Mineral oils and waxes in cosmetics: an overview mainly based on the current European regulations and the safety profile of these compounds

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2019 Nov:33 Suppl 7:5-14. doi: 10.1111/jdv.15946.


Mineral oils and waxes are mixtures of predominantly saturated hydrocarbons consisting of straight-chain, branched and ring structures with carbon chain lengths greater than C14. They have been used for many decades in skin and lip care cosmetic products due to their excellent skin tolerance as well as their high protecting and cleansing performance and broad viscosity options. In contrast to vegetable oils, mineral oils are non-allergenic since they are highly stable and not susceptible to oxidation or rancidity. They have a long history of safe use which is confirmed by clinical and epidemiological data. In Europe, mineral oils are only permitted in cosmetics if compliant with purity specifications on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and safety requirements laid down in the European pharmacopoeia and the EU cosmetics regulation EC/1223/2009. The high quality of these mineral oils is assured by robust quality assurance and a refining/purification process designed to exclude substances with carcinogenic potential and to minimize the presence of mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons. Given their highly lipophilic properties, mineral oils do not penetrate human skin and, thus, are not systemically bioavailable in the body. Moreover, no significant changes in the skin and no effects on any internal organ system have been reported and attributed to the topical application of refined mineral oils. Regarding potential oral exposure from cosmetic lip care products, Cosmetics Europe, the European trade association for the cosmetics and personal care industry, has advised cosmetic manufacturers to only use mineral oil fractions for which recognized food acceptable daily intake (ADI) values apply. The estimated dose of mineral oils ingested via lip care products contributes to <10% of the ADI value and should therefore be considered of no toxicological concern.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity / drug effects
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects*
  • Cosmetics / chemistry*
  • Cosmetics / legislation & jurisprudence
  • European Union
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Mineral Oil / administration & dosage
  • Mineral Oil / adverse effects*
  • Mineral Oil / pharmacokinetics
  • Mineral Oil / toxicity
  • Mutagenesis
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Skin Absorption
  • Waxes / adverse effects*
  • Waxes / pharmacokinetics
  • Waxes / toxicity


  • Cosmetics
  • Waxes
  • Mineral Oil