Is Vanicream good for your skin? – Moisturizing skin cream review
Manufacturers of this cream claim it’s free of many controversial substances, like parabens, sulfates, lanolin, formaldehyde, and artificial fragrances. And that’s true: Vanicream’s ingredient list is quite simple and transparent, containing only 11 items.
Let’s find out how this cream works and if it’s a good choice for everyday use.
Since it’s listed right after water on the ingredient list, it’s safe to say that there’s probably a substantial amount of petrolatum (Vaseline) in Vanicream.
Since the 1800s when petrolatum was discovered, it has been considered a gold standard of occlusive (water-locking) ingredients. After application, it creates a semi-permanent film on the skin that lets oxygen and carbon dioxide pass, but not water. So water, which is normally constantly evaporating from the surface of our skin, gets locked inside the stratum corneum to moisturize it.
Scientists compared the speed of skin barrier recovery after using various compounds and found that petrolatum “produces more rapid improvement in barrier function than the solvent-dispersed physiologic lipids.” So even though physiological lipids evoke deeper and longer improvements, petrolatum works perfectly as a first aid measure.
Also, according to scientists:
- Petrolatum is not comedogenic, so it doesn’t provoke acne break-outs;
- It does not enhance UV-damage. In fact, petrolatum slightly protects skin against UV radiation (but it’s not a replacement for sunscreen);
- It doesn’t cause cancer.
Vaseline is effective in treating atopic dermatitis and preventing skin infections after surgery. The occlusive film that petrolatum creates is able to protect skin against dehydration and allow cells to “concentrate” on barrier recovery rather than fight against pathogens.
All of these advantages have only been demonstrated with extra-pure cosmetic-grade petrolatum, which is only able to be used in cosmetics.
Sorbitol and Propylene Glycol
Sorbitols, along with propylene glycol, are humectants. This means their molecules are able to attract and retain moisture to the stratum corneum, which is where they settle after cream application.
Water is the key of skin ferments harmonious work and plasticizer of the stratum corneum which would otherwise crack, provoking epidermal barrier disruption. A properly moisturized corneal layer makes the skin look firmer and suppler.
Propylene glycol has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of ichthyosis and contact dermatitis. It has keratolytic, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties.
Nevertheless, propylene glycol could provoke allergic reactions under an occlusive film:
“Clinical data have shown skin irritation and sensitization reactions to propylene glycol in normal subjects at concentrations as low as 10% under occlusive conditions and
in dermatitis patients as low as 2% [Handbook of cosmetic science and technology, 4th edition, edited by André O. Barel, Ph.D., M.S., and other authors]”
The concentration of propylene glycol is likely less than 2%, but you should still know.
The cream also contains several widely used emollients: central alcohol and stearate-20. Emollients are responsible for sleeking horny scales down to the skin in order to reduce flaking, irritation, and feeling of tightness.
It also contains a preservative, BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), which can be a concern, but it “was concluded that BHT is safe as used in cosmetic formulations.”
I think this cream is great as a first aid measure. It will quickly correct skin roughness, itchiness, and irritation. However, it doesn’t incorporate any substances aimed to strengthen or replenish the epidermal barrier, like physiological lipids, free fatty acids, and oils.
In general, petrolatum-based creams are only suitable for daily use in cases where skin barrier function never could be restored (such as those with atopic dermatitis or with genetic diseases).
- Convenient package limits contact of cream with air, water, and hands, resulting in fewer preservatives being necessary;
- Based on a well-studied ingredient: petrolatum;
- No parabens, artificial fragrances, sulfates, lanolin, or formaldehyde added.
- Not the best choice for daily use moisturizing cream;
- Doesn’t contain any ingredients for barrier restoration.