7 Alternatives to Petroleum Jelly for Taking Care of Your Skin

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7 Great Alternatives to Using Petroleum Jelly for Your Skin!

For years, I couldn’t live without “Vaseline”. I used it several times a day to moisturize my lips. I have to wonder, though – if it were really moisturizing, why would I need it again a few hours later? I have long since realized that there are better alternatives than petroleum jelly for taking care of my skin.

Petroleum jelly is, of course, a by-product of the oil industry. It was patented in 1872, and over the years has been touted as a cure-all for any and and all skin problems, including burns. Today it is most commonly used to soften skin, and is an ingredient in many cosmetics, lotions and baby-care products.

Search the web and you’ll find lots of conflicting information on the safety of petroleum jelly. Some insist that it can cause cancer. The Environmental Working Group rates Vaseline brand as a 1, which is low on the toxicity scale. Generic petroleum jelly gets a 4, which is cause for concern. The problem is that petroleum jelly is often contaminated with Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHS). And that scores a whopping 9 because of its potential to cause cancer, and its ability to bioaccumulate in wildlife and humans.

Even if not contaminated with PAHS, a by-product of the petroleum industry is just not something I want on my skin. Even if “safe”, it is not healing my skin, but is rather a temporary fix.

The thing is, petroleum jelly is not absorbed into the skin, so it does not truly moisturize it, but rather prevents moisture from evaporating. But it also prevents skin from absorbing moisture. It acts as a barrier, but can also trap bacteria in the skin. It does nothing to nourish my skin, and there are other items that I can use that do a better job, and are great for my skin. And it’s funny, now that I’m using these healthier products, I don’t seem to need to use them as often, especially on my lips like I did with Vaseline.

So, what other products can be used for skin care? Glad you asked. Below are 7 “oils” that may be used as an alternative to petroleum jelly. Six of them are rated 0 for toxicity, and one of them is rated 1 because it a potential allergen to those who are allergic to wool. Many of them are already in your kitchen.

Unrefined Coconut Oil

Unrefined coconut oil is extracted from the kernels of the seeds of the coconut palm. It provides deep and real moisture, and is easily absorbed into your skin. It also helps to strengthen underlying tissues and helps remove excessive dead cells on the skin’s surface that makes your skin rough and flaky in texture. Unrefined (or virgin) coconut oil is rich in antioxidants, is anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal.  Because of it’s high level of antioxidants, it can also help to protect skin against sunburn. (Where to find unrefined coconut oil)

Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter is extracted from the roasted seeds of Theobroma cacao, a tree native to the Americas. Cocoa butter is solid at room temperature but melts at body temperature. It is rich and creamy and soaks right into your skin. And, like coconut oil, it’s rich in anti-oxidants and has sun-blocking properties. I found cocoa butter very helpful in preventing stretch marks during pregnancy. (Where to find unrefined cocoa butter)

Shea Butter

Shea butter is a vegetable fat obtained from the fruit of a tree native to Africa. Shea butter is primarily composed of fatty acids such as stearic and oleic acids. It is especially great for lips, and anywhere you want to moisturize. The moisturizers in shea butter are the same as those produced by the sebaceous glands of the skin. It is very healing to the skin. (Where to find unrefined shea butter)


Tallow is rendered from the fatty tissue of sheep, cattle, or deer. It consists primarily of fattyacid glycerides. Tallow from grass-fed cows is definitely the skin care ingredient of choice for me. Sebum, the oily substance secreted by our skin is similar in composition to tallow. Is that why it feels so wonderful on my skin? Perhaps. I render tallow from grass-fed beef fat the same way I render lard. Here’s how.


