13/04/2016 3:13 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Petroleum Jelly: Found In Many Lip Balms, But Does It Actually Hydrate?

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Beauty shot of lips, natural look

As the barometer drops so do hemlines, and at the same time as humidity subsides you might find you need a little boost in the hydration stakes on your face, limbs and lips.

But before you reach for any old lipbalm, check the ingredients first. Many popular formulas contain petroleum jelly, which is great for protecting against the wind, but does it have any hydrating properties?

"In one way, yes, and in another way, no," Emma Hobson, Education Manager for the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Petrolatum works by creating an occlusive (protective) barrier over the skin. So it does seal the moisture in, however it doesn’t allow moisture to be absorbed into the skin from the atmosphere (some people term this as the skin not being able to breathe)."

First up a little science lesson on exactly how petroleum jelly is made:

"Petroleum jelly made from solid mineral waxes, for example paraffin wax, mixed with liquid mineral oils such as petroleum. Petroleum is a mixture of hydrocarbons and other chemicals coming from crude oil, which is a by-product of the oil industry. It is made in various grades, though only the top grade is deemed suitable for the cosmetic industry to use," Hobson said.

Hobson suggests going for a more recently formulated balm that contains silicons capable of allowing external moisture to be absorbed.

"Many products now contain silicones instead that create a ‘breathable’ occlusive film, allowing moisture to be absorbed externally, as well as locking in the moisture within the lips. Therefore applying lip balms containing petrolatum are often less moisturising than those with added emollients, which allow the exchange of moisture," Hobson said.

Dermalogica Climate Control Lip Treatment, $16.

"Since petroleum jelly is a water repellent and not water soluble (meaning it’s not easily washed off the skin), it is often chosen in lip products which need to be long lasting. It’s also a very cheap ingredient for manufacturers to use versus the cost of other ingredients such as silicones. Petroleum jelly can cause skin congestion, so be cautious with it on the skin tissue around the lips. The lips themselves don’t contain oil glands, so they can’t become clogged."

Hobsons suggests reading the ingredients and looking for the likes of beeswax, vitamin E, shea butter, avocado oil, wheat germ oil and dimethicone in your lipbalms instead.

It pays to read the full list of ingredients on the back of the packing as opposed to those that are listed on the front, as that ingredient might only be featured minimally.

The list at the back must be ordered from the most amout contained, to the least, by law. So while the label may say 'peach' or 'shea butter' on the front, if it's way down the list at the back, it may only contain a tiny hint of that ingredient. Cheeky.