Vaseline or Aquaphor: Which One Is Actually Better for Dry Skin?

While both prevent water loss in the skin, one contains specific properties that make it a true hydrator.

opened petroleum jelly jar on blue background
Photo: Towfiqu Barbhuiya / EyeEm / Getty Images

A quick fix for chapped lips or a patch of dry skin often involves a dab of Aquaphor ($4.99, here or Vaseline ($4.19, there. Both topical ointments have a long list of advantages, but when it comes to a flaking, irritated complexion, which one is best?

According to dermatologists, there is a clear winner when it comes to addressing dry skin.


As perhaps the most widely-recognized brand of 100% petroleum jelly, which is also known as petrolatum, Vaseline contains properties that prevent water loss in the skin.

Vaseline Is an Occlusive

According to Ava Shamban, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of AVA MD, SKIN FIVE medical spas, and The Box by Dr Ava, Vaseline is an occlusive; this product category prevents water loss, but doesn't impart true moisture to the skin (think of occlusives as seals).

"It's a misstatement to call Vaseline a hydrator or moisturizer," affirms Dr. Shamban. "It keeps skin soft and supple and boosts moisture levels, but it does not hydrate. Vaseline does not function as a humectant, which attracts moisture to the dermis."


Yes, Aquaphor is an occlusive, thanks to its petrolatum content, but it also contains a host of other ingredients that make it a partial moisturizer—which is why most dermatologists say that it is the best option for dry skin.

Aquaphor Contains Humectants

According to Miami-based dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, Aquaphor is typically the product dermatologists recommend to patients with dry dermis. This is in part because the ointment contains humectants—namely glycerin and panthenol, a vitamin B5 derivative—which draw water into the skin and activity hydrate it.

"I've continued to recommend this for my post-op surgery and post-procedure patients, as well as for anyone with dry seasonal changes on their extremities and even on their faces, when either climate conditions or overworking skin with aggressive actives has made skin dry, red, and sensitive," says Dr. Ciraldo.

Aquaphor Contains Emollients

In addition to humectants and occlusives, Aquaphor also contains emollients, making it a true triple threat. The main emollients in Aquaphor are lanolin and mineral oil, which are lighter-weight sealants. According to Dr. Shamban, the properties in Aquaphor's formula raise moisture levels by attracting water from the air and introducing it into the dermis, which stops dehydration. She adds that the product's mineral oil and cesarin content keep skin soft and supple while minimizing water evaporation.

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