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What is bio oil

February 13, 2013

Just over a month ago we asked our Facebook friends what they thought of Bio oil. This was because during a game of hide and seek my youngest daughter stood up and got swiped across the ear by the fan.  The fan sliced her ear open and she had to go into surgery to get it repaired the next day. It was all very worrying but lucky for her it looks to be healing nicely and let’s face it, it could have been much worse!

Anyway, after the op the plastic surgeon sat me down and told me to get some Bio Oil and to massage it into the area twice a day for 6 months after to reduce the risk of scarring.  While the reduced scaring is important for self-esteem that wasn’t our biggest problem as much of the stitching was inside the ear curve, the bigger problem we would face would be the sun.  Scarred skin doesn’t fair well in the sun and ears are notorious for getting burned. Oh my goodness!

So, that’s why I asked the question and that’s why I’m now delving into Bio Oil.

Bio Oil

Which according to their website it is this:


Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract (Calendula Oil)
Lavandula Angustifolia Oil (Lavender Oil)
Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Oil (Rosemary Oil)
Anthemis Nobilis Flower Oil (Chamomile Oil)

RB: Calendula is soothing to the skin and contains known anti-inflammatory actives as does chamomile. Rosemary and lavender are good anti-microbial oils along with other benefits.


Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A) 
Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E)

RB: Vitamin A is a fantastic active for skin repair and is recommended by dermatologists to help treat a number of issues including premature ageing, acne, sun damage and scarring.  Vitamin E is also a great skin healer and the subject of many clinical trials which have shown it to be useful in managing inflammatory skin conditions, burns and abrasions.  While there have been cases of contact dermatitis from synthetic vitamin E this is rare and vitamin E is usually used without problems.

Oil base

Paraffinum Liquidum 
Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate 
Isopropyl Myristate
Glycine Soja Oil
Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil

RB: These ingredients make up the bulk of the product with paraffin oil being the main component.  There has been much bad press about paraffin oil much of which is technically incorrect but emotionally satisfying. This mis-information includes the fact that as it isn’t natural it suffocates the skin.  Light paraffin oil is no more likely than a light vegetable oil to do that it just doesn’t sound as nice.  However, the fact that it is petroleum-based – a non-renewable resource is a fact and therefore a completely valid reason for avoidance of this product.

Triisononanoin is another petroleum derivative but this time it is a skin feel ester and dispersant which basically means it makes the product feel good to use and makes it easier for the actives to get into the skin. Those factors make this ingredient quite important.

Cetearyl ethylhexanoate is a skin similar ester which again helps improve skin feel and skin compatibility.

Isopropyl Myristate is another ester for skin feel and spread but this time it leaves a dry feel.

glycine Soja is Soya bean oil and this is another oily emollient.

Helianthus – Sunflower oil.  As above

BHT – this is a synthetic antioxidant.  This is in the product to stop the oils from oxidising or going off.  It works really well and is usually present in a very low-level but its synthetic origin plus its ability to cause  sensitisation in prone individuals.

Bisabolol – This is a soothing active that has been clinically proven to reduce irritation and redness. It is highly effective and is sourced from Chamomile which is also present in this formula.

Fragrance (Rose)

Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone 
Amyl Cinnamal 
Benzyl Salicylate 
Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde

RB: These ingredients listed under ‘rose’ are all aromachemicals present in the fragrance.  Synthetic fragrances used in cosmetics are regulated by IFRA for their safety and are also assessed as part of the new EU regulations to make sure they are safe to leave on the skin. If a fragrance contains allergenic components above a certain level they must be listed.  While it is possible to produce a synthetic fragrance with low or no allergens it is difficult and so more and more products are having to list out these trace ingredients. This is good news for those sensitive to fragrance as they can track their chemical exposure more fully than before.


Orange: CI 26100 (Red 17)
Pink: CI 26100 (Red 17) and CI 60725 (Violet 2)

Not everyone likes synthetic colours in products. This has been added to follow on from and emphasise the branding and make the product look more polished.  The dyes provide no further function and can’t be seen on the skin.

Which begs the question – where is the Purcellin? 

Well this is a weird one.  Purcellin is apparently a synthetic version of the oil found in the preen glands of waterfoul  – a skin care ingredient popular in Africa.  The use of the name Purcellin was challenged in Africa after Bio Oil launched with this claim but the challenge wasn’t upheld and Bio-Oil continue to use it.   Basically what has happened is that the owners of Bio Oil have trademarked a blend of emollients and oils under the banner ‘purcellin’ and claimed it as their own.  This is not unusual in the cosmetics arena and isn’t particularly notable.   Not everything can be trademarked, in order to earn that a blend has to produce un-expected results better than one would expect.  So in that aspect the trademark is probably a good thing – the blend does do something amazing and is worth trade-mark protecting.  Here is their application lodgement. 

