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Vaseline Petroleum Jelly: How the famous remedy got its name

Updated on April 1, 2013
Vaseline Petroleum Jelly
Vaseline Petroleum Jelly

How Vaseline was invented

Let's put it this way. The person who invented Vaseline did not really mean it. It all started with the Oil Boom in the USA in 1858. When the immigrated English chemist Robert Chesebrough saw how oil workers put some sticky substance on their cuts and burns to heal them, he asked himself what he could do about it. After some experimentation, the scientist extracted beneficial ingredients from this substance. Applied to cuts and burns, they had a regenerating and healing effect. Robert Chesebrough called the extracted substance petroleum jelly. But the name could not become popular. How could it? It scared customers away when they came to drugstores and read the name suggesting inflammable nature of the product.

What "Vaseline" means: the name makes it all

"Wasser" is water in German, "elaion" means olive oil in Greek. When he saw that customers did not buy the remedy, Chesebrough changed the name. A clever marketing trick, you'd say. It was under this name, Vaseline, that the famous beauty product and remedy got famous and good-selling. It was under this name that it was patented in 1878. Since then, Vaseline has enjoyed popularity. It has not only been popular among patients, even though people have used it to cure burns, cuts and inflammations, but also among actresses who drew Vaseline tears on their faces, among painters who have applied it to the floor surface to avoid spotting it, and even fishermen who have oiled hooks to attract fish. Baseball players have used Vaseline to soften their gloves and swimmers have applied it to their body!

Vaseline structure
Vaseline structure

What Vaseline actually is

Vaseline is a tasteless substance that has no smell. It can be colorless or of a pale yellow color and it is fat-like. Vaseline does not dissolve in water. It is extracted from petroleum and it represents a mixture of mineral oil and heavy hydrocarbons. To produce it, they first melt hydrocarbons in the oil and then cleanse them with sulfuric acid and white clay. Sometimes, in beauty products, they would add some flavour to make it aromatic.

Use Vaseline for lashes
Use Vaseline for lashes

Does Vaseline have any side effects?

Many medications have side effects. What about Vaseline? It is harmless!

Vaseline as cosmetics and beauty aid can replace several products, like lipstick, make-up removal cream and even face cream. Vaseline will soften your lips, remove toner, eyeshades, mascara. It even has a moisturizing effect!
It is beneficial to put Vaseline on your eyelashes. They will grow better! It is good to add Vaseline to face masks, for better moisturizing. They say, Vaseline helps to fight pimples. I cannot confirm this. Try to see... Vaseline has no side effects.

Would Vaseline be popular today if the remedy's name was not changed from Petroleum jelly to Vaseline?

See results

Other ways to use Vaseline

What ways of using Vaseline can you imagine? In fact, this substance can be used in many original ways.

  • Vaseline can help make your perfume more durable. Do the following: put some Vaseline on the spots where you can feel the pulse. Now apply the perfume. You can be sure that the perfume will not lose its aroma till the end of the party.
  • Vaseline can easily replace hand cream. Just apply a thick layer of Vaseline on your hands before you go to sleep. In the morning, your hands will become soft and smooth.
  • Vaseline will help women make a neat manicure. Carefully apply some Vaseline on a cuticle along the nail. If the nail polish drips, just remove it with a cotton stick together with Vaseline. Then, your manicure will be neat and nice.
  • And that’s not all! Vaseline will help to remove the remains of lipstick from napkins after a holiday dinner. Before washing them, apply Vaseline on the dirty spots and wash them usually.
  • Thanks to Vaseline, you will not have to clean your candlestick struggling to remove the wax. Simply apply some Vaseline to the candlestick where you will place the candle and the next time your supper time with candles will be even more agreeable.
  • Vaseline will also help to remove chewing gum from the surface of a desk or a table. What a miraculous remedy! If you discover a chewing gum stuck on the surface, don’t get upset. Keep rubbing Vaseline in it till the gum falls into small pieces. Now, take it off.
  • If you have hard time opening a glue bottle or a nail polisher, follow this advice when you open the cup. Apply Vaseline along the border of the neck of the bottle, and the next time the cup will not stick.
  • Don’t forget to apply Vaseline to the paws of your pets. The thing is, sometimes their pads are dry and cracking. Your pets will be grateful to you for this.

Apply Vaseline to the pads of your pet's paws to prevent them from cracking
Apply Vaseline to the pads of your pet's paws to prevent them from cracking

Think of this: if it was not for the name... what would become of Vaseline today?


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Hospitals are using vaseline instead of antibiotic cream. People are often allergic to fancy stuff.

    • avorodisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna Sidorova 

      7 years ago from Russia

      You are welcome. It was fun writing. Just a little discovery about something familiar:)

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      Truly informative, avorodisa. I didn't know the history and the detail into the properties of Vaseline. This is a great read, well put together. Thanks you!

    • avorodisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna Sidorova 

      7 years ago from Russia

      Schatzie, thank you for the sweet comment!

    • Schatzie Speaks profile image

      Schatzie Speaks 

      7 years ago

      I never knew this, intriguing! It just shows you the power of labeling and marketing! And getting perfume to last longer and keep a pet's paws from cracking are uses I would never have considered! Thank you, you have helped me smell better and relieved my pet's discomfort. ;)

    • avorodisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna Sidorova 

      7 years ago from Russia

      Thank you for reading. Truly, simple things surrounding us can be very useful in many ways.

    • avorodisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna Sidorova 

      7 years ago from Russia

      Chris Hugh. Thank you for adding this precious comment! And thanks for the warning!

    • PatriciaTL profile image

      Patricia T Lowe 

      7 years ago from Lehigh Valley

      Interesting! I wasn't aware of all the ways Vaseline could be used.

    • profile image

      Chris Hugh 

      7 years ago

      One thing about Vaseline, it is super flammable, so be aware of that. Good hub, so interesting to learn all this about a product that's so much a part of life one doesn't even think about it.


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