Find out how to work one of Martha's favorite beauty products into your own routine.

By Rebecca Norris
April 27, 2020
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Baby oil: Two words, one super literal use. And yet the product, which was originally designed solely to keep baby's skin soft and supple, has been used as everything from shaving "cream" to makeup remover—in fact, it's Martha's favorite way to take makeup off at the end of the day. "I always have Johnson's Baby Oil ($3.99, target.com) in my medicine cabinet," she said in an interview with ABC News. "At night, I wash my face really well, because I have to have my makeup done a lot. Johnson's Baby Oil with a warm washcloth is one great way to take it off. I like oil because it keeps my skin very moist, and it works for me. I don't get clogged pores."

New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose believes that the main reason baby oil has become such a skincare staple is its affordable price. "Compared to many beauty products on the market, baby oil is inexpensive and can be versatile," she explains. But what is baby oil? According to dermatologist Dr. Y. Claire Chang of New York City's Union Square Laser Dermatology, baby oil is typically composed of mineral oil or vegetable oils. "Some baby oils also have other additives, like vitamin E and aloe vera," she explains. Where mineral oil is a colorless, odorless derivative of petroleum, she says that vegetable-based baby oils are often made with coconut oil, avocado oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, or sunflower oil. "These oils work as an occlusive by locking in moisture and softening the skin," she adds. Simply put, if you're looking for an affordable workhorse beauty product to add to your routine, baby oil might be exactly what you need.

Baby oil can remove makeup.

Looking in the mirror only to see long-lasting lipstick and eyeliner staring back at you, even after a triple cleanse? Good news: Baby oil can help. "It can be used as a makeup remover with a cotton ball, without the risk of irritating the sensitive skin around the eyes and face," Dr. Chang says.

It's a great hydrator.

Since baby oil is occlusive, Dr. Murphy-Rose says it keeps skin hydrated by effectively locking moisture in. "It reduces trans-epidermal water loss and creates a protective barrier between your skin and the environment," she adds. "It is best applied right after bathing." When applying, she recommends patting your body dry with a towel so that your skin is still slightly damp. "Then coat your palms with a few drops of oil and massage it all over the skin," she instructs.

Use it as a hair mask.

While slathering your strands in baby oil can definitely leave them looking greasy, Dr. Chang says that doing so as a rinse-out treatment can do wonders for a dry scalp and parched mids and ends. "It helps seal in moisture and leaves hair shiny," she says.

Substitute shaving cream for baby oil.

Tired of messy foam shave creams? Try swapping them out with baby oil. Dr. Chang says that baby oil is a great alternative thanks to its soothing formula, which will protect the skin and give your blades a smooth glide.

It can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scarring.

If you're pregnant and worried about the possibility of scarring, use baby oil during your first trimester. "Baby oil can be used as an emollient for preventing stretch marks in pregnancy, though data on its efficacy for this indication is limited," Dr. Chang shares.

Baby oil can treat sensitive skin.

While baby oil often comes with a very light fragrance, Dr. Chang says it's still very safe for folks with sensitive skin, including those with eczema and psoriasis. "Baby oil is used commonly as a moisturizer to help treat dry, sensitive skin," she adds. "It has a very low risk of allergic reactions or irritation."

Always patch test.

Baby oil is largely very gentle, but it's not completely without negative side effects. If you have acne-prone skin, neither Dr. Chang nor Dr. Murphy-Rose recommends using it. "While mineral oil is thought to be non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging), it is very occlusive and does promote acne in many acne-prone patients," Dr. Murphy-Rose says.

Lastly, considering mineral oil has been seen as a controversial ingredient given its origin from petroleum, Dr. Murphy-Rose says that it's very important to find highly purified baby oils. "If not adequately refined, baby oil may contain potentially carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)," she warns. "The mineral oil in baby oil is refined and purified to remove the PAHs, but some people avoid mineral oil since this process in beauty and skincare products is not necessarily well regulated."

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