Lanolin is extracted from sheep’s wool. If you are allergic to wool, this is obviously not a good choice for you. It is not a fat, but a wax-like product secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep. Lanolin does not clog pores, yet provides a protective barrier. Nursing mothers often use lanolin to soothe cracked nipples. As with all of the products I’ve mentioned, it is important to use only pure lanolin with no additives. (Where to find pure lanolin)

Olive Oil

Olive oil is extracted from the fruit of the olive tree. Olive oil has been used since ancient times to soothe and moisturize dry skin. Olive oil is easily absorbed by the skin and is also rich in antioxidants which can help slow the aging of skin. (Where to find extra virgin olive oil)

Jojoba Oil

Not a true oil, but rather a liquid wax, jojoba oil, like tallow, has a composition close to our own sebum. Jojoba oil helps skin to retain moisture, and has healing properties. I use jojoba in my DIY Shampoo Bars. (Where to find pure jojoba oil)

Each of these products may be used alone to soothe and nourish your skin. You may also use them to make a myriad of wonderful skin care products from lip balm to body butter. Below are links to recipes for alternatives to petroleum jelly and other skin care products that you can make yourself.

Blue Chamomile Face Cream from The Nerdy Farmwife (uses jojoba oil, and shea butter).

DIY Healing Skin Balm from 20 something allergies (uses tallow, shea butter and cocoa butter).

DIY Lip Balm Kit from learning and yearning (uses coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter).

7 Great Alternatives to Using Petroleum Jelly for Your Skin!

DIY Medicated Lip Balm from A Happy Healthnut (uses shea butter)

Healthy Skin Tips and Recipes for Winter Months from Keeper of the Home.  Includes a recipe for lip balm using lanolin.

Natural Tips for Treating Dry Cracked Feet from Live Simply. This includes a recipe for Coconut Shea Butter.

Natural Skin Care from learning and yearning (several recipes for skin care products).

Nourishing Tallow Hard Lotion Bars from GNOWFGLINS (includes 3 recipes that use tallow, plus coconut oil and/or shea butter)

Rosemary Mint Shaving Cream  from ApotheKayla (uses coconut oil and shea butter)

Soothing Tooshie Salve (Works for Your Skin, Too) (with coconut oil, and cocoa butter) from Scratch Mommy

Spicy Coffee Sugar Scrub (with olive oil) from Happy Mothering.

Whipped Body Butter from My Healthy Green Family

Are you looking for more beauty recipes? You’ll love Heather Dessinger’s (the Mommypotamus) eBook, DIY Organic Beauty Recipes. Get it here.


Cooking-Oil-For-Your-Skin_Ecover1000px-231x300I also highly recommend two books by Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama. Coconut Oil for Your Skin is packed full of information on not only coconut oil, but other oils that are used in DIY skin care products. Jennifer will teach you what to use, why it’s used, and how to use it. This eBook contains 66 simple to make recipes from scrubs to shampoos.

hybrid-ecover-1000pxl-259x300In Salve Made SimpleJennifer takes skin care a step further with over 30 recipes for salves that are medicinal. She includes recipes for athlete’s foot, PMS, poison ivy, eczema, and so much more.

What do you use to keep your skin healthy and soft?


7 Great Alternatives to Using Petroleum Jelly for Your Skin!

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PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.


  1. says

    Great post and I love your healthy alternatives to petroleum jelly. I personally like coconut oil but they are all good choices and some excellent recipes. Will share – twit and pin. Have a wonderful healthy day. Visiting from Wildcrafting Wednesdays.

  2. Kit says

    Great post. I’ve been collecting containers over the past year. Time to start mixing up the good stuff to put in them. Spell check the description for “Salve Made Simple”. Salve is spelled incorrectly.

  3. Angelic says

    I started out using shea butter. I loved the smell and feel of it on my skin, however I soon realized I was allergic to it. I would slather the stuff on when my skin felt dry and especially after showers. The next morning my body was painfully swollen, including my face. I was very sad as I had bought a bunch of it. I was happy to give it to my daughter when I was sure she was not allergic to it. Now I use coconut oil. I love the feel of it and it readily absorbs into my skin without leaving a greasy feeling behind. I use it for everything, I’ve even started cooking with it. I’m going to order the suggested books. I would love to share the knowledge of healthier skin care products that are free from chemicals and petroleum. Thank you for this post.

