Guest blog by Weleda skincare expert Elizabeth King
Many skincare products, for both adults and babies, contain mineral oils, a by-product from crude oil and other fossil fuel sources. In this guest blog Elizabeth King, Weleda skincare expert explores the differences between mineral oils and plant oils in skincare products and what to look out for, particularly in baby care products.
What are mineral oils?
Mineral oils are extracted from crude oil/fossil fuel sources in the ground. Most often mineral oil is a liquid by-product of the distillation of petroleum used to produce petrol and other petroleum-based products. The mineral oils, such as petroleum or paraffin wax, are refined for cosmetic use, but for many consumers there are concerns that they may still contain unwanted impurities from the processing.
What’s the problem with mineral oils in skincare products?
Mineral oil, in itself, is an inert ‘dead’ substance that merely sits on the skin’s surface acting as a barrier. It has little smell, little colour, and contains no active compounds that can contribute to a product formulation, for example there are no nutrients to nourish the skin. Mineral oils can block skin pores, inhibiting the skin’s ability to effectively ‘breathe’ as well as eliminate waste. This can result in possible skin rashes and irritations.
Mineral oils and the environment
Mineral oils are not very eco-friendly. As a by-product of the petrochemical/fossil fuel industry, mineral oils are non-renewable resources that contribute to our dependence on fossil fuels.
What are the benefits of plant oils?
Plant oils, unlike the inert mineral oils, are ‘living’ active ingredients and therefore contribute to skincare such as strengthening the skin’s natural barrier function.
Oils extracted from plant seeds and kernels are rich in saturated and unsaturated fatty acids as well as nourishing vitamins. Pure plant oils are similar in composition to the lipids (the skin’s natural fats) of the human skin barrier, so they can be absorbed by the skin and metabolised by the body. They penetrate easily into the skin’s upper layers and support its natural functions, as well as counteracting moisture loss.
Why is baby’s skin different?
A baby is born with skin that is five times thinner than adult skin. The outermost layer, the stratum corneum is 30% thinner and contains less lipids. This means baby skin is more permeable, so it absorbs substances from the outside more easily and allows water to escape more easily.
In the first weeks of life, while the skin’s protective pH and hydrolipid film is developing, so is the skin’s vital microbiome defence system ((a collection of all microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and their genes, that naturally live on our bodies and inside us), which is busily establishing itself too. As a result, pathogens (disease causing organism) are not easily repelled and synthetic ingredients and detergents like Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) may further disrupt its essential development.
The skin’s sweat glands are only fully functioning around 2.5 years of age and the sebaceous (oil) glands only mature around puberty. Since both glands play a key role in the formation of the skin’s protective acid mantle (hydrolipidic layer), it further explains why young skin is more susceptible to bacteria, sensitivity, and dryness.
What to look out for when choosing baby skincare products
Plant oils such as almond and sesame work well on the skin and are more like the oily sebum in our skin. They can be integrated into our skin’s own fatty structure. In comparison, mineral oils don’t absorb easily and simply sit on the skin’s surface.
Favourite baby care products
Weleda’s Calendula Shampoo & Body Wash (still a firm family favourite in my household) is a good example of a certified natural formulation where synthetic detergents have been replaced by the equally effective and skin-friendly plant-based cleanser Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate.
Another favourite of mine is Weleda’s Baby Derma White Mallow range especially formulated for hypersensitive, reactive or itchy baby skin. This range contains the nourishing organic plant oils of coconut and sweet almond which support the skin’s barrier while carrying the calming and soothing organic mallow and wild pansy extracts.
Here are a few tips when giving your baby a massage:
- Ensure your chosen plant oil is certified natural, like Weleda’s Calendula Baby Oil or certified organic
- Look out for respected certification labels like NATRUE on pack
- Make sure your hands are warm and the room is cosy.
- Remember less is always more in the number of movements and the amount of oil used.
- Always re-cover the area you have just massaged, with a blanket or sheet, for warmth.
- And as my young daughter said ‘Mum, when you stroke a baby, your hands should be soft and relaxed just like you would if you were stroking a newly born kitten’
Elizabeth is Weleda’s Skincare Expert. A facialist and highly qualified in several therapies, she has specialised in a holistic approach to beauty for 20 years. Before moving to the West Midlands, Elizabeth ran a private skincare practice in London, and was featured in Vogue as one of the top five facialists. She has looked after many high-profile clients and celebrities over the years, and even had the privilege of giving a facial to Nelson Mandela!