Founded in 1870 by chemist Robert Chesebrough, Vaseline products have been helping skin heal dry skin for over 140 years. About a decade earlier in 1859, Chesebrough discovered the raw material for petrolatum, the key ingredient in Vaseline products. He determined that the unrefined black “rod wax”, as the drillers called it, could be processed through vacuum distillation to create a light-colored ointment. After exploring potential uses for this ointment, Chesebrough found that it could speed healing of skin injuries. In 1870, he opened his first factory in Brooklyn using the name Vaseline. Today, Vaseline has expanded to offer a variety of skin care products, including lotions, oils, serums, and lip care.
The key product in this line is Vaseline Healing Jelly Original, a 100% pure petrolatum jelly that is clinically proven to help heal dry, damaged skin. This product can be used on cuts, burns, or problem areas like hands, feet, elbows, and heels. Vaseline Healing Jelly Original has also been awarded the U.S. National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance as suitable for sensitive skin and dryness associated with eczema.
Another key product is the Vaseline Intensive Care Essential Healing Lotion, a daily body lotion that is said to absorb quickly and moisturize dry skin without feeling greasy. In a clinical study, Vaseline Intensive Care Essential Healing Lotion was proven to keep dry skin healed for 3 weeks.
Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Radiant Lotion is another popular product by Vaseline. This daily use body lotion is said to help heal dry skin for glowing radiance with non-greasy, rich moisturization.
The key formulation behind Vaseline products is based on petrolatum. Petrolatum, also known as petroleum jelly, is a colorless or pale yellow semi solid mixture of hydrocarbons. In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon. Petrolatum typically contains 25 or more carbons. Petrolatum functions as an occlusive agent and skin protectant.
Petrolatum is an occlusive agent that reduces the rate of water loss through skin. Since petrolatum has a melting point that is close to body temperature, it softens upon application and forms a water-repellant film around the applied area. This film prevents evaporation of the skin’s natural moisture and increases skin hydration by causing buildup of water in the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin). Furthermore, petrolatum has been shown to penetrate deeply into damaged skin and enhance recovery of the skin’s barrier function. Maintaining a strong, intact barrier is important to keep harmful things like allergens, bacteria, and irritants from entering the body through the skin.
Another function of petrolatum is as a skin protectant. Petrolatum protects the skin after an injury by replicating the occlusive properties of the stratum corneum. When a wound is healing, the new, underdeveloped stratum corneum allows abnormally high levels of water loss. If too much water is lost, the area can become dehydrated. The state of dehydration signals to various cells in the epidermis to synthesize and release collagen. Unfortunately, when the body produces too much collagen, scarring can result. Applying petrolatum to a skin injury provides the newly formed stratum corneum with improved occlusion and aids in retaining optimum water levels. When the skin is properly hydrated, the risk of scar formation decreases. This is why the American Academy of Dermatology recommends keeping skin injuries moist with petrolatum to reduce scarring.
In addition to petrolatum, Vaseline Intensive Care Essential Healing Lotion contains several additional emollients to soften skin and help keep moisture in. One example is mineral oil. Mineral oil is a clear, odorless oil derived from a mineral source, typically a distillate of petroleum, that functions as an emollient. After application, mineral oil forms a protective film on the surface of skin that helps to prevent evaporation of the skin’s natural moisture. Vaseline Intensive Care Essential Healing Lotion also contains dimethicone, a type of silicone. As a class, silicones improve the feel, appearance, and performance of products. They act as silky moisturizers, conditioners, solvents, and delivery agents for other ingredients, as well as improve product spreadability. Due to its large molecular size, dimethicone is not absorbed by the skin. Rather, it forms a soft, invisible film on the surface of skin that prevents the skin’s natural moisture from evaporating while still allowing oxygen, nitrogen, and other nutrients to pass through.
There are many of the same ingredients in Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Radiant Lotion, but this lotion also includes 100% pure shea butter and cocoa butter. Shea butter is the fat extracted from the nuts of the Shea tree, which is native to Africa. It’s well known that shea butter is an effective moisturizer due to its rich supply of triglycerides and fatty acids, which help replenish the skin’s moisture barrier after topical application. Cocoa butter is extracted from cocoa beans from the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao). Cocoa butter forms a protective layer on the skin that helps to lock moisture. Plus, cocoa butter is full of saturated fats that are especially beneficial for protecting and healing skin because they’re easily absorbed and remain on the skin for hours.
Vaseline reviews on the brand’s website are mixed, with some products receiving very positive reviews and others receiving negative reviews. For example, Vaseline Healing Jelly Original averages 4.8 out of 5 stars after 1,828 customer reviews. However, Vaseline Intensive Care Essential Healing Lotion only earned 3.5 out of 5 stars after just 4 customer reviews. Most of the negative reviews are about the product’s pump, not the lotion itself. Lastly, Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Radiant Lotion has only received 2.2 out of 5 stars after 18 customer reviews. Negative reviews for this lotion point out that it has an unpleasant fragrance and that the pump does not work correctly.