The dark side of vapour rubs

The dark side of vapour rubs

I am often taken down memory lane with reviews on our chest rub:

"This beautiful chest rub is simply gorgeous to use; nothing overbearing in here and helps ease children’s congestion. So lovely to use and incorporate a small massage into it aswell which the kids adore." - Stacey 30/07/2019

Do you remember being slathered with hot, burning chest rubs as a child? You know the kind I am talking about. It made your eyes water. I guess it did the trick, but what if I told you the ingredients were pretty toxic?

To this day, these products are petroleum-based and have active ingredients that are toxic to small children. 

What is petroleum anyway?

Petrolatum, or petroleum jelly, derived from petroleum, is often used in personal care products and touted as a moisturising agent. It is a toxic crude oil, which means it is not sustainable or eco-friendly.

Often touted as moisturising…  it will trap any moisture underneath it to give your skin the appearance of moisturised skin, but as it creates an impermeable barrier, it will also lock any existing dirt, sweat, or bacteria. This barrier will also deter any added moisture or beneficial ingredients from other products from reaching the skin (goodbye, oxygen!). What’s worse is that it is not water-soluble; it does not easily wash away, which means it can build up in your system over time.

What to look for on the label: Petrolatum, Petroleum Jelly, Paraffin Oil, Mineral Oil.

What's more, is that in most countries, including the USA, it is not fully refined, which means it can contain traces of PHAs and exposure, including skin contact over extended periods of time, can cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. 

Why go petroleum when you can go au naturel?

Hang on, what about the overbearing smell?

Well, not only is it unpleasant, but according to the aromatherapists Robert Tisserand and Robert Young, who have written a large textbook on essential oil safety, peppermint and eucalyptus with children under 2 could slow down or negatively impact their breathing because of the amount of menthol and 1,8- cineole present in the oils (these are two of the components in peppermint and eucalyptus). Tisserand and Young (2014) explicitly state ‘Do not apply [1,8 cineole] to or near the face of infants or children under ten (10) years of age (page 273).”

From my perspective as an aromatherapist, I have omitted these oils in the formulations of the chest rub for babies and kids formulations because there are just as effective alternatives that come without the risk. I have kept these in for the adult formulation, in combination with some other oils, for that extra kick. I always err on the side of caution, especially when dealing with our most vulnerable. 

Reference Tisserand, R. and Young, R. (2014). Essential Oil Safety. 2nd Edition. United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone / Elsevier.



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