Using Petroleum Jelly and Other Skin Healersby Amy Hendel, P.A. Health Writer
Your skin is your body's largest organ. To care for your skin, one of the most common, least expensive skin care products is petroleum jelly. You may know it by a brand name, like Vaseline, but there are dozens of "off brand" versions of petroleum jelly, too. Dermatologists approve of the use of petroleum jelly for certain skin issues. The best uses of petroleum jelly include:
Relieving dry skin, including lips and eyelids: Ointments tend to be more effective in treating skin issues like flaking, cracking, itching, and bleeding. Just a thin layer of ointment like petroleum jelly will help to improve these issues and also help to prevent them. On cold wintery days, you can apply a thin layer to your face and hands to prevent windburn and provide a moisturizing barrier. You can apply petroleum jelly to your hands and then slip on cotton gloves while you sleep. This can help to heal dry, chapped hands. You can also apply the same approach to your feet using cotton socks.
Helping injured skin to heal: Petroleum jelly can help with minor cuts, scrapes, and abrasions. In the past, clinicians recommended keeping injured skin dry. Recently, the recommendation was updated to keep skin moistened to help hasten healing. Keeping a healing area moist can also help to limit deep scars. Gently clean skin daily and then apply a thin layer of Vaseline. If the wound appears infected, check with your doctor for proper wound care.
Helping to prevent chafing: Chafing occurs when skin rubs together, or when rough material repeatedly rubs skin. Chafing can lead to blistering. Applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly to inner thighs in the summer or the backs of your feet before putting on shoes that tend to rub the area as you walk can limit chafing.
Helping diaper rash: The two elements of diaper rash prevention are keeping baby’s skin 1) dry and 2) clean. Frequent diaper changes can also help. If diaper rash does occur, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to clean skin in between diaper changes to protect the skin and allow for healing.
Prevent brittle nails and nail polish chipping: In between manicures consider applying a bit of petroleum jelly to cuticles and over the polish.
Do not use petroleum jelly on your face if you are prone to acne or breakouts, since it can clog pores.
The following are some other products that can help with dry skin, wound healing, and other skin care needs:
Honey has been used as a wound dressing for thousands of years, but now there’s science to back its effectiveness. It contains broad spectrum antibacterial activity, but there is variation between different types of honeys. Manuka honey in particular can be quite effective in wound care. In general, honey also provides that moist barrier that allows for optimal wound healing. The honey must be sterilized before use as an anti-bacterial and protective agent.
Honey has also become a popular ingredient in face care and skincare products. Always patch test a new skincare product to make sure you are not allergic to the ingredients.
Aloe Vera is considered a plant with special healing properties. It has been shown to help with psoriasis, an itchy and sometimes disfiguring skin condition. It’s also excellent as a skin softener and moisturizer. As an ingredient in a skin care product, make sure there is a substantial amount at a level that is considered an “active ingredient.” You can also squeeze aloe directly from plant leaves. Aloe vera has been shown to help reduce pain and accelerate healing when applied to burns, thanks to its anti-bacterial properties. There is some preliminary evidence that it helps to prevent wrinkles.
Arnica flower can help reduce skin swelling and soothe insect bites. It’s an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory cream. In Germany, it’s approved for wound healing therapy. Arnica is available in gel form and in the last several years has become a favorite among some people when used in pellet form (oral) as a skin rejuvenator. Sports enthusiasts have been using oral and gel versions to help with post-exercise bruising and pain. Dermatologists use it after plastic surgery and for post Botox and Restylane injection site bruising. Models swear it can help to clear blemishes.
Calendula flower has been shown to be effective in treating burns, bruises, skin infections, cuts, and rashes. It may also help to nudge poorly healing wounds and skin ulcers. You can also make a compress with calendula tea. Dried petals are used in tinctures, ointments, and washes to treat burns, bruises, cuts, and minor infections. It’s being added to skincare products to improve skin hydration and firmness.
Comfrey, a leafy perennial, is especially helpful when used as an anti-inflammatory agent on rashes. This ingredient is better used on intact skin. You can find it as an active ingredient in skincare creams and ointments. Use small amounts on affected areas and do not use for more than ten days.
Tea tree oil is a great disinfectant and can treat cuts, insect bites, and other skin problems. It can kill fungus, viruses, and bacteria. It’s a valued skin care option in the treatment of acne, athlete’s foot, contact dermatitis, and head lice.
Cayenne/Capsaicin is both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, and has also been found to be an excellent local pain reliever.It’s also been used to decrease itching and inflammation in psoriasis. It’s also helpful in relieving peripheral post-herpetic neuralgia caused by shingles. Creams typically come in concentrations of 0.025 percent and 0.075 percent.
Always check with your health professional before using skincare products to treat a wound. As mentioned earlier, always test new skincare products on a small patch of skin to make sure it does not irritate the area or cause an allergic reaction.