This review was initially prepared in 2011 before Professor Johann Wiechers tragically passed away. It has been updated and is being published in his memory. It discusses the importance of mineral oil and its benefits to skin. Its source, structure, properties and efficacy are discussed. Mineral oil has been shown to improve skin softness and barrier function better than some other emollients using the gas-bearing dynamometer and standard water vapour transmission testing as well as in vivo studies showing its effects on suppressing transepidermal water loss (TEWL). It has also been subjected to the rigour of the newer in vivo confocal microscopic measurements now used for testing the performance of moisturizers by following the swelling characteristics of the stratum corneum and been found favourable compared with many vegetable oils. Its introduction as a cosmetic oil was in the late 1800s, and still today, it is used as one of the main components of moisturizers, a true testament to its cost to efficacy window. Naturally, it has physical effects on the stratum corneum, but it is expected that these will translate into biological effects simply through its mechanism of hydrating and occluding the stratum corneum from which many benefits are derived.
© 2012 Society of Cosmetic Scientists and the Société Française de Cosmétologie.