What's In It Wednesday: Bio-Oil

You've probably heard of Bio-Oil before. I've seen it advertised in the back of magazines and it's commonly found at Walgreens and other drugstores.

Juliann, one of my wonderful local readers, asked me to talk about this product for What's In It Wednesday. I was happy to oblige.

First of all, Bio-Oil touts itself as a miracle product to erase stretch marks, take care of aging skin, uneven tone, etc. It claims to have a revolutionary ingredient called PurCellin Oil that will just do wonders for the skin. The 2 ounce bottle sells for around $12. That's not crazy considering the price of other ineffective "miracle" products on the market, but once you find out what is in it and how potentially harmful it could be, you'll definitely want to save that $12.

Let's take a look at Bio-Oil and break down what is in it. The ingredients in red are cause for concern:

Paraffinum Liquidum--This is a crude oil, liquid paraffin. When you use it, you're basically applying liquid fuel to the skin. It may feel good on the skin as these products often do because they are an occlusive and provide that barrier. This really, though, serves no benefit to the skin and there are many better natural oils on the market.

Triisononanoin--a skin condition that helps other ingredients absorb more thoroughly into the skin

Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate--a benign skin and hair conditioning agent

Isopropyl Myristate--this is a binding agent that is safe, but is often derived from animals.

Retinyl Palmitate--Vitamin A

Tocopheryl Acetate--Vitamin E

Anthemis Nobilis Flower Oil--Oil from the chamomile flower. While it is great on sensitive skin in general, many find the scent causes sneezing and hay fever like symptoms.

Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil--soothing oil

Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil--a great antiseptic and antibacterial oil

Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract--calms and clarifies

Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil--a great multipurpose oil for the skin

Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil--a great multipurpose oil for the skin

BHT--Chances are you have heard of a toxic chemical being removed from many nail polishes on the market called toluene. BHT is essentially substituted toluene. It is harmful. According to the National Library of Medicine HazMap, BHT is considered to me a "known immune system toxicant." Animal studies have also shown that in low doses, that BHT causes negative effects to the brain and nervous system. This study was published by the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry in 1980 and has yet to be refuted. There are a host of bans and restrictions on BHT across the globe, yet it is still used here.

What troubles me most is that Bio-Oil is used by many pregnant women on stretch marks and one has to wonder about the effect it may have on unborn children.

Bisabolol--Skin conditioning; a terpene (hydrocarbon); can be anti-irritating. Not great, but not a horrible ingredient either.

Parfum--artificial fragrances like this are the leading cause of skin reactions

Amyl Cinnamal--highly allergenic fragrance ingredient is an alcohol, even though the label doesn't say "amyl cinnamal alcohol" as it should. Also a known toxicant to the immune system in humans.

Benzyl Salicylate--UV absorber. Does have salicylic acid as a component, which is not to be used by pregnant women.

Citronellol--masking agent

Coumarin--You may not be familiar with the name Coumarin, but are probably familiar with its relatives, Coumadin or Warfarin, blood thinning medication and Tonka Bean, a fragrance ingredients. In high doses, all can be lethal. Coumarin is found in the seeds of the Tonka Bean. Coumarin is on the EU's list of banned and/or restricted ingredients and several studies have shown there to be many systemic effects in low doses. To think that this is in here and may very well be absorbed into the bloodstream is very alarming, especially since there are links to cancer.
This is found in this product as a fragrance ingredient.

Eugenol--a denaturant and fragrance component. Highly toxic. On the EU's banned/restricted list. The National Library of Medicine HazMap calls this a "known human immune system toxicant."

Geraniol--Masking fragrance, toning agent. Known to be a strong toxin; banned or restricted in other countries; a known environmental toxin

Hydroxycitronellal--Yet another masking fragrance! A known immune system toxicant; also banned or restricted in the EU and other areas

Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde--fragrance component

Limonene--skin sensitizer; for perfume. Restricted/banned in other countries

Linalool--Masking fragrance; shown to be hazardous, banned/restricted for use in other countries

Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone--although it is banned and/or restricted in the EU, there is very little research on this and is considered relatively safe.

CI 26100--This is officially classified by the FDA as a red colorant (Red 225) and data has shown this to have bioaccumulative effects and would not be considered eco-friendly by any stretch.

The C & G bottom line? This is a major waste of money. I know it's $12 and not $70 like some other bottle of so-called revolutionary products. The truth, though, is that this is chock full of toxins. Pregnant and nursing women should definitely avoid this product. I would not use it, nor would I recommend you use it either.

Did anyone else notice that Bio-Oil's miracle ingredient, PurCellin, isn't listed on the ingredients disclosure? Legally, all ingredients must be disclosed on the product label or packaging. PurCellin is, according to Bio-Oil, a lab created ingredient that's supposed to replicate the preen oil gland of a duck. In other words, this "breakthrough" is simply a portion of the ingredients above combined into something called "PurCellin."

If your skin is dehydrated or aging or in need of TLC, may I suggest you try my DIY suggestions for dry skin? Or else, pure shea butter will work just as well. Any natural oils and butters will soothe your skin--macadamia nut oil, marula oil, coconut oil, hemp seed, sunflower, etc.


Anonymous said...

I am looking at a package of bio oil and I do not see some of the ingredients that you have listed here. I was also curious to having the references to some of the EU banned ingredients that you have listed. Thank you.

Karley said...

Sure, you may find all of the information for these ingredients from the following sources:

The National Library of Medicine HazMap, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics' Skin Deep Cosmetics Database website. You will also find information on the EU's Cosmetics Directive sites.

As for the ingredients, they are right from the actual Bio-Oil website, so I believe it to be fully accurate:


Anonymous said...

I wonder if I can get some advice as I am very worried.

I have acne and have been using Bio Oil on my skin for 2 months twice a day. My acne is bad and after washing I do have quite a bit of broken skin. I have noticed today that I am not supposed to use this on broken skin.

Terrified these ingredients have entered my bloodstream. I have used half of my small bottle. Do you think I am in danger from the chemicals? What can I do, if anything? Please help.

Karley said...


I would stop using this product. I would not worry right now. If you had been using it daily for a year or something, I would be much more concerned.

I would discontinue using it, though, on broken skin since over 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into the body.

Disclaimer-I'm not a doctor, though, so I have to tell you that this isn't to be substituted for medical advice and if you are concerned, seek medical care.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your advice. I will definitely stop using it, I just hope no damage has been done!

It's a pain because I always use safe natural organic products on my skin and just this once I tried Bio Oil as I had read great reviews. Argh! I can't believe I didn't read to not use it on broken skin. I'm usually so careful.

Again thank you for your advice!

Anonymous said...

I am 15. 2 years ago I was a self-harmer. My arms were completely covered in huge, raw cuts. When my parents found out, I kicked the habit, and got my head together. My arms however were still destroyed several months later. I used bio oil for a long time, and the results were visible, I swore by it. It is almost impossible to make out the scars, but I am now wondering if in ridding myself of my past, have I doomed my future? In the time I was using bio oil, have I done myself serios longterm damage? Miracle or a curse?

Anonymous said...

I am 15. 2 years ago I was a self-harmer. My arms were completely covered in huge, raw cuts. When my parents found out, I kicked the habit, and get my head together. My arms however were still destroyed several months later. I used bio oil for a long time, and the results were visible, I swore by it. It is almost impossible to make the scars, but I am now wondering if in ridding myself of my past, have I doomed my future? In the time I was using bio oil, have I done myself serios longterm damage?

Karley said...


First I want to give you a hug from my chair here in the blogosphere. What a courageous person you are to have overcome what you did.

I do not believe you are doomed. You are young. I wouldn't recommend the Bio Oil anymore, but do not want you to worry about your future at age 15. You have many years ahead of you to treat your skin, mind, body, and soul with care.

In the future, I would recommend a good coconut oil, shea butter, or cocoa butter product to help treat the skin.

Take care.


zerka said...

I used this thinking it was a fairly natural wonder product and my skin reacted really badly - now I know why! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I've been using this stuff on and off for about 8 years, mostly on my face, although not every day (thank goodness!). Recently I was in Johannesburg where the air is very dry and my skin got so dry it was itchy. Since I don't usually need cream on my skin the only thing I had to soothe it was the bio oil. My boyfriend rubbed it all over my body, after which I had an asthma attack, for no apparent reason! 2 days later I asked him to rub some more on before we went to bed, and the same thing happened, only this time my chest wouldn't clear and he started sneezing as well. We realised it must be the Bio Oil! I showered it all off, my chest cleared, he stopped sneezing and the Bio Oil went in the bin! And all this time I thought I was doing something good for my body!

Thanks so much for listing what the ingredients do - it seems one has to check every little detail to stay healthy these days!

joshua said...

The product states your only supposed to use it for 3 months!! For its a "Medicated oil"! And like many if not all medicated products i.e medicines there ARE long term side effects from the ingredients listed (which can be also be found in many medicinal remedies) So why on earth anybody would be splashing it onto their face for years is worrying...unless the results were that miraculous! Bio oil does what it states, doesnt harm fetus *rolls eyes* for god sake some women have an Epidural! Think about that? But you wouldnt pop painkillers everyday or douse yourself in sun block because they are respectfully made for occasional use for a purpose, theres no conspiracy. Hope I made any sense haha.

Anonymous said...

oh my
well you can thank our ever so wonderful gov for making this product avaliable to the public!

Jessica Joan Graham said...

It says for a MINIMUM of three months. As in, don't expect results unless you've been using it twice daily for at least 90 days.