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When it comes to baby skincare, ‘natural’ doesn’t always mean safe, in fact olive oil can be harmful to baby’s skin

Parents put their baby’s health first and new parents, particularly, look to you for advice. When it comes to baby skincare, parents and healthcare professionals often assume that ‘natural’ is best.

However there is strong evidence to suggest that natural products such as olive oil are not necessarily better than carefully designed alternatives.

When it comes to oils, vegetable variants are often considered more wholesome than mineral oil; however, such oils are associated with a number of potential disadvantages. Actually, the biological activity and toxicology of vegetable oils can vary depending on their composition and active ingredients; and they are often sensitive to oxidation and/or light.1

Olive oil can be harmful

Parents are often advised to use shop-bought olive oil for infant massage or to treat areas of dry skin. However, a recent study concluded that this practice should be discouraged: direct application of olive oil damaged the adult skin barrier and caused redness, likely as a result of the high levels of oleic acid present in the oil.2,3 It remains to be determined, with further research, the effect of other vegetable oils on the skin.

By contrast, pharmaceutical-grade mineral oil is non-toxic and very stable, and has a long history of proven efficacy in skincare.1 In fact mineral oil used in cosmetic products is highly purified and certified to be free of impurities. You can feel confident in advising parents to consider mineral oil for their baby’s delicate skin in order to help maintain and enhance the skin barrier function.


1) Rawlings AV, Lombard KJ. A review on the extensive skin benefits of mineral oil. Int J Cosmet Sci 2012; 34(6): 511–8.

2) Danby SG, AlEnezi T, Sultan A, et al. Effect of Olive and Sunflower Seed Oil on the Adult Skin Barrier: Implications for Neonatal Skincare. Ped Dermatol 2013; 30(1): 42–50.

3) Tanojo H, Boelsma E, Junginger HE, et al. In vivo human skin permeability enhancement by oleic acid: a laser Doppler velocimetry study. J Control Release 1999; 58: 97–104.

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