. Essentially, it can suffocate the lice. A study found that petroleum jelly can kill the lice and tackle the eggs, letting just 6% hatch. Apply it on dry hair, covering the hair entirely with it, and leave overnight. Wash it off the next day. Do note that it can make your hair quite greasy.
However, know that it may not be effective on its own. You may still need to supplement with other remedies like tea tree oil or manual removal with a special comb.8
6. Keep Your Ears Dry
If you’re prone to ear infections, try your best to keep water out of your ears. This will help your ears stay infection-free. Surprisingly enough, petroleum jelly can actually help your ears stay dry while you swim or bathe. Take a piece of clean cotton that’s big enough to fit into your ears (but can be easily removed). You’ll probably need to rip apart a cotton ball. Roll it into an oval shape and smear petroleum jelly on it, covering it completely. Insert it into your ear and apply some petroleum jelly over the top. Voila, your ears have been waterproofed!9
When You Shouldn’t Use It
Clearly, petroleum jelly can be a real treat for your skin. However, it should also stay out of a few scenarios, such as:
- Sunburns and acne: Do not apply petroleum jelly (or any other oil-based product) on a sunburn. It can block your pores and stop heat and sweat from escaping. This can lead to an infection.10 Do not use it on acne or rosacea either. It could worsen these conditions.
- Inside your nostril: Word on the street is that applying petroleum jelly inside your nostrils can treat dryness. It isn’t the best idea, though. This can cause a rare form of pneumonia (exogenous lipoid pneumonia) where the petroleum jelly travels to your lungs and causes damage.11
- During sex as a lube: Avoid using petroleum jelly as a lube – it can actually cause condoms to break.12 It has even been associated with an increased prevalence of bacterial vaginosis.13
|↑1||petroleum jelly. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑2||Helping Dry Skin. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑3||9 ways to banish dry skin. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑4||Proper wound care: How to minimize a scar. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑5||LABEL: VASELINE PURE- petrolatum jelly, National Institutes of Health.|
|↑6, ↑7||Baby rash treatments. Healthdirect Australia.|
|↑8||Takano-Lee, Miwa, John D. Edman, Bradley A. Mullens, and John M. Clark. “Home remedies to control head lice: assessment of home remedies to control the human head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae).” Journal of pediatric nursing 19, no. 6 (2004): 393-398.|
|↑9||All About Your Ears. National Health Service.|
|↑10||Sunburn. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑11||Simmons, Ashley, Emran Rouf, and Jeff Whittle. “Not your typical pneumonia: a case of exogenous lipoid pneumonia.” Journal of general internal medicine 22, no. 11 (2007): 1613-1616.|
|↑12||Male Condom. US Department of Health and Human Services.|
|↑13||Hassan, Wisal M., Ludo Lavreys, Vrasha Chohan, Barbra A. Richardson, Kishorchandra Mandaliya, Jeckoniah O. Ndinya-Achola, James Kiarie, Walter Jaoko, King K. Holmes, and R. Scott McClelland. “Associations between intravaginal practices and bacterial vaginosis in Kenyan female sex workers without symptoms of vaginal infections.” Sexually transmitted diseases 34, no. 6 (2007): 384-388.|