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Waxelene ($15.99, amazon.com) is an all-natural alternative to petroleum jelly (also known as petrolatum). Its ingredients list is short and sweet: Organic Soy Oil, Beeswax, Natural Vitamin E Oil, and Organic Rosemary Oil. Waxelene sent us a sample to try and I decided to delve into where it is both similar and different to petrolatum such as Vaseline ($2.50, amazon.com).
Personally, I love Waxelene (and since we were all fighting over it, I think the rest of the office agrees!). But don’t throw out your petrolatum just yet — while Waxelen and Petrolatum have some similar uses, their individual properties make them benefical for different enough uses that it’s worthwhile to keep both in your medicine cabinet.
What’s the Deal with Petroleum (Petrolatum)?
Petrolatum is a first generation or occlusive moisturizer. This means that it forms a protective barrier on the skin and prevents transepidermal water loss (TEWL). They are excellent for helping with severe dryness, but are not necessarily practical for use when out and about (except on lips), as they tend to leave a tacky film on skin (Cosmetic Dermatology).[Read More: What are the Differences between Occlusive, Humectant, and Reparative Moisturizers?]
There’s a lot of negative press about petrolatum, but that doesn’t mean that it’s actually bad. One of the biggest misconceptions is that it clogs the pores and can cause irritation. This isn’t true. Because of its occlusive nature, petrolatum will trap ingredients under it, which means if you use it in tandem with an irritating ingredient, it could increase the irritation (Allergy).
It also doesn’t cause cancer. Petroleum that is impure contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a type of hazardous pollutant (PAHs) (CDC). But petrolatum that’s intended for products is cosmetic grade and has low to no PAHs and the main fear from PAHs is their use in fuels and the issues from inhaling them.
Petrolatum that comes from the distillation of oil is nonrenewable, though it’s possible to make petrolatum from vegetable oils and waxes mixed with petrolatum that and are “hybrid petroleum.” Another option is a petroleum substitute, such as Waxelene.[Read More: The Truth about Petrolatum]
What are the Benefits of Waxelene’s Ingredients?
Soybean oil is also an occlusive moisturizer, with the same kind of protective factors as petrolatum. This occlusive property means that, like petrolatum, if it’s not applied to clean skin or is applied over potentially irritating ingredients, it could still irritate skin. But this is a precaution necessary with any occlusive moisturizer.
Soybean oil contains animo acids, isoflavins, lecithins, poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, saponins, phytosterols, phytic acid, minerals, and vitamins, amongst other things. Its isoflavone genistein has been found to stimulate production of collagen (British Journal of Dermatology).
Beeswax is also an emollient with occlusive properties and minor antioxidant properties (NC State University). When mixed with honey and olive oil, it’s been shown to have beneficial effects on people with eczema and psoriasis (Bastyr Center). As for protective properties, in one study beeswax was found to work better than barrier creams at protecting dental lab technicians hands from contact dermatitis (Journal of the Germany Society of Dermatology).[Read More: Spotlight On: Beeswax]
Vitamin E is one of the most powerful natural antioxidants. One of the reasons it works so well on skin is because lipids dissolve it easily (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology). It comes from the pores, and is produced in the sebum (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology). It helps to protect the skin against sun and environmental damage from factors such as ozone (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology).[Read More: Spotlight On: Vitamin E]
Rosemary oil is also an anti-oxidant and free-radical seeker, though it hasn’t been tested enough on human to understand its benefits (University of Maryland Medical Center). Its antibacterial properties also make it beneficial to acne sufferers (Planta Medica).
Petroleum (Petrolatum) vs. Waxelene, Science
Petrolatum comes from nonrenewable resources, which means it’s not a green-friendly product. Meanwhile, all of the ingredients in Waxelene are renewable (though, currently, certain pesticides are threatening bee populations). So, Waxelene is a more desirable product for someone looking for green cosmetics.
Unfortunately soybean oil has been shown to impair barrier function when compared to skin treated with aquaphor or sunflower seed oil in a study on newborns (Acta Paediatrica). Whereas petrolatum forms a protective barrier over the skin that’s hydrophobic (water-repellant) and doesn’t impair barrier function, which is why it’s used regularly following laser surgery (Dermatological Surgery).
On the other hand, a product like Waxelene has benefits above and beyond simply working as an occlusive moisturizer. The vitamin and rosemary are antioxidants that add even more benefits to the product. However, vitamin E can actually negatively impact scars and topical application can be detrimental to the appearance (Dermatological Surgery).
And this does comparison has, until now, not considered that petrolatum is often combined with other beneficial ingredients.
Petroleum (Petrolatum) vs. Waxelene, Use Comparison
Waxelene is not as thick as petrolatum and is about the consistency of a thick lip balm and a bit gritty. However, it’s very spreadable and moisturizing. It has a more pleasant scent than petroleum, a sort of sweet and wax smell of beeswax cut slightly by the fresh smell of rosemary. Further unlike petrolatum, it absorbs into the skin a bit more, so while it may require some reapplication to maintain a thick layer, it works better as something that can be used when you’re running out. I personally found that my skin felt softer after usage.
If you compare the two, it seems that petrolatum is more advisable when looking for an occlusive moisturizer that can be beneficial for protecting wounds and providing a thick barrier for skin. So, this is the product you want for minor cuts.
However, Waxelene is more nourishing to skin that straight petrolatum, which is what the product is intended to replace. So regular usage on healthy skin could result in more benefits over time. It also comes from renewable resources, so it’s definitely greener than petrolatum.This is particularly important because it does not negatively impact skin barrier function and scar appearance the way soybean oil and vitamin E do, respectively.
In my personal opinion, I think I’d use Waxelene as a regular balm for dry skin and lips and break out the petrolatum if I need it for serious protection and moisturizing.