Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Petroleum Jelly v/s Eyelids (What it Did to my Eyes & Why you shouldn't use it)

Like a lot of people, I spend a lot of time on Pinterest and the Internet in general. I read on a couple of occasions that people were using Petroleum Jelly on their eyelids to make their eyelashes grow and I was intrigued.
The particular reason for it catching my eye (geddit? geddit?..I'm sorry please don't leave) was the fact that I have short, sparse eyelashes and I've disliked that for a very long time now. My eyebrows are sparse as well. Despite having this first world "problem", I never really did anything or never took care of my eyes to maybe help them be moisturized or whatever. I just let them be and once in a while would hope that I would wake up with my eyelashes a little longer.

When I saw that people were using petroleum jelly, I thought, why not. Petroleum jelly is branded as a cure-all or help-all so I thought there would be no harm.
I started applying it to my eyelash line every day hoping the moisture it provided would help my eyelashes grow somehow (as if they were plants).
For a little backstory, let me tell you other factors that played into the soon-addressed disaster.
I was traveling every day to school by bus. Public bus. In India. If you know anything about the city life in India, you know that it is very polluted and traveling by a public non-AC bus (I also traveled by AC buses but the non-AC buses were more frequent so I'd ride them so I could reach school earlier) with all the windows open, doesn't really offer any protection from the pollution and dust that's flying around.
I did wash my face when I came back home but that didn't really help...let me tell you what exactly happened.

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Apparently, I should've done my research before I decided to use petroleum jelly on my eyes.
It was the summer time in India, and summers in India are very intense. Sometimes even ceiling fans don't do the job because it is just so hot. One day, I started itching my eyes a little. It didn't hurt, and it just felt like my skin was dry. I didn't think much about it. The sensation became stronger towards night time and I didn't know what to do. I didn't have any eye drops on me so I just washed my eyes with water a couple of times and went to sleep. I woke up with my right eye swollen and red. It looked like there was some fluid buildup and I kind of freaked out. Initially, I thought it was due to the dust and heat or something because I traveled to school daily in unbearable heat. The only thing that didn't add up was, why now? It had been over a year since I had been traveling the same way to school and back and this had never happened in the past. I still washed my face every day like I used to. So what was different now?
I got a small bottle of some generic eye drops from the pharmacy. Though very slowly, the swelling or whatever it was, did go away. I went back to applying the petroleum jelly and it was all normal for a few weeks. 
My eye started itching again but I ignored it because it wasn't possible to have another eye infection in the same month was it? I was more careful this time and I made sure to wash my face immediately after I got back. But I was wrong. The same thing happened all over again. I applied the eye drops once a day again and it slowly subsided so I didn't visit an Optometrist.
By the third time, I knew the moment my eyelids started feeling itchy, what was about to happen. I put in eye drops even before I noticed any bulge or redness but that didn't stop my eye from getting infected. Also, note that it wasn't just only my right eye. My left eye got infected to the second or third time (but it was always only one eye, thankfully). This time it was a bit worse than the last two times and I that's when I finally went to the Optometrist. 
The Optometrist told me that it was a dust infection and prescribed some medications which helped my eye in just a few days.
But it still didn't make sense to me. How did I get the eye infection 3 times in one month? It had never happened before.
I realized that the petroleum jelly was the only variable and I decided to do some research.
Apparently, even though claimed to be "non-comedogenic", petroleum jelly does trap dust particles in. So I was moisturizing my eyes, but I was also trapping any dust particles that were on my waterline. Petroleum jelly (if you are good at chemistry, you will know), is not soluble in water. Hence washing my eyes with water was not helping and the dust particles remained trapped. I also came to know later that petroleum jelly doesn't really help grow your eyelashes. Moisturizing them doesn't necessarily mean they will grow longer. Basically, I did all of this for nothing and it harmed my eyes (thankfully though it was only temporary). Once I stopped using petroleum jelly, I never experienced another eye infection despite being exposed to the same traffic and pollution and heat.

Also, another property of petroleum jelly that makes it not-so-safe for your eyes is that it is viscous. It is completely safe to use oils but petroleum jelly is thicker and has more density so it can weigh down on your lashes.