So, is this a good product?

From a chemistry perspective I would say that this looks robust in terms of patented emollients and oils, known actives and reputable manufacturing and so in terms of that yes.

From a user perspective there are a few things worth considering – the use of colours and synthetic fragrance make it potentially irritating for some sensitive souls,  petroleum isn’t great for those looking for sustainable skin care and the product is quite oily so that might put people off.

However, when all is said and done many of the people who expressed an opinion on the facebook page liked it and thought it helped with their scarring.

We gave it a go for two weeks but have since changed to a more natural alternative.  I’ll post more about that another day but in the meantime happy Wednesday to you!


11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2013 4:02 am

    Thanks for the article about this. I have to say it worked well for me on stretch marks but not quite so effective on older acne scars. I guess that makes sense in a way as the older they are the more difficult they would be to move. I thought bio-oil was 100% natural but I can see from your ingredients that it isn’t. I am curious now to find out what the other natural product is you mentioned at the bottom of this article.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      February 27, 2013 9:59 am

      I’ll blog about that next month. It was sent to me by another company to try and it is organically certified. I’ve been using it on my daughters ear to see how it goes. So far so good.

      • Nelly permalink
        September 13, 2016 12:40 am

        Hello!! I’m interested in the natural alternative too 🙂 can you send me more info or the link to the article ? thanks!!!

      • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
        September 20, 2016 9:31 pm

        I’m not planning on writing anything on this for a while as it’s not really a priority but if I do I’ll put a comment in here and tag you.

  2. Stephanie permalink
    March 2, 2013 10:49 pm

    Hi there, I have been using a natural skin oil for stretch marks by Natralia Nourish Naturals. I have used it throughout my pregnancy and has been a pleasant product to use. Bio Oil has been banned from about 6 countries for having Kerosene in the ingredients (also called paraffin) and I wish the product would be banned all together.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      March 2, 2013 10:53 pm

      While kerosine and cosmetic or pharmaceutical grae liquid paraffin share an origin they are very different in terms of their purity, chemistry and usesge. There is no kerosine in bio oil that I can see and I don’t know why it would be banned in other countries. I’ll look into that. Thanks for the feedback

  3. Drago permalink
    April 11, 2015 9:55 pm

    The present formulation dates back to late 1970’s. It uses two Dragoco products – Isodragol (Triisononanoin) and PCL Liquid (Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate, Isopropyl Myristate) – the liquid form of purcellin. It is funny to see how a classic “old” ingredient present in every lab became the subject of trademark & marketing. Undoubtedly this formulation, including the perfume, was on the market under many other names. Long before bio & organic became certifications in cosmetics, bio meant biologic. Here, the inspiration from a biological product (the preen gland) is in a sharp contrast with “paraffinum liquidum”. Today, we judge cosmetics as bad and wrong, often based on what they contain. At the time this formulation was created, this philosophy towards natural compositions did not exist.
    The soothing bisabolol used here is Dragosantol, again a classic Dragoco product. But it is synthetic bisabolol. It does not come from chamomile, but from Brazilian candeia tree. However, the use of synthetic bisabolol protects the Brazilian biodiversity.
    It is often a great difficulty while formulating cosmetics to find the way between the consumer (what he thinks about Nature) and the natural resources which are limited.

    and the link about trademark infringement

    “Turning to the facts, it was common cause that Purcellin Oil was a synthetic product based on preen gland oil of the water fowl. It was invented by Dragoco Gerberding and Co. AG (“Dragoco”) which adopted and registered the trade mark Purcellin Oil in the USA in 1963. Dragoco supplied Purcellin Oil preen gland oil to the Applicant under the trade mark for some years. However, Dragoco allowed its US trade mark registration to lapse and adopted a different trade mark for its product. Although continuing to supply the synthetic oil to the Applicant, Dragoco consented (it was alleged) to the Applicant using the Purcellin Oil trade mark as its own. The Applicant therefore registered it in 2000.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      April 12, 2015 11:31 am

      How very interesting!

  4. Monica Watson permalink
    July 28, 2016 4:32 am

    Hi, so what was the natural alternative that you used? Thanks

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      July 28, 2016 7:00 am

      I don’t but if you want something natural then I’d choose a vegetable oil that had a good balance of Essential Fatty Acids, some carotinoids and a bit of vitamin E. Something like a blend of Rosehip, Macadamia, Buriti and Blackcurrant seed maybe.


  1. Which bio oil is good for moiturizing my acne prone skin? | JConde

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