Monday, 3 June 2013

Lucas Papaw v Vaseline

I've used Lucas Papaw cream for years so I was gutted to find out recently that it isn't actually all papaw.  Shouldn't be too surprising since it is labeled on the front of the tube: contains fermented papaw 39 mg/g. Which means 4%. That's right, there are 1000 mg in a gram...

So, if there is only 4% papaw, what makes up the other 96%? Petroleum jelly. It is interesting, the Lucas Papaw website only has papaya and petroleum jelly listed on its ingredients page (see here). However,  other websites have a longer list. The wellness warrior publishes a full list of ingredients which includes:

Fermented Fresh PawPaw Fruit, Rhus Succedanea Wax, Glycerine, Petrolatum, Canola Oil, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Beeswax, Corn Starch, Potassium Sorbate (0.1 mg/g).

Apparently it is mostly petroleum based, which means that it is basically Vaseline... What's the problem with that?, you might ask. Well a few things.

First, knowing it is mostly petroleum jelly means it is a bit of a rip off. In Australia you pay on average $4.00 for a tube, NZ it can get up to $8.00 a tube. Vaseline on the other hand costs around $3.50 for 100g.  Remember that the standard red tube of papaw is 25g.  

Also, petroleum jelly may not be that good for our skin. Wikipedia has an interesting summary of the history of petroleum jelly (paraphrased below):

A chemist called Robert Chesebrough was given a block of black rod wax and took it to his lab to refine it. He discovered he could make a light coloured gel by distilling some of the lighter coloured oil and he later patented this product as petroleum jelly.  Chesebrough, a fairly determined guy it appears, travelled to New York and (this is my favourite part) "demonstrating the product to encourage sales by burning his skin with acid or an open flame, then spreading the ointment on his injuries and showing his past injuries healed, he claimed, by his miracle product" (Wikipedia).  

If the fact that it comes from an oil rig doesn't faze you, maybe the fact that the EU has banned all but cosmetic grade brands of petroleum jelly might. This article by Article Base is interesting. It sounds as though the reason many types of petroleum jelly were banned is because they were so unrefined that they were yellow/brown and contained a whole bunch of carcinogenics that are known to cause cancers. I haven't looked into what Australia/New Zealand allow but in the US pretty much anything goes and you can find lip balms that smell like petrol(!!) (check out this blog).

The end result is, I guess, that petroleum jelly isn't necessarily bad for you, but you should be careful. Lucas Papaw only uses pharmaceutical grade certified petroleum jelly, which is reassuring.

The interesting thing about petroleum jelly is that, although it feels like it is moisturising, it is actually a sealant.  So it creates a seal over the skin and moisture is trapped underneath rather than evaporating off skin.  This is why it feels like it is moisterising when instead, it is reducing moisture loss.  

Petroleum jelly is also not soluble in water.  Wikipedia recommends paint thinner or acetone as a method of dissolving it.  That's actually another thing that has put me off the Lucas.  Something that is only slightly soluble in alcohol probably shouldn't be used regularly on our skin!

After finding out about all of this, I have stopped using Lucas Papaw on such a regular basis and have purchased an organic lip balm - Suvana Paw Paw and Honey Organic Lip Balm. I highly recommend it, same effectiveness as Lucas, same size tube (just yellow) and its certified organic so you don't need to worry about any hidden chemicals.


  1. Hi there - I also just stumbled accross 'NUDE' papaw ointment which claims it has no petrochemical and is AU$5.95

    1. Hi, thanks I just checked it out online and it looks really good! Will have to look out for it!

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  2. Hi. Just my little input here
    My brother had 1st ad 2nd degree burns on his arm and hand. I tried all my other creams and stuff i have handy for my girls for nappy rash etc an thet didnt do much for him. I rememberd i had pawpaw ointment an used that, some of the angry redness an blisters settled over night. Remember this is just my say but i will always use Lucas Pawpaw ointment for anything

  3. my mouth fell off after using pawpaw ointment
    all I can do now is type :(

  4. I have used this product for years and have only juSt discovered that in fact it is the product that is keeping my lips dry
    !!! Potassium Sorbate!!!!! not GOOD.

  5. Hi there. We would love to send you our Papaw alternative. 100% Natural All Purpose Balm from Olive available at Metro SG. Do provide us with an email or and address and we will send the item to you. YOU WILL LOVE IT


    2. - email me for address pls

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    NefteGaz Consultant.
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    pr-d Stroykombinata, 4, Moscow, 119530.
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    Skype:   neftegazconsultant

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