I didn't take any pictures of the eye infection just because I hated the way my eyes looked (obviously) but I'm pretty sure you can visualize what an upper eyelid looks like when it's swollen and red.

A lot of people use it and have experienced no inconvenience, but I personally suggest you do the following as a precaution if you are using, and want to continue to use, petroleum jelly on your eyelids (maybe because you want a cheaper alternative to eye creams or something along those lines):

  • Buy a baby shampoo like the Johnson's Baby Shampoo (doesn't have harmful chemicals such as sulfates, parabens, and dyes, and doesn't burn your eyes)
  • Take a drop or two of the baby shampoo and dilute it with water. Wash your eyes very close to the eyelashes (so as to wash your waterline and upper waterline) and then just rinse your face to remove any leftover shampoo
This will help you remove any dust particles thoroughly and I do this occasionally or frequently depending on how frequently I go out and it's an effective way to prevent any dust related eye infections.

If you are using petroleum jelly for any reason on your face/body/etc, make sure to use one from a known brand. Don't risk buying from an unknown brand you have never heard from. This is why:
Petroleum jelly is refined from oil and the components that are removed from it to make petroleum jelly are thought to be carcinogenic (in some cases). Before you freak out, know that companies like Vaseline are tripled refined and are non-carcinogenic. Hence only buy from brands of which the degree of purity is known to avoid unnecessary harm.

It is also advised that if you have acne or any similar skin condition, you shouldn't use petroleum jelly as a moisturizer for your face (instead you should use a water-based gel moisturizer).

Even though I believe you shouldn't use petroleum jelly on your face, there's no harm using it on the rest of your body and I still use it on my body as a moisturizer sometimes. You can use it to moisturize your knees or elbows (since they tend to become dry and rough easily, at least in my case). 
There are a lot of other uses of petroleum jelly where it actually benefits you rather than harming your body, for example:

  • to heal minor scratches/burns
  • on your hair (I've tried this!)
  • when you are doing nail art (to protect the surrounding skin of your fingers)
  • on your pets' paws
  • you can even put a little bit on before spraying your perfume on that spot to preserve the fragrance for a longer time
Petroleum jelly isn't a dangerous product, but you should just know where to use it!


  1. If vaseline is safe what can you say about VI-Jon petroleum jelly is it safe too

    1. I haven't tried any other brands but after my experience with Vaseline, I decided to make my own homemade eye cream using organic products. In fact, I might write about that on my blog soon!

  2. I was applying the vaseline on my face (the eyebrows) only when I was at school. PS: I was a nerd. ;) I mean, it's good to use our grannies' recipes, but don't we live in XXI century?.. I really love Cherish Brow conditioner which is a modern and extremely effective remedy. Same about facial creams, serums etc. Be progressive! :)

    1. I agree with you - some products out there are amazing and a good investment! But for people on a budget grannies' recipes work just as well! :)

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  8. My left eyes has swollen by using Vaseline and this is the first time...can you give me some advice on this

  9. Lol you're supposed to use it in the night. Not go out in the dusty air with it. I think anyone will konw that the consistency of Vaseline is sticky and will definitely trap dust. Also Vaseline doesn't help eyebrows or eyelashes grow. It can be used over eyelids if they are flaky. I think you were just being stupid.

  10. I really loved this article. I too have had a bad reaction to dust around my eyes. I did not use Vaseline however, it just happened. I am using Vaseline now but only on my eyelids and under my eyes for the flaky dry skin left from the infection.
    Thank you for writing this.

  11. Hello! I just came to read this after researching about swollen eyelids. Earlier, I put some petroleum jelly on my eyelids and hours later for some reasons my eye started to hurt. Just one eye tho. Another hour passed, I noticed this bump on my upper eyelid by the tear duct which it really hurts when I blink. After reading this, It makes sense to me now.

  12. My eyes are itchy from two days because of vaseline, I'm grateful that I got this article and now I'm never gonna use petroleum jelly on my eyes

  13. I did use Vaseline around my eyes it was a disaster. I couldn’t see, my eyes were so swollen that my husband freaked I still have dry skin around my eyes and washing with baby shampoo does not help

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