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Petroleum Jelly for Baby Skin: Benefits and Precautions

Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS · Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 17, 2023

Petroleum Jelly for Baby Skin: Benefits and Precautions

Petroleum jelly is almost always included in the list of newborn essential items. But what makes this product so sought after by parents? Here’s what you need to know about petroleum jelly for baby skin.

Uses of Petroleum Jelly for Baby Skin

Petroleum jelly, as the name suggests, is a thick, waxy substance derived from oil. Although some people worry that it is toxic, experts say refined petroleum jelly is generally safe, even for baby skin.

Petroleum jelly has the following benefits:

1. It locks in skin moisture.

Newborn babies sometimes have very dry skin in their hands and ankles. While it looks concerning, experts say it could be temporary, so there might be no need for moisturizing lotions and creams.

What you could do instead is apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly1.

Unless the manufacturer adds moisturizer to their product, please note that petroleum jelly is not a moisturizer. Still, it helps lock in natural skin moisture by acting as a barrier.

2. It helps with crusting in the cradle cap.

Cradle cap or neonatal dandruff usually presents as thick, yellow patches on baby skin, commonly on the scalp. It also appears greasy and crusty.

According to experts, the cradle cap needs no other treatment than gentle washing as it would clear on its own. But, if you want to ease the crustiness, you can use petroleum jelly2.

3. It helps relieve diaper rash.

Your baby can also benefit from petroleum jelly if they are prone to diaper rashes.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association said that if your baby develops diaper rash, consider applying petroleum jelly to their bottom during each nappy change3. With the right care, your baby’s rash would clear within days.

Petroleum jelly is not necessary to prevent diaper rash, as the best way to avoid it is to keep baby skin clean and dry. Still, some reports say it helps protect the skin from future diaper rash4.

4. It could be an affordable way to help relieve eczema.

Eczema is a common condition among babies, and while you might need to purchase other skincare products to treat it in the future, petroleum jelly might be enough for now.

To treat baby eczema, doctors recommend applying petroleum jelly to the skin right after a bath, while the skin is still damp5.

petroleum jelly for baby

How to Choose Petroleum Jelly for Baby Skin

Remember that when it comes to baby skincare, less is always more.

Choose a petroleum jelly from a trusted brand, and steer away from scented and dyed varieties. Don’t forget to read the product labels, too, since some are made specifically for baby care, so they might be better.

Finally, only buy petroleum jelly from trusted stores to avoid counterfeit products.

Cautions in using Petroleum Jelly

While petroleum jelly might be a good product to help treat mild baby skin problems, it still comes with some potential dangers. Case in point, your baby may be allergic to petroleum-derived products.

So, before using petroleum jelly on your little one, don’t forget to test it first by applying a small amount to a small area of the skin. Leave the product for 24 hours, but check your baby’s skin from time to time. If they develop allergic reactions (redness, swelling, etc.) wash the area immediately and do not proceed with using it.

Another thing: Parents sometimes apply petroleum jelly below or directly on their baby’s nose when they have skin irritation due to cold. While this practice is generally safe for older children and adults, babies require closer supervision because they might accidentally ingest or inhale the product.

Finally, please do not use petroleum jelly for all of your baby’s skin problems. Before using the product, and especially if you want to use it to address skin concerns, bring your little one to their pediatrician first.

Learn more about Babycare here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS

Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 17, 2023

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