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Mineral oil is a common remedy that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions in humans and animals. Also known as white oil or liquid paraffin, mineral oil is most commonly created by refining crude oil, similar to petroleum jelly. Most of its applications are used topically, though medical-grade mineral oil can also be taken internally.

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Relieve Constipation

The most well-known use of mineral oil is as a laxative. It works by coating the intestines and acting as a lubricant, which helps soften hard stool and makes it easier to pass. If you plan to use mineral oil as a laxative, be sure not to use it with other stool softeners or laxatives, and buy medical-grade oil from the pharmacy.

Woman with mineral oil Ake Ngiamsanguan / Getty Images
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Remedy Dry Skin

Dry skin is a common problem, especially during the winter months. Mineral oil is shown to be an effective treatment, especially compared with other types of oils. Apply it immediately after a bath or shower for best results. It's great for dry, cracked skin on your feet, but it also doesn't block pores, so can be used on other body parts.

Feet soaking NikiLitov / Getty Images
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Soothe Mild Eczema Flares

Eczema is more common than most people realize, with approximately 10% of the population suffering from some form of it. For mild flares, mineral oil can serve as a soothing, moisturizing topical treatment that may help the rash subside more quickly. It can generally be used in conjunction with other topical treatments and is a common ingredient in commercial ointments.

Person scratching arm monstArrr_ / Getty Images
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Prevent Diaper Rash

If you want to avoid perfumed baby oil, mineral oil is an alternative for treating and preventing diaper rash. Mineral oil is the primary ingredient in most brands of baby oil, so it's typically safe to use anywhere you'd use baby oil. A thin layer can help provide a barrier between the baby's skin and irritating substances while locking in moisture to prevent dry, chapped skin.

Happy baby in diaper oksun70 / Getty Images
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Remove Excess Earwax

Earwax can build up, becoming uncomfortable and hard to remove, but mineral oil can help. If you have hard, compacted earwax, use a dropper to put two to three drops of earwax in your ear. Let it sit for a day or so, then gently squirt warm water into your ear. Let it drain out after a moment. The mineral wax should soften the earwax enough to let it wash out with the water.

Person with earache Tero Vesalainen / Getty Images
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Reduce Dandruff

Dandruff can be embarrassing, and sometimes special shampoos aren't enough. You can enhance your dandruff treatment routine by using mineral oil as well. Apply it to your scalp about an hour before your shower and let it sit, then brush your hair. After that, wash it out using your normal shampoo.

Woman combing hair Vasko / Getty Images
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Soothe an Itchy Scalp

Even if you don't have actual dandruff, mineral oil can help reduce itchiness and irritation in your scalp. Just like for dandruff, apply it about half an hour before you shower and let it sit. Even after you wash it out of your hair, enough should have soaked into your scalp to help retain moisture and reduce itchiness. This can also be done as part of your regular beauty routine to help prevent dry skin.

Cosmetics and oils IRA_EVVA / Getty Images
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Cleaning Off Residue

Mineral oil is a safe and gentle cleanser as well, which makes it great for cleaning sticky substances off of sensitive skin. Apply it to a cotton ball and gently rub it on the soiled area to clean petroleum jelly or other creams from your baby's skin or your own. It's even used to clean marks left on the skin of patients undergoing radiation therapy because it is safe and gentle.

Doctor with patient Nattakorn Maneerat / Getty Images
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Treat Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is the traditional name for the dry, flaky skin that babies are prone to getting, especially on their scalps. Mineral oil is a safe and effective treatment for that. Use a few drops at a time and spread a thin, light layer over the affected areas as needed.

Baby in bath Lightguard / Getty Images
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Cautions and Considerations

While mineral oil is generally safe, there are some potential risks. One major concern is aspiration, or breathing the oil into the lungs. To prevent this, it should never be given orally to young children or people who have trouble swallowing. Keep it away from children's eyes, mouths and noses if you're using it topically. Ask your doctor before using it if you have persistent or severe constipation, take other medications, are pregnant, or have underlying health issues.

Discussion between patient and doctor Rowan Jordan / Getty Images

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.