Does Vaseline permanently darken lips?

by Bionic Beauty on 20.Jan.2009 · 19 comments

Vaseline can permanently darken skin

Here’s a question from the Bionic Beauty mailbag…

“I heard that Vaseline lip balm darkens lips. is this true?”

Bionic’s Answer…

Unless you’re lips are really, really light and/or lacking pigmentation, the Vaseline will probably not darken them noticeably. What happens is any lip balm (or lotion or cream, for that matter) that contains petrolatum as an ingredient can darken your skin. Think about the porous surface of the soles of your feet. Repeated use of petrolatum products on your feet soles (usually you use these products to soften callouses) can cause icky dark skin.

Not pleasant, or pretty.

Other thoughts to consider… petrolatum is a petroleum by-product, as in oil-derivative. Not something that sounds too yummy for my mouth. Plus if we cut down on oil-derived products, we’re helping to reduce oil dependency.

For Vaseline alternatives, try the following~

But if you are looking to darken your lip color, maybe try a lip stain. Those look more natural and last longer than lip glosses or lip sticks. Check out Revlon’s Just Bitten, Sonia Kashuk’s Sheer Bliss (read my review on both here), and the soon-to-be-released CoverGirl marker-type lip stains.

Keep Achieving Powerful Beauty,


1 SerendipitouslySarah January 20, 2009 at 1:38 pm

I just tried the Covergirl Outlast Lip Stain! It’s already been released here, along with the Lash Blast Luxe, and I have to say I love them both! I hate lipstick, but love the color, so the stain is perfect for me, and i can layer a balm or a gloss over it without it spreading everywhere! Total love for me!

2 karissa January 20, 2009 at 1:52 pm

check on the back of lotions, most of those listed (curel especially) contain petroleum. I know cause I love it and stopped using it because of this. sucks. but it doesn’t let your skin breath either.
look for “petro” it is hidden, like pertolatum is the same thing basically.

3 josi January 20, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Gosh…I don’t even care about the question…I just want that BOTTLE…blingtastic!!!!
No but really, who knew?

4 Bionic Beauty January 20, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Sarah, I can’t WAIT to try these lipstains. My area doesn’t have them yet. Boo. Which color did you get? I think I want the whole collection! Like you, I’m a big fan of the lip stains. They are so much easier to wear all day, plus you can’t put them under another lipcolor for even better coverage.

Karissa, You are very right. It’s actually quite scary how many of our skin care and makeup products contain petroleum. Ick.

Josi, Isn’t it great?!? I did my computer mouse just recently and my Blackberry has it’s back covered in silver rhinestones with a blue hibiscus. 🙂 I’m kinda a fan of bling. Hee!


5 TheSmileShop Editor January 22, 2009 at 12:53 am

Thank you for this post! Wanted to link this post to TheSmileShop’s Lipcare. Okey with you?

6 Bionic Beauty January 22, 2009 at 9:11 am

SmileShop- Sure! I’d love it if you linked to my article!

7 HomeSpaGoddess January 22, 2009 at 10:39 am

Where in the world did you hear this? I’ve been using Vaseline on my lips and feet my entire life and they are both the same color they have always been.

This sounds like some urban legend. A LOT of black people (myself included) use Vaseline to moisturize and I think some jerk started this rumor because of that. Not funny. Have you seen science data to prove this?

8 Bionic Beauty January 22, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Hi Denise, I do not think it will cause a noticeable difference on skin that is already dark, however light/fair skinned people may notice the change. Such as darker foot soles.

I used to use Vaseline myself before bed on my knees, feets, hands, and nose when I would be sick (you know, red “tissue nose”). Now, I try to use petroleum-free products whenever possible since I have super light skin.

