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  Issue 4 (2001)

GD News
Potential of Occlusion by liquid Paraffin in Cosmetics

The use of liquid paraffin (INCI: paraffinum liquidum) as lipid ingredient in cosmetic preparations for skin care is subject to a controversial discussion in parts of the population. The reason for the reservation is the peril of an occlusion (masking) for applications of liquid paraffin in certain concentrations, for example more than 10 percent of the lipid phase.

The complete occlusion by a steam impermeable layer, for instance by a plastic foil at the skin surface may according to scientific insights in fact lead to an impairment of the reproduction and maturation as well as of the metabolism of the skin cells in the epidermis and as a consequence to a barrier disruption in the horny layer of the epidermis [1-4]. However, this unwanted effect is not to be expected at uses of cosmetics as directed [5]. Only a certain, occlusive effect, limited in time, is possible. The extent of such a partial occlusive effect is determined by:

1. Type of the base, e.g. pure oil, anhydrous greasy ointments, water-in-oil or oil-in-water emulsions (stated according to decreasing occlusivity)

2. Kind and quantity of the lipids applied

3. Other additives as spreading agents or emulsifiers

4. Product quantity applied and spreading on skin by rubbing

Accordingly, the sole information about the proportion of liquid paraffin in the oil phase does not allow a qualified judgement of an occlusive effect. This is rather only possible by dermatologically controlled application tests by measuring of skin physiological parameter with bio-engineering methods, e.g. in form of a proof as to a significant reduction of TEWL shortly after application [6].

There is no evidence according to latest scientific findings for a corresponding risk of unwanted effects of cosmetics, containing more than 10 percent of liquid paraffin in the oil phase. Referring to this assessment criterion it is a question of a rough simplification which does not give any information about the actual risk profile of a cosmetical product.

Irrespective of this fact, a certain occlusive effect is wanted in many cases, thus for example with dry, barrier-impaired skin, in the field of baby care or at applications of skin protection ointments in the professional sphere [7].


[1] Fluhr JW, Lazzerini S, Distante F, Gloor M, Berardesca E: Effects of prolonged occlusion on stratum corneum barrier function and water holding capacity. Skin Pharmacol. Appl. Skin Physiol. 12 (1999) 193-198

[2] Proksch E: Lipide der Hornschicht: Analyse, Regulation, Funktion. In: Klaschka, F. (Hrsg.): Empfindliche Haut. Diesbach Verlag Berlin, S. (1992) 12-21

[3] Proksch E, Feingold K, Mao-Quiang M, Elias PM: Barrier function regulates epidermal DNA synthesis. J. Clin. Invest. 87 (1991) 1668-1673

[4] Taljebini M, Warren R, Mao-Quiang M, Lane E, Elias PE, Feingold KR: Cutaneous permeability barrier repair following various types of insults: kinetics and effects of occlusion. Skin Pharmacol. 9 (1996) 111-119

[5] Ghadially R, Halkier-Sorensen L, Elias PM: Effects of petrolatum on stratum corneum structure and function. J. Amer. Acad. Dermatol. 26 (1992) 387-396

[6] Jemec GBE, Serup J: Epidermal hydration and skin mechanics. The relationship between electrical capacitance and the mechanical properties of human skin in vivo. Acta Derm. Venereol. (Stockh.) 70 (1990) 245-247,

[7] Maibach HI: Barrier creams (skin protective creams). Cosmet. & Toiletr. 6 (2000) 30-34

GD statements are official position papers of the society established by the departments or other GD experts and approved for publication by the GD managing committee. Both statements relating to the Potential of a Penetration Effect by PEG-compounds respectively Occlusion by Liquid Paraffin in Cosmetics have been elaborated by the department Dermocosmetics and already placed at the disposal of the sponsoring GD member firms in August 2001.




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