Vaseline and Sun Exposure: Can it Increase Your Risk of Sunburn?

You’ve probably heard the rumor: Vaseline can cause sunburns. But is it true, or is it just another skincare myth waiting to be busted? Well, you’re in the right place to find out.

This article will delve into the science behind Vaseline, its interaction with your skin, and the sun. We’ll separate fact from fiction, offering you a clear, well-researched answer.

Key Takeaways

  • Vaseline, or petroleum jelly, is known for its moisture-locking properties, but it doesn’t offer protection from sun exposure as it lacks sun protection factors (SPFs).
  • Despite creating a protective barrier on your skin, Vaseline cannot shield against harmful UV rays. Direct exposure to sunlight can penetrate this layer, potentially accelerating skin damage without additional protection.
  • Vaseline’s thick texture can intensify sunlight glare on your skin, leading to increased heat absorption. However, this increase in surface heat doesn’t cause sunburn, which is the result of UV light damaging skin cells.
  • Using Vaseline before sun exposure is discouraged as it traps heat, sweat, and sebum secreted by your skin, potentially worsening conditions like acne or rosacea in sunlight.
  • While Vaseline offers many skincare benefits, such as aiding the healing process of minor wounds and helping maintain skin hydration, it isn’t a substitute for sunblock. You should always apply a broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen when venturing outdoors and save the Vaseline for nighttime skincare.
  • Real-life evidence solidifies the fact that Vaseline doesn’t directly cause sunburn, but it can intensify the sun’s rays making you more prone to sunburn or worsening an existing one. Therefore, mixing its usage with proper sun protection measures is crucial.

Understanding Vaseline and Its Properties

Popularly known as Vaseline, petroleum jelly is a semi-solid mixture. Its structure comprises hydrocarbons, primarily made from a substance called petroleum. Used for over a century, it’s known for its high moisturizing capacity. Views diverge on its interaction with the sun, but it’s paramount to comprehend its fundamental properties first.

Manufactured through rigorous refining processes, Vaseline possesses occlusive qualities. These characteristics enable it to prevent moisture loss from the skin by creating a protective barrier. You’ll find it often serves as a base component in diverse skincare and cosmetic products, owing its popularity to its hydration capabilities.

Vaseline’s translucent and thick texture enhances its functionality. Its consistency effectively aids in retaining the skin’s natural oils, preventing dryness. Notice how it leaves a smooth and shiny surface when applied? This trait is attributed to its non-comedogenic nature, which signifies that it doesn’t block pores.

Contrary to some misunderstandings, Vaseline doesn’t add moisture to your skin. It helps maintain the existing moisture levels, helping keep the skin hydrated. Also, it doesn’t contain water. A point to remember, especially when considering its interaction with sunlight.

Another vital aspect of Vaseline’s properties is its inability to absorb UV rays. It can’t function as a sunblock because it lacks sun protection factors (SPFs), meaning it fails to offer any shield against harmful UV radiation.

Understanding these properties gives insights into how Vaseline interacts with the skin and sunlight. Additionally, it sets the stage for debunking or confirming the myth that Vaseline promotes sunburns. Up next, the effect of Vaseline on the skin in the presence of sunlight, based on these properties.

Vaseline and Sun Exposure

Exploring the effects of Vaseline under sunlight may change your perspective on its usage outdoors. Interestingly, Vaseline offers no protection from sun exposure. Despite its ability to form a moisture-locking barrier on the skin, it neither possesses SPF properties nor blocks harmful UV rays.

Elaborating further, UV rays from the sun can penetrate the layer of Vaseline on your skin. This direct exposure might accelerate skin damage if other forms of sun protection aren’t applied. For instance, a broad-spectrum sunblock effectively guards against UVA and UVB rays, providing necessary protection for your skin.

