Vaseline® for Diaper Rash . . . Is There a Better Option?
Vaseline® was created in 1859 by the chemist Robert Chesebrough. It was originally extracted from “rod wax” which was the oil residue left on oil pumps. Vaseline has been in use for so long that the word “vaseline” is now a generic term for petroleum jelly in many countries.
Diaper rash, which is the common term for diaper dermatitis, can be a parent's worst recurring nightmare. Its global prevalence may be 50% according to some studies. In the United States, diapers dermatitis constitutes 10% to 20% of all skin disorders.
Vaseline®, and other brands of petroleum jelly, have been the go-to products for diaper rash for decades. . . but . . .is this the best choice?
Pros of using Petroleum Jelly for Diaper Rash
- Easily available
- Several sizes are available
- Long shelf life, per some sources 10 years to forever
Cons of using Petroleum Jelly for Diaper Rash
- Holds moisture in against the baby’s delicate skin
- Petroleum based
- Does not let skin breathe (occlusive)
- Does not contain skin nurturing elements
Let’s look deeper into the other cons of using Vaseline® for diaper rash
Accidental consumption - as parents know, anything and everything ends up in a baby’s mouth. Diaper rash products are no exception. What is put on the baby’s skin must be safe for the baby to consume. Petroleum jelly is for external use only and should not be ingested. There is also a concern that if it gets around the baby’s nose area it could be inhaled which creates a risk of aspiration pneumonia.
Allergies - Babies can have, or can develop, allergies from petroleum-derived products. This is especially a concern if the product is being used for diaper rash as it may make the condition worse. Because there is already skin irritation the parent may not be able to determine if the petroleum jelly is making the diaper rash worse.
The use of petroleum jelly may be continuous over 2 years while the child is wearing diapers, which makes the risk of developing a petroleum based allergy a significant concern.
Infection - Petroleum jelly is primarily used to keep moisture and wetness off the baby's skin. This also means that it will prevent moisture and wetness that is already on the baby’s skin from evaporating. Most parents will not take the time to allow the skin to completely air dry after diaper removal and clean up before applying a skin product and clean diaper. Vaseline’s® website states it melts into the spaces between skin cells providing superior occlusivity. Occlusivity is defined as the ability to shut off or obstruct something. The occlusive nature of petroleum jelly makes it easy for bacteria to be trapped under the barrier and against the skin or locked into pores.
Is petroleum jelly effective in preventing diaper rash? A randomized clinical trial published in the Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing found that there was no statistically significant improvement in the prevention of diaper rash in the experimental group that used petroleum jelly compared to the control group.
Are there better alternatives to treating diaper rash than Vaseline®?
The best solution for diaper rashes is not getting them. Keeping babies' bums clean and dry are always the most important steps for preventing diaper rashes.
But . . .
We all live in the real world and diaper rashes can appear even when parents do everything perfectly.
Finding a diaper rash product that is made only with organic, nurturing ingredients can be an invaluable tool in the battle against diaper rash.
Check this article for the differences between creams and balms.
Spoiler - Balms also provide a protective layer for the skin.