Winter Skin Care

Petroleum Jelly Is the Best (and Least Expensive) Skin Moisturizer You Can Buy, According to Derms

Tehrene Firman

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Photo: Getty Images/Delmaine Donson

The best skin moisturizing ingredient might be the one your mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother have known about all along. It only costs $4 to add it to your own collection—if it’s not a part of it already. Petroleum jelly, most well-known under the brand Vaseline, has many uses, and one of its best is fighting off dry skin.

Petroleum jelly is thick like peanut butter, so it’s not something to slather all over your body like lotion, but it’s a great choice for areas that are dry or prone to dryness, says dermatologist Sandra Lee, MD, aka Dr. Pimple Popper and the founder of SLMD Skincare.

“Petroleum jelly is very occlusive, meaning it works to keep moisture from leaving your skin by blocking exposure of the skin to air, because dryness in the air can really pull moisture from your skin,” says Dr. Lee. “In some ways, that’s wonderful, as this type of thick formula can strengthen the skin’s barrier, making it less likely for water to evaporate from your skin and dry it out. However, this isn’t true for all skin types.”

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, Dr. Lee doesn’t recommend using petroleum jelly. “It can clog your pores and promote breakouts or the development of milia, which are really superficial tiny cysts,” she says. Other skin types really benefit from using it as a spot treatment for super-dry skin.

“In the winter, many of us need to switch to more moisturizing products, so it’s common to increase the use of petroleum jelly during winter months,” she says. “Personally, I have very dry skin, so I can tolerate a thin layer of petroleum jelly under makeup, but someone with really oily skin would probably hate this. It’s definitely a greasier product that can make applying makeup or other skincare products a little more difficult.”

Dr. Lee suggests using petroleum jelly to moisturize your heels, the cracks or fissures around your fingertips, and the corners of your mouth before you go to sleep, which can help prevent painful splitting in the corners of your lips. But it’s safe to use almost anywhere on your body.

“You can use petroleum jelly on your elbows, knees, and anywhere else you experience extra dry skin. It’s also wonderful if you have eczema, as it can help alleviate and control related flare-ups,” she says. “It’s a safe product to use as frequently as you want if you’re not acne-prone and once you determine that it’s not causing breakouts.”

With a jar of petroleum jelly, flaky dry skin doesn’t even stand a chance.

Let’s talk more about a dermatologist’s skin-care routine:

Dry skin is no match for these editor-approved moisturizing masks. Then check out the ‘Swiss army knife’ beauty products that can do it all for dry skin.

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