Petroleum jelly may be the key to a multi-billion dollar health problem

Petroleum jelly may be the key to a multi-billion dollar health problem

Vaseline may be the cost-effective key to preventing childhood eczema, according to a new study. Results show that applying petroleum jelly, the generic name for Vaseline, regularly for the first six months of a child’s life can head off this itchy, and expensive, skin condition.

Researchers found that applying seven common moisturizers daily or at least five times a week reduced the chances of developing eczema by 50 percent. But, the cheapest option – petroleum jelly – worked just as well as the other more expensive options.

A recent Cleveland Clinic study showed that families caring for a child with the costly skin disorder can spend as much as 35 percent of their spending money, an average of $274 per month, treating the condition. The researchers from the petroleum jelly study estimated an average six-month preventive supply of Vaseline would cost $7.30.

“So many children suffer greatly from the itching and swelling of eczema,” says Dr. Sandra McGowan, a family medicine physician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “And so many parents, willing to do just about anything to ease their children’s pain, suffer from the economic burden of dealing with the condition.”

Eczema impacts nearly 20 percent of children in some states and costs the U.S. healthcare system as much as 3.8 billion dollars every year.

“Eczema, with the itching, infections and other complications, can be a terrible disease for children and their families to deal with,” says Dr. McGowan. “It would be a great benefit to very many families if we can fight this condition cheaply and effectively.”

Both the National Eczema Association and The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend petroleum jelly as a moisturizer for treatment.

“Many physicians recommend petroleum jelly for eczema because it is generally well tolerated and doesn’t sting, even for the very young, or very sensitive,” says Dr. McGowan. “For those concerned about impurities in petroleum jelly, there are other options, but Vaseline has proven to be a very good value in the fight against eczema.”

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  1. This is good news Nate! New study to treat eczema in this cheap way through petroleum jelly is a big help for children who has suffered from itchy skin. It is also a big help for parent who can save money with this budget-friendly treatment. I will be sharing this post so more parents and guardians will be informed with this study!

  2. I was mortified to read this. Petroleum jelly not only is the worst folklore remedy for skin, as it is comedogenic (clogs pores & doesn’t allow air or moisture in), it also has too many varying factors of purity which means you’re playing Russian Roulette with how many carcinogens from refine petrol you’re getting.
    Exposing a baby to this is ridiculous. Beeswax and organic coconut oil will provide a pure & natural solution for the same condition & is not expensive (we’ve used COCONUT oil for eczema & it worked faster than even the prescribed salve) Even if it is a little more expensive, it’s a temporary cost saver when you think about exposing your child to cancer causing ingredients & what that means to their long-term health.
    Shame on the medical establishment pushing this.

    • Finally someone well informed and wise. Shame on advocate health news.

    • I totally agree with YOU….I’m shocked that medical community backed this….. beeswax and/or coconut oil is way to go!

    • The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.

      • Science is great! But scientific studies evolve, just as the products being made, their ingredients & additives evolve. What use to be an apple a day keeps the doctor away unfortunately has become a diet free of GMO’S, pesticides, maltodextrin, HFCS, thimerosal, mercury, chlorine, (just to name a few), keeps the doctor away. The medical community needs to do a better job of realizing this. Our next generation, for the first time in history, are projected to have a shorter lifespan span than the previous generations. That speaks volumes to how many diseases are caused by what we are exposing them to, not to what advancements we’ve made in medicine.

  3. I love this! My mom used to slather us with Vasoline all the time as kids, especially in the winter months. She would put it on our hands and feet and then put socks on, and have us sleep overnight that way. We complained just a little bit… but the next day, our skin would feel AMAZING. I still do this every so often at nearly 30 years old and swear by it. Will definitely be putting it on my babies too. Thanks for sharing!

  4. “Scott Rackett, M.D. and Nourage Ambassador agrees: “There is no scientific evidence that short-term or long-term use of Vaseline causes cancer or any other health risks.” And to put you at even more ease, Rackett says there have been no reported cancer cases on record.
    At most, you should be wary if you bought petroleum jelly from a not-so-reputable brand, which may not follow reliable refining practices. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) regularly reviews branded products like Vaseline to determine their dangerous effects. Vaseline (which is purified three times) has a current overall hazard ranking of “low,” accompanied by a zero risk for cancer and a zero risk for developmental and reproductive toxicity.”
    This quote was taken from Good Housekeeping 1/22/15. I used it because only one I could import to use in this comment section; however, neither the New England Journal of Medicine or American Journal of Medicine substantiated the claim put forth by Michelle that Vaseline causes cancer. Also, I was told by my pediatrician not to give honey to infants because of high incidents of allergies, it appears bees wax also falls into this category. My child is allergic to tree nuts including coconuts but has consumed food cooked in coconut oil without a reaction but not thinking it would be good to slather on her skin.
    Thank you, Nate, for your informative article and for using reputable sources of information.

    • I did not claim vaseline causes cancer. As the article infers, petroleum jelly, was used. I also said that there are varying levels of purity that you are risking carcinogen exposure.
      It’s amazing how quickly you’ll swallow this info, yet not consider a remedy provided by mother nature. Even the purist of vaseline does not discount the fact that it is comedogenic, will attract dirt & bacteria. Organic coconut oil on the other hand will not.
      As for good housekeeping sourced info, try “” or as a reliable source of information.

  5. Vaseline has been used in my family for YEARS. It is a necessary staple in my household, and YES it works. I prefer Vaseline to other costly options.

  6. I have used petroleum jelly on my daughter ever since her eczema outbreak when she was 9 months old. She is now 4 and a half and hasn’t had an outbreak in over 3 years. Other brands like Aquaphor are great but the base of the product is petroleum jelly. Thanks for the article.

  7. I used Vaseline on my son since he was a baby and it worked great on his eczema! I truly believe it is a cheap and effective way to treat eczema over millions of other products. Trust me, I have tried a few.

  8. The word “petroleum” alone should make one question this product. There are other alternatives that are healthier. Just because it has always been used in your family doesn’t make it good for you. Women, back in the day, used to use arsenic powder to whiten their skin. Make educated choices.

  9. I love Vaseline and am so happy to see an article explaining it’s many benefits! So many people see the word “petroleum” and are immediately scared. Can I just say that as a chemist, Vaseline is distilled from crude oil, triple purified and is just a mixture of long chain hydrocarbons. Similarly, if you distill (boil) muddy water and collect the steam, your water will be extremely pure, just like vaseline. Thank you!!

  10. @ Michelle …ha ha…mercola as a source!!. that quack doctor?. Not even single published article on ill effects of triple filtered vaseline. I have been using vaseline since my childhood and people throw compliments all the time “your skin looks blemish free, hydrated and radiant.” I give credit to my vaseline routine.

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About the Author

Nate Llewellyn
Nate Llewellyn

Nate Llewellyn, health enews contributor, is a manager of public affairs at Advocate Medical Group. Nate began his career as a journalist and builds daily on his nearly 20 years of writing experience. He spends most of his free time following his wife to their two sons’ various activities.