Education, Physical Health, Wellness / Self-Care

What is Isoparaffin, and should you worry about it being in your skincare?

If you’re interested in soft skin, keep reading.

words by: Natasha Marsh
Aug 4, 2021

Isoparaffin sounds intense and aggressive but is it a red flag if it’s in your skincare products? Short answer: no.


In efforts to bring you the science and truth on skincare ingredients, we break down the infamous ingredient below.


What is Isoparaffin?

Not to get too scientific but isoparaffin is a collection of saturated hydrocarbons derived from petroleum, in the form of a mineral oil. It’s most commonly found in sunscreens, cleansers, deodorants and moisturizers. When incorporated into skincare products, it acts as a texture enhancer to create thick, creamy formulas that won’t feel greasy on the skin. Another bonus is that since it has so few chemicals, it’s not very reactive and works well with other ingredients.


What are the benefits?

Isoparaffin is an emollient ingredient, or a preparation that softens the skin. It helps coat the skin barrier by filling in the space and gaps of cracks and dead skin cells to keep the skin barrier strong and functioning. In turn, it softens the skin and helps protect the skin barrier from potential irritants.


All in all, isoparaffin helps prevent moisture loss by sitting on top of the stratum corneum, the uppermost layer of the skin.


Are there any cons?

Isoparaffin is a non-irritating ingredient but should be used with caution on sensitive skin. Isoparaffin alone is a non-comedogenic ingredient, aka it won’t clog pores, but it’s still a good idea to use with caution if you have oily or acne-prone skin. When in doubt, always patch test a new product or ingredient on your arm for a few days before trying on your face.


And now for the semi-scary part. Isoparaffin is rarely found in “clean” beauty products because it is a petroleum-derived ingredient. This category poses a potential risk of contamination from carcinogenic substances known as 1,4-dioxane. It has the ability to cause allergies, kidney and respiratory toxins. Again, this is not a guaranteed side effect of isoparaffin, but rather a possibility since it is petroleum-derived.


If you want to learn more about skincare ingredients, read up on succinic acid, the acne-fighting ingredient.