Mineral oil is used in a variety of applications, from industrial lubricants to skin-care products and laxatives. During petroleum processing, mineral oil is formed. Mineral oil is not easily absorbed by skin, so moisture is unable to enter or exit the skin barrier. Alternatives to mineral oil depend on how the mineral oil is being used.
When mineral oil is being used as a laxative, it works by waterproofing the bowel, which keeps liquid from crossing the barrier--thereby making stool softer and easier to pass. Other laxatives can be used to soften stool without using mineral oil. Bulk stool softeners increase the mass of stool, which attracts more moisture and keeps stool soft. Emollient stool softeners also add moisture to stools, making the stool easier to pass. Hyperosmotic stool softeners attract water from the bowel to the stool, making stool hydrated and softer. Stool softeners that do not contain mineral oil can be as effective as a mineral oil laxative. Discuss changing laxatives with your physician to determine which alternative is best for your needs.
Many industries use mineral-oil-based lubricants in machinery and engines to keep them working smoothly. Mineral oil is inexpensive and retains its properties at high temperatures, but since it is created during petroleum processing, it is in limited supply. The processing of mineral oil also has environmental impact, such as pollution and the risk of oil spills. Oleochemical esters may be used as an alternative to mineral-oil-based lubricants in industrial applications. Oleochemical esters are derived from renewable resources, so there is less environmental impact than when mineral oils are used.
Skin Care Products
Mineral oil is used in many beauty and skin products as a moisturizer. Mineral oil can clog pores and make it difficult for moisture to enter and exit the skin, which can lead to breakouts. As an alternative to mineral-oil-based products, vegetable-oil products may be used. Vegetable oils allow moisture to freely cross the skin barrier. Vegetable oils also have fewer environmental impacts because vegetables are a renewable resource, whereas mineral oil is derived from petroleum.