The truth about Vaseline and what to use instead

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By Andrea Tomkins

Until this year, I hadn’t given Vaseline much thought. It was a given; simply part of our bathroom landscape. There was always a tub of it stored under the sink when I was growing up and when we had kids there was always a tub of it under our bathroom sink as well. And I hate to say this, but our container of Vaseline is so old that I can’t even remember buying it. (Does Vaseline even have an expiration date? The interwebs seem to indicate that it doesn’t, but given how many family members have accessed that single container over the years I’m convinced it must be a germ farm by now. Ugh.)

It wasn’t until I listened to one of my favourite podcasts by Canadian marketing expert Terry O’Reilly that I realized I really had no idea what Vaseline was actually made out of or where it came from. (Here’s a link to the episode. It’s about items we use every day which have their origins in “useless junk.”)

Some of you may already know that Vaseline is a petroleum product, but if you’re like me, perhaps you’ve never really spent too much time thinking about it.

As O’Reilly describes, back in 1859, English chemist Robert Chesebrough travelled to Titusville, Pennsylvania to learn about oil production and tour the fields. It was during this visit that he noticed a worker scraping black goo from the machinery. He learned two things that day: the gunk had to be removed from the rigs otherwise they got gummed up, and workers believed this mysterious  substance helped cuts and scrapes heal quicker. (I do wonder about the first guy who decided to smear this stuff on a cut!)

So Cheseborough left with a bucket full of gunk and spent the next few years turning it into the highly-refined beauty and body care product that we know today as Vaseline.

I was shocked to learn that what a by-product of the oil industry is now something I was applying to my lips and to alleviate dry elbows. Surely there are better, more sustainable alternatives? (The answer is, yes, there are!)

Here’s where I should point out that petroleum is actually a banned ingredient at terra20. In other words, no products at terra20 – in-store and online – contain petroleum.

terra20’s alternative to Vaseline is Beeseline. You can view the collection here. It’s a 100% natural alternative that contains coconut oil, honey, and beeswax. There’s a vegan version available too.  

It’s always a good idea to read the labels whenever you reach for natural alternatives. If you’re looking to seal in moisture, look for products containing ingredients such as beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter. You don’t have to worry about these ingredients being absorbed into the skin, either. The goal here is to nourish as well as moisturize!

Comparable products to Vaseline – albeit with a slightly different consistency – include shea butter-based body butters and creams such as Eco Chic unscented shea body butter, Crate 61’s organic coco shea body butter, and this pure unscented shea butter by Naturelle Sustenance.

And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, just ask! terra20 sales associates are always happy to make a recommendation.

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