Vaseline: Is it safe?

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS

By: Philip S. Chua MD, FACS, FPCS

Almost every home has Vaseline jelly or some other items with petroleum in it, like lip stick, lip moisturizer, other cosmetics, paint, shoe/leather polish, nylons, ink, roof shingles, etc. One of its famous forms is Vaseline jelly, as skin protector (shield), very effective skin softener for flaky foot callouses, and as protection against diaper rash.

Petroleum jelly is a derivative, a “byproduct” of oil refining. The components which are filtered out from oil as a part of the refining process of petroleum jelly is suspected by some to be possibly carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Not the petroleum jelly itself, but the ingredients being filtered out. Vaseline, as a brand, is respected as one that is highly-refined and triple-purified, minus all those toxic components, and are considered non-carcinogenic. There are many brands of the jelly in the market.

The biggest contaminant in petroleum jelly (if not fully purified)  is called PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). The other is 1,3-butadiene and ethylene oxide, which is also suspected to increase risk for breast cancer.

Petroleum jelly (a mineral oil), like Vaseline, is not really a skin moisturizer. It is more like a protective sealant, a barrier against water and dirt. As such, it also plugs skin pores and reduce the skin’s ability to “breathe” and eliminate toxic body waste through sweat. If applied to an unwashed face, petroleum jelly seals in the dirt and could cause acne. When applied to hair, it induces dandruff formation. When used on the nose often or inhaled frequently, it goes to the lungs and could cause lipid (oil) pneumonia.

For skin moisturizers, the following safe items may be considered: shea butter, coconut oil, olive oil, beeswax, and cocoa butter.

ACETA, NSAID and hearing loss

        Long term use of acetaminophen (paracetamol) and NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) has been found to elevate the risk of hearing loss in women, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The research was done on over 55,000 women aged 44-69 in the Nurses’ Health Study. Those who took them two or more days per week for more than 6 years had moderate hearing loss. Occasional use did not have that side-effect. Taking aspirin did not show any effect on hearing.

Caution on headphones

Today, there are headphones that are labeled “noise-limiting,” but many of them are still delivering dangerous volumes that could damage our hearing, more especially so among children’s.

A test conducted by The Wirecutter, a firm owned by the New York Times, revealed that “of 30 sets of volume-limiting headphones and earbuds tested for the product recommendations website, 15 had noise greater than 85 decibels, which is the 8-hour limit for adults in the workplace….The loudest headphones hit 108 decibels, a level described as safe for only 3 minutes…and half of children’s noise-restrictng headphones didn’t limit volume as advertised.”

The recommendation of audiologists is to “set the volume of the device at or below 60%…and taking a break every hour to prevent damage to the inner ear.”

Let’s heed this warning. It would be devastating to go deaf.

Visual symptoms after LASIK

A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association Ophthalmology on 240 active Navy personnel and 300 civilians who had LASIK (Laser in Situ Keratomileusis) had improved vision but “among participants with no visual symptoms before surgery, over 40% reported new symptoms 3 months afterward — most commonly, halo and starbursts… Such symptoms about a third of participants at 6 months… In addition, nearly 30% of participants reported new dry eye symptoms at 3 months.” LASIK is a popular, safe, and beneficial procedure when performed within the standard of care for eye surgery. Those contemplating to have LASIK should have a pre-op conference with their ophthalmologist for the details of the procedure and post-op expectations.

HPV Throat cancer on the rise

There are several risks factors for the development of throat cancer. Among them are: a diet low in vegetables and fruits; tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, e-cigarettes); alcohol in excess; Epstein-Barr virus; GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease; and HPV (Human Papilloma Virus).

The concern is that HPV-caused throat cancers in the United States are on the rise between 2000 and 2009, a period when overall cancer death rates in the US were going down, with more people surviving cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and rectum. The incidences of HPV-related oropharyngeal (mouth-throat), anal, and vaginal cancers are increasing. HPV is the commonest sexually transmitted disease, with more than 40 types of HPV. Oral-sex obviously is risky and best avoided. The tip on the internet that suggests the use of Saran Wrap film as a protective “condom for the mouth and tongue,” as ridiculous as it might sound, could be a useful barrier, so long as it is intact, to prevent HPV contamination. But why take the risk?

While many misinformed or uninformed parents refuse HPV vaccine (Gardasil)  their sons and daughters for fear of complications, the vaccine has been found to be safe and very effective in preventing HPV and the infections and cancers it causes.

The vaccine is recommended for both girls and boys 9 and 12 year old  and also for girls and women who are 13 through 26 who have not have the vaccine or completed series. The boys are considered potential “spreader” of HVP to girls.

Report from the CDC, American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute and North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (co-author) have shown that “HPV infections cause virtually all cervical cancers, 90 percent of anal cancers, more than 60 percent of certain oropharyngeal cancers (including the base of the tongue, tonsils and throat) and 40 percent of vagina, vulvar, and penile cancers.”

Pre-diabetic range lowered

Pre-diabetes is the stage immediately before the development of a full-blown type-2 diabetes mellitus and is characterized by “impaired fasting glucose according to World Health Organization criteria (110–124 mg/dL) or the American Diabetes Association’s lower cutoffs (100–124 mg/dL), and elevated hemoglobin A1c according to U.K. criteria (6.0–6.4%) or lower ADA cutoffs (5.7–6.4%).”

The British Medical Journal report on this meta-analysis on 1.6 million adults from 53 cohort studies (median follow-up years of more than 9 years) stated that “adults with fasting glucose concentrations as low as 100 mg/dL or hemoglobin A1c levels of 5.7% could face increased risk for cardiovascular events.” Mortality appears not to be impacted.

Compared to those with normal blood sugar and AIC level, pre-diabetics have been found to (already) have significant increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. In view of this, the cut-off for blood sugar and AIC level should be lower than those stated above as our current guide in defining pre-diabetics.

Consult your attending physician for more details and advice. Please visit   Email: