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Fact or Fiction: Does Vaseline Cause Acne?

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

For many years, it was popularly believed that Vaseline was an acne-causing substance and should be avoided like the plague by anyone who was acne-prone. Believe it or not, this belief turns out to be more fiction than fact for the majority of acne sufferers in the world, and there are a plethora of examples to prove it.

Does vaseline cause acne
Vaseline once thought of as terrible for acne-prone skin, may have been unnecessarily vilified.

The Reason Why Vaseline CAN’T Clog Your Pores

Even if it really wanted to, Vaseline simply cannot block your pores1. This is simply because Vaseline, aka petroleum jelly which is a by-product of petroleum, is made up of very large molecules. These molecules once believed to be large enough to clog pores, are actually so large that they can’t fit into your pores to clog them at all. This means that Vaseline is totally non-comedogenic and it is not capable of actually causing acne.

The Real Effects Of Vaseline On Skin

For many, Vaseline has been responsible for clearing acne, as opposed to causing it. As a result, many modern skin-care experts are obsessed with what is popularly known as the “slug life.” For the uninitiated, the “slug life” refers to having skin covered in Vaseline, giving it somewhat of a slimy feel2 like that of a slug. The reason skin-care experts stand so readily behind this trend is because of the amazing benefit that Vaseline presents, which is to create a protective layer3 that seals the skin. Since petroleum jelly products do not enter your pores, it literally sits atop your skin like a barrier, preventing moisture from escaping and preventing external contaminants – like dirt and bacteria – from entering.

Acne sufferers who deal with acne and dry skin benefit greatly from Vaseline, as it seals in natural serums, facial moisturizers and body water from escaping4 and leaving the skin dry and dehydrated. Sealing these substances in also allows the skin to heal itself, which leads to calmer, smoother and even-complexioned skin.

Acne sufferers who deal with acne and oily skin also benefit from Vaseline because of its ability to prevent external bacteria5 from coming into contact with the sebum that feeds it. It also seems to play a role in limiting excess sebum production.

The other benefit of Vaseline is that it makes skin really soft, probably due to the moisture being sealed in6, allowing the skin to properly absorb it. As a result, whiteheads and blackheads tend to surface to the top of the skin, rather than remaining beneath the surface of what would be rougher skin. This allows for whatever impurities that are clogging your skin to rise to the top, making them easier to remove and cleanse.

The Best Way To Use Vaseline

Even though the average dermatologist may not typically recommend Vaseline as a treatment for acne (because there would be no commission for such a prescription), the community of skin-care experts and former acne sufferers are all over it. They recommend using Vaseline immediately after a shower or face cleansing, and always before bed.

Keep in mind, however, that Vaseline is NOT a moisturizer in itself and contains no minerals, nutrients or actual moisture. It just seals the skin, keeping whatever is in it inside, and what’s outside the skin out. Think of it like the plastic wrap for the skin. Ideally, you should use your natural, lightweight moisturizers on your skin and then apply a layer of Vaseline to seal it in.

While Vaseline is a great remedy for many, or even most, acne sufferers, there are always a few exceptions. That’s why it’s best to patch-test Vaseline on your skin first before committing it to your skin routine. If you happen to be in the minority of people who do have an adverse effect, alternatives like beeswax7 and Waxelene could be worth a try.


  1. Myers S.L., Yang C.Z., Bittner G.D., Witt K.L., Tice R.R., Baird D.D. Estrogenic and anti-estrogenic activity of off-the-shelf hair and skin care products. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. 2015;25(3):271-277.
  2. Sethi A., Kaur T., Malhotra S.K., Gambhir M.L. Moisturizers: The slippery road. Indian Journal of Dermatology. 2016;61(3):279-287.
  3. Ghadially R., Halkier-Sorensen L., Elias P.M. Effects of petrolatum on stratum corneum structure and function. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 1992;26(3 Pt 2):387-396.
  4. Purnamawati S., Indrastuti N., Danarti R., Saefudin T. The role of moisturizers in addressing various kinds of dermatitis: A review. Clinical Medicine and Research. 2017;15(3-4):75-87.
  5. Czarnowicki T., Malajian D., Khattri S., Correa da Rosa J., Dutt R., Finney R., Dhingra N., Xiangyu P., Xu H., Estrada Y.D., Zheng X., Gilleaudeau P., Sullivan-Whalen M., Suaréz-Fariñas M., Shemer A., Krueger J.G., Guttman-Yassky E. Petrolatum: Barrier repair and antimicrobial responses underlying this “inert” moisturizer. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2016;137(4):1091-1102.e7.
  6. Commander S.J., Chamata E., Cox J., Dickey R.M., Lee E.I. Update on postsurgical scar management. Seminars in Plastic Surgery. 2016;30(3):122-128.
  7. Souza C., de Freitas L.A., Maia Campos P.M. Topical formulation containing beeswax-based nanoparticles improved in vivo skin barrier function. AAPS FarmSciTech. 2017;18(7):2505-2516.
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