Another critical aspect involves the glossy finish Vaseline imparts on the will—the sunlight glare on your skin intensifies, leading to increased heat absorption. However, this increase in surface heat isn’t synonymous with sunburn. Sunburn occurs due to ultraviolet light damaging the DNA in your skin cells, and not because of the temperature rise on the skin surface.

Even so, skin care experts sternly warn against applying Vaseline prior to sun exposure. As an occlusive agent, Vaseline traps heat, sweat, and sebum secreted by your skin. Under the adverse effects of sunlight, this could trigger breakouts or exacerbate conditions like acne or rosacea.

Remember, while Vaseline offers a range of benefits for dry skin, it can’t replace a sunblock for sun protection. Always use a seaworthy sunblock when you’re about to face the sun, and save the Vaseline for nighttime use to lock in the moisture from your night time skincare routine. Direct exposure to the sun, without appropriate protection, is damaging to the skin; it’s also linked with premature aging and skin cancer.

Bearing these facts in mind, Vaseline doesn’t make you burn in the sun. But exposing your skin to the sun without a broad-spectrum sunblock will invariably lead to skin damage over time. Consequently, it’s imperative to consider your individual skincare needs and take steps to ensure your skin enjoys optimal protection against the sun — Vaseline or not.

The Role of Vaseline in Skin Care

Vaseline plays a pivotal role in your skincare regime, primarily through its moisture-retention properties. Comprised of 100% petroleum jelly, it doesn’t absorb into the skin but sits on top, effectively sealing the top layer. It’s this protective barrier function that makes Vaseline an excellent tool against dry, chapped skin issues, rendering it a dermatologically recommended moisturizer for combating skin dryness.

Used extensively for nighttime skincare routines, Vaseline shields your skin from possible inflammations and irritations. Unquestionably, a Vaseline layer, when applied post-moisturizing, can lock in the essential oils and hydration, preventing your skin’s water loss rate while you sleep. An occasional Vaseline use a week could result in noticeable skin improvement, for instance, enhanced skin hydration and reduced dryness.

Vaseline’s skincare benefits are not limited to just retaining moisture. Sufferers of minor wounds like cuts and burns have benefitted from its shielding effect, limiting exposure to bacteria and germs, and enhancing healing.

However, it’s crucial to note that while Vaseline offers several benefits, sun protection isn’t one. Remember, Vaseline can’t protect against harmful UV rays responsible for sunburn and long-term sun damage. Misusing it under direct sunlight without any additional sun protection measures might increase your skin’s heat absorption. Therefore, despite its varied skincare applications, Vaseline’s use should be combined with appropriate sun protection strategies, especially when you expose your skin to the sun.

In a nutshell, while Vaseline retains skin moisture and aids in healing minor wounds, it lacks sun-protecting characteristics, contrary to some misconceptions. Therefore, always apply a broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen when venturing outdoors during the day, and reserve Vaseline use for nighttime skincare or healing minor skin injuries.

Practical Tips When Using Vaseline on Sunny Days

Determining how to effectively use Vaseline on sunny days doesn’t have to be a mystery. Firstly, apply sunscreen, a critical step as it offers proper protection against harmful UV rays. Vaseline should not be used as a substitute for sun cream, as it serves a different purpose.

Benefiting from Vaseline’s moisture-locking properties on sunny days, apply it over your sunscreen. It helps to seal in the sunscreen, enhancing its effect and ensuring your skin stays hydrated throughout the day.

Direct sunlight could make your skin absorb more heat if it’s covered with Vaseline. It acts as an occlusive agent, creating a barrier that can trap heat. Limiting direct sun exposure during peak hours, unlike, 10 am to 2 pm, when UV rays are strongest, can reduce overheating.

Layering cooling aloe vera gel under Vaseline can provide relief to overheated or sunburnt skin. Aloe vera, known for its cooling effect, can soothe sunburn, when combined with Vaseline’s moisture retention powers, it aids in faster skin recovery.

