skin and hair-care image

The English Channel is a place where we often see the power of the human will.

Whenever rough tide, icy water and bad weather challenge a swimmer attempting to cross the distance of 33 km, it only strengthens their resolve. Some swim the distance in under 14 hours, some take much longer. Many lose the challenge due to hypothermia, sea-sickness, muscle cramps, or death. Yet, many more take up the dare, year after year. Can there be anything more amazing!

In nearly all of the instances, there was one thing that helped the swimmers endure the gruelling swim for endless hours: petroleum jelly.

This hydrocarbons derivative, used as the oil base of vaseline and other anti-chafing creams protected the swimmers’ skin during the long swim in the icy sea water. But the impressive work of this jelly doesn’t end there. Also called ‘petrolatum’, it is most versatile. It meets many needs of businesses across a wide spectrum of industries.

From keeping swimmers warm during long ocean swims, to preventing diaper rash to protecting metals and a great deal more, it has influenced the development of a wide range of products and applications. It currently straddles many product categories.

In skin and hair-care

It hasn’t changed much since its discovery, by Robert Augustus Chesebrough, in 1859. Worldwide, it is popular as a cream to protect and heal dry or hard skin on hands and heels. It is also used as a grooming aid and cosmetic e.g. softening of lips, highlighting of cheekbones, etc. It is great for sensitive skin, because it doesn’t require many additives, chemicals or potential-irritants to formulate. Pure petroleum jelly has no odour or essential oils that can cause redness and breakouts in some individuals. It can be applied directly to the skin as often as required or incorporated as an occlusive ingredient in moisturisers, lotions and other hydrating products. It can be used as needed or on a daily basis, with some notable exceptions in acne affected skin.

In pure form or as an ingredient, it was also popular as hair pomade: a 50/50 mixture with pure beeswax, made an effective moustache wax. It is also used as a key ingredient for conditioners of Afro-textured hair.

In healing

It has uses in medicinal application too: it is used to protect and prevent moisture loss of the skin of a patient in the initial post-operative period following laser skin resurfacing. Otolaryngologists – head and neck surgeons use it extensively on their patients for nasal moisture, epistasis treatment as well as to combat nasal crusting. It is also widely used in ointments formulations.

In assessing eye health

It is widely used as a safe, comfortable, and effective medium for ocular ultrasound examination. By applying a layer of petroleum jelly over the closed eye and allowing it to warm via body heat for 30 to 45 seconds, this medium can both minimise patient discomfort and provide easily obtainable, high-quality ocular ultrasound images.

 In skin lubrication

Petroleum jelly is used to reduce the friction between skin and clothing during various sport activities, e.g. to prevent chafing of the seat region of cyclists, the nipples of long distance runners wearing loose t-shirts, and crotch area of wrestlers and football players. Another common use is as a personal lubricant. A variation known as red veterinary petroleum protects against UV (ultraviolet) exposure and is being used as a sunscreen.

 In protecting business assets

Petroleum jelly is an anti-rusting agent and water repellent. Hence is it is widely used in industries like marine, leather, telecommunications, and manufacturing. It is considered the most economical and effective way to prevent damage or degradation from oxidation or water. Oxidation can cause severe harm to instrumentation and operations.

 The road ahead

These properties of petroleum jelly are anticipated to drive the market going forward. The current scenario indicates mixed signals. Global supplies of microcrystalline wax and petroleum jelly continue to shrink due to reduction specifically in base oil production capacity. Nevertheless, demand for microcrystalline wax and petroleum jelly continues to be strong, helped by the recovery in many parts of the world. The resultant rise in prices has motivated wax de-oilers, blenders and specialty wax producers to seek alternatives. The interplay of supply and demand drivers and the penetration of alternate materials will set the future direction of this product market. While natural and organic products account for only a small percentage of the total skin care market, their share is growing faster than the general market.

Yet the fact remains, that many cosmetics and prescribed drugs are used by a vast percentage of the population in treating wounds, cuts, burns, pores and skin diseases. More and more cosmetic businesses are coming up every other day, adding to the clamour for raw materials like petroleum jelly. Hence, one can be reasonably upbeat about the future of the petroleum jelly market, especially when seeing the growth in the cosmetics and pharma sectors which are expected to drive the global market for petroleum jelly.

 We at Gandhar Oil Refinery (India) Ltd. are into manufacturing and marketing of a large range of industrial and automotive oils, as well as mineral oils, liquid paraffins, jellies and waxes which are supplied to cosmetics and personal care manufacturers. We are ready for the changing global scenario, poised especially for a new trajectory of growth driven by the prospects of new product developments at our versatile in-house R&D.