Here is some background reading on petroleum and hazards-

Current Occupational & Environmental Medicine (book) by Joseph LaDou:

“Are African American Skin Products Different?” article by Margaret M. Bell:

Contact Dermatitis & Hyperpigmentation from Petrolatum, by Howard Maibach, University of California Hospital:
(Unfortunately, you have to have a subscription to the site to download the article…) but here’s a partial copy:

and finally Principles of Toxicology Environmental & Industrial Applications (book) by Phillip Williams:

I will note that most research shows the pigmentation changes are not found on all people, it’s just something that *can* be a side effect, also the pigmentation changes are found to fade back to normal after repeated use is stopped.

Basically it’s just something to be aware of- since you have no side effects from using the petroleum jelly or Vaseline, you’re on the good side. It did darken my skin and I even had some dermatitis after I had used it. But my skin has become very sensitive since I’ve “grown up”. 🙂

I hope these articles help everyone. It really isn’t an exact science when it comes to our individual skin care. The best we can do is be informed and make the best decisions for our unique bodies.

BB (Jami)

9 John Clark February 15, 2009 at 9:51 am

Hey linked to your article in one of my newsletters. Thanks for the interesting discussion.

10 Tashi September 2, 2009 at 11:34 am

I LOVE Curel lotion. I have been using it daily for years, including on my face. My facial area, including around my eyes, never have an adverse reaction to it. I don’t have many wrinkles, which could be due in part to genes. The woman at the salon who does my eyebrows is jealous (and we’re both 40). 🙂 It beats using expensive creams specifically made for the face, which I have tried (and some have caused me agony). And for around $8, a big bottle of Curel lasts a looooong time. I wouldn’t be without it, especially during Minnesota winters.

11 Darker skin is nice most peeps want it October 7, 2010 at 10:58 pm

…sorry, but since when has darker skin been ‘icky’?
Choose your words carefully.
I for one would certainly use Vaseline/p jelly if it meant I could have a year-’round olive glow! Who wants to be pale and interesting?! I’d rather be dark and intriguing.

12 Bionic Beauty October 15, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Hi there, I certainly was not posting this article to be a proponent of lighter skin or to condemn darker skin tones. I simply wanted my readers to be aware that IF they are pale skined, some ingredients in petrolatum based gels/creams/lotions can cause skin darkening on your more porous body parts (lips, bottoms of feet, elbows, knees, etc).

Please be advised that Vaseline or petrolatum based products WILL NOT darken your skin tone all over. They do not function as sunless tanners. I hope this helps explain things. I really meant no offense, but I am certainly glad you raised the questions you did, since it has allowed me to clarify my intentions with this article.

Best regards,
Jami – Editor/Founder of Bionic Beauty™

13 lenar January 25, 2011 at 12:27 am

no guys i tell you it wont darken your lips i use it every winter and my lips are always of the same color.

14 Bionic Beauty February 1, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Hi Lenar, Welcome to Bionic Beauty!
I’m glad you have had excellent results with using Vaseline on your lips. However, please be careful when stating that it will not darken anyone’s lips. The goal on Bionic Beauty is to inform readers- about new products, ingredients, makeup looks, tips, etc. And one thing that works for one person, certainly may have negative results on another. I mainly published this article to let fellow Bionic Beauties know that it is a documented, and studied, potential side-effect to their skin. That said, lips will typically not show any darkening because they are already darker with pigmentation and less porous than elbow or knee skin.

I hope this helps and I truly hope to see you around BB in the future!
Best regards,

15 tenille December 27, 2013 at 12:33 am

I had a friend that noticed her under eyes got darker after using it. She used it to make her lashes grow. But unfortunately her eye for dark so as she’s saying everyone has different reactions so it is a simple warning.

16 Bionic Beauty January 8, 2014 at 12:00 am

Hi Tenille, Welcome to Bionic Beauty! Your comment is completely correct. Everyone has different reactions to all sorts of things whether we are discussing beauty products, food, clothing, scents, etc. I appreciate your comment and also for sharing your friend’s experience.

Hope to see you around BB in the future!

17 Sam January 1, 2013 at 10:01 pm

This is a great article! I have had decent results with Vaseline but have found it hard for my lips to absorb. One thing i often do is i mix it with vanilla and crystalized sugar! I use this as a quick fix or even a nice lip gloss!

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