Baby Oil for Massage, Traditional Vs Plant Based?

Traditional baby oil, used for baby massage typically only contains 2 ingredients:

  1. Mineral Oil
  2. Fragrance

Mineral oil is an oil derived from petroleum sources, that is colourless and odourless.  It is effective in assisting with conditions such as eczema, cradle cap and moisturising the skin.  It is also known by other names, liquid paraffin, or white oil and is generally a bi-product of the petrol industry.  It is one of the cheapest oils available on the market and it is why you can pick up this type of baby oil from your local supermarket or pharmacy for such a low price.

Mineral oil is known as an "occlusive ingredient".  This means, that instead of absorbing into the skin, it sits on top of the skin, forming a layer.  This traps moisture on your skin, allowing it to feel hydrated and moisturised, hence why you generally apply to damp skin after a bath or shower.  Other occlusive ingredients include petroleum jelly (or vasoline) and lanolin (sheep sweat...ick). 

Plant oils (such as the ones in both our baby and mum oils) differ from mineral oil because they are able to absorb into the skin.  This means, they have a different method of action to mineral oil, they don't form a layer on the skin to trap moisture.  Instead, by absorption into the skin, the plant oils themselves provide moisture to the skin.

Alongside that, plant oils also contain a variety of vitamins, essential fatty acids and antioxidants that are beneficial for the skin, so they're not just adding moisture, but a whole plethora of goodness to your skin!  You definitely won't find any of those amazing benefits in your mineral oil based baby oils!

Our baby and mum oils contain a mix of plant oils such a Jojoba, Safflower, Argan and high Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) containing oils such as Evening Primrose and Borage Seed oil which are well known for their skin benefits.  Our oils are not thick like Olive oil that struggles to absorb into your skin.  And those conditions listed earlier that mineral oil can assist with, you can bet that plant oils can too!  

Now, let's talk about number 2 on the list of baby oil ingredients... fragrance.

When you see fragrance or parfum on a label it can mean 3 (maybe 4) things:

    1. It could be a synthetic fragrance that may contain things like carcinogens and petroleum based products, but it's important to note, not ALL synthetic fragrances have these potentially harmful components. 
    2. Essential oils may make up the fragrance, the company uses "Fragrance" or "Parfum" as a general term to keep their top secret fragrance a secret
    3. It could be a mix of essential oils AND synthetic fragrance
    4. Or, it may even be a natural fragrance - but if a company is going to the effort of finding and using a natural fragrance, the list of ingredients will most likely say "Natural Fragrance" or "Fragrance (Naturally Derived)", I can guarantee, they want to tell you that it's natural!

Now, synthetic fragrance isn't all bad (you will definitely find it in some of the best/favourite products we own [disclaimer: there are no synthetic fragrances in Mamave products]) if that is what your customer is looking for.  It is extremely tough (virtually impossible) to make a product smell like bubblegum or chocolate and any number of different things without using synthetic fragrance ingredients. 

And they are not all scary or worrying to put on your skin or in your hair - it can be as simple as an "allergy thing".  If you know you're allergic to nuts, you're not going to eat them (at least I hope you won't), and the same goes, if you know you're allergic to a product with a specific fragrance in it, don't use other products with that fragrance (it's rare you're going to work out that's the specific ingredient thats causing you issues, but you get the gist!). 

Essential oils can be a bit scary too, but they are normally used in such small concentrations (because they are very strong, scent wise) that they are found to be less irritating in products, but just don't go putting essential oils directly on your skin unless they are deemed safe to be applied undiluted. Generally speaking, most essential oils need to be diluted before skin application.

Thats why, at Mamave, we don't want to keep anything a secret when it comes to our ingredients, we want to be 100% transparent about what is in our products and their safe use levels, so essential oils will ALWAYS be labelled as what they are and not hidden behind a "Fragrance" label.

Most essential oils are also not only just for fragrance purposes, but they can also have a therapeutic benefit as well - think of aromatherapy!  An example of this is Mandarin Essential Oil, according to Essential Wellness, Mandarin Essential Oil is "useful in helping to reduce acne, brighten the skin, alleviate insomnia, reduce oily skin [and] diminish the appearance of scars and age spots".  

Lastly, plant based oils can also contain plant extracts such as calendula, chamomile and aloe vera, whereas it's not something you would typically find in your traditional mineral oil baby oils.  It's just another added benefit of choosing a plant oil based baby oil over a mineral oil based baby oil.  

What's the point of plant extracts, you ask? 

The benefits, of course!  It depends on the particular plant extract, but some plant extracts claim to combat skin breakouts, reduce inflammation and redness and even improve poor circulation!  But just make sure, if something is claiming to do all of those wonders, that the extract is used at the required level.  Some products have them chucked in willy nilly to bulk out a formula and "look good" when in fact it's just a sprinkling added. 

I'm almost positive you won't find those benefits in a traditional baby oil formula.

So... I hope this answers some of your questions about traditional baby oil and the difference between it and the (far superior) plant based baby oil alternative.  Just be prepared that when you're buying a plant based baby oil or even a belly oil for use during pregnancy on your growing tummy, it's going to be a little bit pricier, but we believe the benefits over a traditional baby oil justify the cost 1000 fold.


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