I love a good ointment. When I get a prescription for topical eczema medication, I always ask for an ointment, not a cream, because I think it’s more effective for my dry skin. So when I noticed a tube of Aquaphor Healing Ointment in my sister’s house, I was excited to give it a try. My hands were feeling pretty dry in that Vegas winter weather. After I scanned the ingredient list, I decided not to use it because it contains lanolin. Unfortunately, my skin isn’t a fan of lanolin—my eczema got worse after I used Bag Balm, which contains lanolin as a main ingredient. Ever since then, I’ve tried to stay away from lanolin products. (I also can’t wear wool sweaters unless I add a buffer layer of clothing in between.)
My dad saw me looking at the bottle and started reading the ingredient list too. Before long, he proclaimed that it was pretty much the same as Vaseline, but more expensive. I was amused—we’ve always been a Vaseline family. It’s cheap, it’s effective, and it’s easily available at any drugstore.
This got me thinking, though. How has Aquaphor built up a reputation for itself when it has to admit that it is essentially 41 percent petrolatum (the main/only ingredient in Vaseline)? Let’s take a closer look.
Aquaphor Healing Ointment ingredients
Active ingredient: petrolatum (41%)
Inactive ingredients: mineral oil, ceresin, lanolin alcohol, panthenol, glycerin, bisabolol
Aquaphor Healing Ointment is made up of 41 percent petrolatum, which means it’s basically 41 percent Vaseline. What’s in the other 59 percent? Mineral oil (very closely related to petrolatum), lanolin (an effective moisturizer for some people, just not me), glycerin (a common moisturizing ingredient in skincare products), and bisabolol (a soothing ingredient).
My Dad the Chemist’s review of Aquaphor Healing Ointment vs. Vaseline
After I got home, I emailed my dad to double check if he still felt the same way. I wanted to see if the additional ingredients (glycerin, lanolin, and bisabolol) were worth the premium over plain ol’ Vaseline. I also asked him about the difference between petrolatum and mineral oil. Here’s what he said.
no, not worthy to pay for the difference. However, Bisabolol is good for anti-irritation if a sufficient amount is incorporated into the formula, but not a cheap ingredient and we don’t know the actual amount.
Both Petrolatum and mineral oil are byproducts of petroleum refining process, petroleum is very thick and pasty, so it stay on skin better while mineral oil is a thinner pourable oil, may be mixed with petroleum to reduce its viscosity.
It seems that mineral oil and petrolatum are both byproducts of the petroleum refining process. Mineral oil is less thick than petrolatum, so it can be mixed with petroleum to make it runnier/less thick. It seems that Aquaphor has added mineral oil with petrolatum to make it easier to apply (less greasy/thick than regular Vaseline/petrolatum). Although bisabolol is known to be an effective anti-irritant, it’s also an expensive ingredient, which may explain Aquaphor’s more expensive price point. However, there’s no way to determine just how much of this ingredient is actually in the formula. Therefore, my dad recommends opting for Vaseline instead, as the main ingredient is the same.
I’m inclined to agree. If you’re looking for a less thick texture, and you like the idea of extra beneficial ingredients like bisabolol, then Aquaphor Healing Ointment may be the better product for you. However, if you’re sensitive to lanolin like me, or you want to save a bit of money, you’re better off sticking with plain old Vaseline.
Either way, you probably can’t go wrong with either of these products if you’re looking for a way to protect your skin all winter long. Both of these products seem like great choices for preventing your skin from losing moisture, because that’s what petrolatum is good at doing. Another bonus: they’re both preservative-free since they don’t contain any water.