10 Health-Related Uses for Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly is an inexpensive, gentle, multi-purpose product that's often overlooked. govindji/Shutterstock

When you think of multi-use yet simple products, what comes to mind? Maybe vinegar, which can do everything from kill germs in your kitchen to ease sore throat pain. Or maybe lemons, which can whiten your socks while keeping insects away from your garden. How about petroleum jelly, which, granted, is oil-based and isn't all-natural like vinegar and lemons. But this inexpensive, unassuming goo that you probably remember seeing in your grandmother's house should be in in your medicine cabinet, too. Here are 10 reasons why.

Jar of Vaseline
A smudge of Vaseline can moisturize dry skin, repair cracked heels or lips, and prevent chafing. tuahlensa/Shutterstock

1. It's a low-cost way to treat atopic dermatitis, which is a form of eczema that often affects babies. A 2014 study found that parents cut their baby's risk of atopic dermatitis in half when they moisturized them at least five times a week. All the moisturizers tested proved effective at preventing the skin condition, but Vaseline was the most affordable. Researchers calculated that a six-month supply of Vaseline petroleum jelly was just $7.30, and the total cost for the most expensive moisturizer was $173.39 for a six-month supply. And those costs pale in comparison to the cost of treating an outbreak of eczema later on.

2. It can pollen-proof your nose. If you suffer from seasonal allergies and dread pollen season, try adding a smudge of Vaseline just inside your nostrils, then breathing only through your nose. This will help trap much of the pollen. When you’re inside, wipe it away and rinse.

Woman blowing her nose
If your nose is sore from all that blowing, apply a thin layer of Vaseline on the end of your nose to protect and moisturize the skin. Stokkete/Shutterstock

3. It can soothe your sore nose, too. When your poor nose gets red and raw during a bout with a cold or flu, dab a little petroleum jelly on the tender area to keep the skin protected and moisturized.

4. It will keep cockroaches out of your home. Got roaches? Place bait (ripe fruit or cheese) inside a jar, and smear petroleum jelly on the inside of the jar. Insects can get in, but it becomes too slippery for the critters to walk and get out; it's a humane trap.

5. It's a better choice to cover cold sores. We know hiding a cold sore with makeup is a bad idea, as it will aggravate the skin even more. But adding a thin layer of petroleum jelly will create a barrier and moisturize the area. Vaseline protects the skin and is "truly free from impurities," according to the company website.

Changing baby's diaper
Petroleum jelly can prevent diaper rash and chafing on baby's little legs. George Rudy/Shutterstock

6. It's an age-old diaper rash prevention strategy. Here's the advice straight from the Mayo Clinic: "If your baby gets rashes often, apply a barrier ointment during each diaper change to prevent skin irritation. Petroleum jelly and zinc oxide are the time-proven ingredients in many diaper ointments."

7. It's also an age-old anti-chafing strategy. Petroleum jelly is a classic salve for chafing and can be applied to any chafe-prone body part; runners often use it on nipples, groin or thighs. Just be aware that Vaseline will leave greasy stains on your clothing. Here's one way to get them out.

Applying moisturizer to heels
Slather petroleum jelly on dry, cracked heels (or elbows, or hands) to moisturize skin. Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

8. It'll give you the soft heels of your dreams. When the cold winter air or the physical demands of sandal season leave your heels cracked and dry, slather them with Vaseline at bedtime, cover them in socks and wake up with softer, smoother heels. Women have been doing this for generations.

9. It works for other body parts, too. Massage Vaseline into dry, cracked cuticles. Smooth it onto rough elbows (consider wearing a short-sleeve shirt to avoid stains) like a lotion. Or rub it into dry patches on your scalp or hands.

10. It's an earring and razor lubricator. This one may qualify as more of a beauty tip, but if you have pierced ears and haven't worn earrings for a while, a little Vaseline on your lobes and the earring will help it glide through more painlessly. For razors, apply a thin layer on dry razor blades to prevent rusting.