Your lip balm may contain problematic mineral oils

3. apr 2017

Lip balm may contain mineral oils that can accumulate in the body’s organs. This is the result of laboratory tests of 20 lip balms bought on the Danish market.


Your lip balm may contain problematic mineral oils
Photo: Nikoline Oturai

Daily users ‘eat’ 4 lip balms per year

4 lip balms each year is the amount that the EU's scientific committee, SCCS, expect that you ‘eat’ if you use lip balm on a daily basis.

This unavoidable oral intake makes unwanted substances in lip balms particularly problematic.

Lip balms may contain problematic mineral oils

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has made a laboratory analysis of lip balms in cooperation with the German consumer organization Stiftung Warentest.

In the lip balms the laboratory looked for so-called mineral oils, which are known under the names MOSH and MOAH.

The aromatic mineral oils, MOAH, are potentially carcinogenic. The saturated mineral oils, MOSH, may accumulate in the body’s organs for example in the liver, spleen and lymph nodes.

Mineral oils in lip balms can contribute to the overall exposure

The European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, concluded in 2012 that exposure to mineral oils from food is of potential concern to human health.

Lip products with ingredients based on mineral oils will contribute to the overall exposure.

Researcher: Lip products can be a significant source of exposure

"Frequent use of lip products with elevated content of MOSH will be a very significant source of exposure to MOSH. If MOSH make up less than 5 percent of the lip balm the intake of MOSH will be more limited and concurrently the exposure to MOAH low.”

Dr. Koni Grob, the food authorities in Zurich, researches in the health effect of mineral oils.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals: Chose ‘natural’ lip balms

"It is important to emphasize that the concern for mineral oils applies to lip products such as lip balms and lipsticks where it is very likely that you 'eat' the oils. If you want to avoid mineral oils in your lip products choose some that are based solely on vegetable oils and fats or beeswax. You can for example look for products with a natural cosmetic certification like NaTrue, BDIH or Ecocert. Lip balms with any of these labels do not contain ingredients based on mineral oils."

Stine Müller, project manager of The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

Ingredients based on mineral oils in creams and other skin care products

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, BfR, has previously concluded that the up-take of the mineral oils in cosmetics through the skin is limited and unlikely to cause a risk to human health.

Ingredients based on mineral oils are therefore not regarded as problematic in the products you apply on the skin and where no oral intake is likely to occur.

6 Lip balms free of mineral oils

  • Burt's Bee Beeswax, Lip balm vitamin E and peppermint
  • Dr. Hauschka, Lip balm
  • Eos, Lip balm pomegranate raspberry
  • Lavera, Basis sensitive lip balm
  • Weleda, Everon lip balm
  • Rituals, Smooth operator caring balm SPF 15 (containing benzophenone-3, which is suspected of being an endocrine disrupter)

All six lip balms contain perfume.

If you prefer unscented products, lip balms based solely on natural ingredients without perfume do exist. But none of them were included in the present investigation.

14 lip balms containing mineral oils

  • Chesebrough, Kløver Vaseline
  • Blistex, Lip Relief Cream SPF 10
  • Carmex, Lip Balm
  • Labello, Orignial nourishing lip balm
  • Labello, Sun protect nourishing lip balm SPF 30
  • Lypsyl, Original lip balm
  • Maybeline, Baby lips Dr Rescue too cool
  • Mentholatum, Lip balm original
  • The Body Shop, 01 lip care
  • Yves Rocher, Macadamia lip balm
  • La Roche-Posay, Nutritic lips (do not contain mineral oils, but similar synthetic oils named as POSH)
  • Nivea, Lip butter raspberry rose (according to the manufacturer the product has been withdrawn from the Danish market)
  • Änglamark, Lip Balm (The product has been withdrawn from the market and the new version does not contain mineral oils)
  • Levevis, Lip jojoba oil (The product has been withdrawn from the market and the new version does not contain mineral oils)

The concentration of MOSH in the 14 lip balms was between 2 and 77 percent.

The content of MOAH was between 0.04 and 4.3 percent.

Ingredients based on mineral oils have different names

MOSH and MOAH are present in ingredients based on mineral oil.

Ingredients contain MOSH and MOAH will be listed on the product ingredients list as:

  • Petrolatum,
  • paraffinum liquidum,
  • paraffin,
  • cera microcristallina/microcrystalline wax,
  • ceresin,
  • mineral oil,
  • ozokerite or
  • synthetic wax.

The above ingredients are all allowed in cosmetics including lip products, if the manufacturer knows the full refining history, and the ingredients have been purified to remove carcinogenic substances.

For further questions about the test contact Stine Müller, project manager in the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals by e-mail