    • Susan says

      I don’t think there’s a single product in the world that can’t affect us allergy wise. I use coconut oil a lot myself, although tallow is my favorite.

  4. bARBARA says

    I carry Neutrogena Lip Moisturizer in my jeans pocket ALWAYS. It is the only product I have found that does not melt in my pocket. Would love to switch to something natural is only it would not melt!

    • Susan says

      In my case, the vaseline itself caused me to need the vaseline. Your situation may be the same. If you switched to a natural product, I wonder if you would have to have it with you at all times.

    • Natalie Kundiger says

      On the natural lip balm question – Have you tried or heard of Ozark Herbals out of Missouri? Wonderful couple that lives very clean and creates a huge range of products themselves. They are artist friends of ours that travel throughout the US attending craft shows. I haven’t had any trouble with their lip balm melting and the husband carries his in his pocket. http://www.ozarkherbals.com/beeswaxlipbalm.html

  5. Joy Leach says

    Was developing psoriasis and used shea butter. It cleared right up. Looking for my unrefined coconut oil right now. Can’t seem to find it.

    • Carol says

      I would caution those thinking about using mango butter: mangoes are related to poison oak, it is in the same family. Found this out the hard way while in Hawaii, a doctor told me when I broke out in a bad rash…
      I’m not sure if the mango butter would have the same effects, but not willing to try it on myself…
      It is mainly the skin of the mango that has the urushiol in it, but it can also be from the leaves, and bark….

  6. Sharon Clephane says

    This is such a fab post, thank you! I have switched to using Susan Ma’s Tropic Skincare and makeup range which is a pure plant skincare product after discovering some of the awful ingredients used in the more commercially branded skincare ranges. Products are vegan approved and carry the Leaping Bunny logo.

  7. says

    Absolutely love this post. I use coconut oil and cocoa butter to make a lot of our homemade products and can’t ever imagine going back. Love the “kit” idea! What a cute DIY gift too. Thanks for including the shea butter foot cream too.

  8. says

    Excellent post! Petroleum jelly…YUCK! I love doing loads of DIY things in my home and you have some great ideas in this post. Thanks for featuring one of my posts, too. <3

    …and thanks for the wonderful information. Keep spreading the good word!!!


  9. says

    I’ll have to try one or more of these.

    I shared this post on Facebook and mentioned just how flaky my face is because of the unusually harsh winter we’ve had this year.

    I use, on and off, organic virgin olive oil as a facial cleanser, sometimes just water. That’s 1 point in my favor. However … I’m still using my commercial moisturizers and “age-defying antioxidant and anti-free radicals” night serum (well, before I ran out of it a few months ago).

    I have to admit that I love how my face looks and feels with these products, BUT I do wonder what the chemicals are doing to my skin.

    I ran of my night serum months ago and have been squeezing the daylights out of the moisturizer bottle for a drop or so. Without these, my face has been falling off. Not pretty. :)

    I guess this is the perfect time to try something new.

    I would LOVE to use an all-natural, without-a-doubt safe and healthy moisturizer that will give me the same results. Now I just have to decide which one of these fabulous 7 alternatives to try first. :)

    Thanks for all the info!

    • Susan Vinskofski says

      Hi Theresa! Bag balm contains 3 ingredients – 8-HYDROXYQUINOLINE SULFATE, petroleum jelly and lanolin. Of the 3, lanolin is the only ingredient I would consider using on my skin. According to the Environmental Working Group, 8-HYDROXYQUINOLINE SULFATE can cause non-reproductive organ system toxicity. And of course, I’ve already discussed petroleum jelly in my post. You would be better off not using the bag balm, in my opinion.

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