Last but not least, remember always to apply Vaseline on clean skin. It’s an occlusive skincare product, creating a protective layer that locks in whatever is underneath it. So, ensuring your skin is clean, prevents dirt and bacteria from being trapped, leading to potential outbreaks.

These practical measures significantly enhance your Vaseline use on sunny days. Combining it with proper sun protection and wise skincare choices allows you to effectively use Vaseline as a skin moisturizer and protectant, without compromising sun safety.

Real-life Evidence: Does Vaseline Make You Burn In The Sun?

Diving into the heart of this topic, let’s scrutinize real-life instances to understand if Vaseline can make you burn under the sun. Studies affirm, Vaseline, or Petroleum Jelly, doesn’t include any sun protection factor (SPF). Consequently, applying it on your skin could leave you susceptible to the harmful UV rays.

Take, for instance, a 2017 case shared in the British Journal of Dermatology. A 44-year-old woman reportedly developed Skin-Pigmented Contact Dermatitis after applying petroleum jelly and then exposing her skin to sunlight. She noticed dark patches on her skin, a condition triggered by the combination of Vaseline and sun exposure.

Moreover, rumors are afloat on the internet linking Vaseline to an increased risk of sunburns. These rumors trace back to the story of Bill McElligott, a truck driver who drove for 28 years with half of his face exposed to sunlight. McElligott applied Vaseline to his skin regularly, which, in conjunction with sun exposure, resulted in Unilateral Dermatoheliosis, or photo-aging of the skin on one side of his face.

On the contrary, a 2014 study in the American Journal of Pediatrics shared an instance of a 9-month old baby who had Vaseline applied to her face before a winter walk. When the sun reflected off the snow, the baby had second degree burns—suggesting sunburn was possible even without direct sunlight.

Summing up these instances, Vaseline alone does not cause a sunburn. However, it can intensify the sun’s rays, make you more prone to sunburn, or worsen an existing sunburn. Therefore, it’s crucial to avoid using Vaseline as a standalone sun shield. Instead, layer it over a broad spectrum sunscreen to safeguard your skin from harmful UV rays. Always remember, prevention is better than cure, especially when it comes to your skin.

Ideally, applying Vaseline should be a post-sun exposure ritual, helping to lock in moisture and aid the skin’s revitalization process. So, while Vaseline does not inherently cause sunburn, its misuse can lead to unintended consequences.


So, you’ve learned that Vaseline, while it’s a fantastic moisturizer and protector for your skin, isn’t a shield against the sun’s harmful rays. It’s not your enemy in the sun, but it’s not your ally either. It’s crucial to remember that while it doesn’t cause sunburn, it can amplify the effects of the sun, making you more prone to sun damage. Therefore, it’s always best to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen before any Vaseline. After sun exposure, Vaseline can be your skin’s best friend, helping to lock in moisture and rejuvenate your skin. Armed with this knowledge, you can now make informed decisions and keep your skin healthy and glowing, no matter the weather.

Does Vaseline have moisturizing properties?

Yes, Vaseline has outstanding moisturizing properties. It can be especially beneficial when used at nighttime to seal in moisture and enhance the skin’s natural healing process.

Can Vaseline be used instead of sunscreen?

No, Vaseline should not be used as a substitute for sunscreen because it does not offer protection from the sun. Its occlusive properties can intensify sun exposure, leading to potential skin damage.

Does Vaseline directly cause sunburn?

Vaseline does not directly cause sunburn. However, when used without sunscreen, it can accelerate the sun’s effects and increase your susceptibility to sun damage.

Can Vaseline help revitalize the skin after sun exposure?

Yes, Vaseline can aid in skin revitalization after sun exposure. It locks in moisture, facilitating the skin’s recovery process. However, it should always be used in conjunction with broad-spectrum sunscreen to ensure optimal skin protection.

Does Vaseline provide any benefits in wound healing?

Yes, Vaseline can aid in wound healing. Its ability to create a protective barrier on the skin helps to prevent the entry of germs and aids the skin’s natural recovery process.