Mineral oil and synthetic hydrocarbons in cosmetic lip products

Int J Cosmet Sci. 2016 Apr;38(2):194-200. doi: 10.1111/ics.12276. Epub 2015 Oct 7.


Objective: Lipsticks and lip care products may contain saturated hydrocarbons which either stem from mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH) or are synthetic, that is polyolefin oligomeric saturated hydrocarbons (POSH). Some of these hydrocarbons are strongly accumulated and form granulomas in human tissues, which prompted Cosmetics Europe (former Colipa) to issue a recommendation for their use in lip care and oral products. From 2012 to 2014, MOSH+POSH were determined in 175 cosmetic lip products taken from the Swiss market in order to estimate their contribution to human exposure.

Methods: Mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons and POSH were extracted and analysed by GC with FID. Areas were integrated as a total as well as by mass ranges with cuts at n-C25 and n-C34 to characterize the molecular mass distribution.

Results: About 68% of the products contained at least 5% MOSH+POSH (total concentration). For regular users, these products would be major contributors to their MOSH+POSH exposure. About 31% of the products contained more than 32% MOSH+POSH. Their regular usage would amount in an estimated MOSH+POSH exposure exceeding the highest estimated dietary exposure. The majority of the products contained hydrocarbons with a molecular mass range which was not in line with the recommendations of Cosmetics Europe.

Conclusions: Taking into account that material applied to the lips largely ends up being ingested, MOSH and POSH levels should be reduced in the majority of cosmetic lip products. As the extensive evaluation of the data available on MOSH (EFSA J., 10, 2012, 2704) did not enable the specification of limits considered as safe, the present level of dietary exposure and its evaluation as 'of potential concern' provide the relevant bench mark, which means that lip products should contain clearly less than 5% MOSH+POSH.

Keywords: Cosmetics Europe (Colipa) recommendations; chemical analysis; colour cosmetics; mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons; polyolefin oligomeric saturated hydrocarbons; safety testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Cosmetics / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / administration & dosage*
  • Mineral Oil / administration & dosage*


  • Cosmetics
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Mineral Oil