Did you know that Pawpaw Ointment is made of 96% petroleum jelly?

Does anyone know how to make a healing pawpaw ointment at home using their own homegrown papaya? My pawpaws are ripening and I refuse to buy any more of the commonly available pawpaw ointment since I found this out …

What? The common Pawpaw Ointment is mostly petroleum jelly?

Call me naive, but I assumed that the pawpaw ointment I was using was made up of….well mostly pawpaw, not 96% petroleum jelly. Recently I took a closer look – the only ingredient I found on the container is ‘Carica papaya 39mg/g Fresh Fermented Fruit’  and a little note on the side saying ‘Contains Potassium Sorbate 0.1mg/g as Preservative’. Nowhere does it say petroleum jelly. I thought ingredients, especially main ones, needed to be listed. 

(Note: In Australia what most people call papaya, we call pawpaw.)

A-ha – only 39mg of pawpaw for every 1000mg. I should have read closer and delved deeper. Pawpaw ointment has always been put forward as a natural product so I didn’t suspect. When I first started using it back as a teenager, you could only get it in health food stores. Now the little red tubes are available just about everywhere. It’s promoted as a great all round natural healing ointment that is antibacterial and antimicrobial – good for lots of day to day issues.


Australians seem to be addicted to this stuff. So many households have it and I imagine many women (and men) would have a little tube in their bags. 

As it turns out, there are lots of other pawpaw ointments around that do not contain petrochemical by-products –  but I was using the little red tubes and tubs of ointment made close by in Brisbane. 

I know for sure that many you have already discovered this piece of information, but if you haven’t, now you know. I must admit, I’m feeling pretty silly. For 30 years I have used it on little cuts and scrapes, on nappy rash, chaffing, insect bites… I never knew it was mostly petroleum jelly –  a non-renewable hydrocarbon made from crude oil! How did I miss that? 

What is Petroleum Jelly?

Petroleum jelly is a by-product of the oil industry and can contain petrolatum and mineral oil. Apparently almost all skincare products in the US have Petroleum Jelly/Petrolatum/Mineral Oil because it’s a cheap filler. It’s also used in hair care products to give shine.

It’s good for protecting your skin against wind, but it does not moisturise. It might feel smooth when you put it on, but it’s just on top. It cannot penetrate your skin, it is to big for your pores and can block them.

It coats the skin like plastic. It’s a barrier to lock moisture in or out – preventing the skin from breathing, excreting and absorbing. It slows the skin’s natural development and can contribute to premature ageing. 

Highly regarded scientist and eco-activist, David Suzuki, warns against using petrolatum on his website and explains why the EU restricts its use in cosmetics: (—petrolatum/). His site says that :

‘petrolatum can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Studies suggest that exposure to PAHs — including skin contact over extended periods of time — is associated with cancer. On this basis, the European Union classifies petrolatum a carcinogen, and restricts its use in cosmetics. PAHs in petrolatum can also cause skin irritation and allergies. ‘

Additional research done by the Environmental Working Group  ( that:

“Many of the cosmetic industry’s chemical safety assessments reveal that common petroleum-based cosmetic ingredients can be contaminated with a cancer-causing impurity called 1,4-dioxane.”

While the pawpaw ointment company in question claims to use pharmaceutical grade petroleum jelly (petrolatum) that is not carcinogenic. They say it is also hypo-allergenic and completely safe for all the family. This said, it still is from the petroleum industry and personally, I would much rather put natural products on my skin given the choice. I ignorantly thought I was. 



What now…?

In actual fact, I most often reach for a big leaf of Aloe vera from my garden for burns, rashes, cuts and so on. I also strap on a chunk of Aloe gel and let it soak in – for animals too. It is wonderful and totally fresh and potent. Not so great in my bag, but my own comfrey ointment is great for this.

Since I’ve been making my own comfrey lotion (using beeswax, olive oil and comfrey leaves from my garden) I’ve not been using the pawpaw ointment that much any more, but I’m keen though to learn how to make it and use some of those pawpaws that are ripening in my food forest.


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7 Responses

  1. Fiona Chain
    Fiona Chain at |

    Good morning Morag, I have been aware for a while of this fact. My darling sister, who does delve deeper when sourcing products that are good for us and good for the environment, alerted me that this particular brand of paw paw ointment is indeed mostly petroleum! How crazy!
    Good luck in making your own, I would love the recipe if you find a way.
    I will be coming to your neck of the woods on Saturday for your Garden tour and tea, event. Have a lovely day.

  2. jody borland
    jody borland at |

    Herbal Body Book
    By: Jeanne Rose
    ISBN: 0-448-12242-1

    Basic Cream Recipe:
    A 6 oz. Jar. Amber or opaque / Clear and covered.
    Label: Contents and date made.

    1 and a half oz. Solidifier and/or Solid Fat such as: 1 oz. Lanolin and half an oz. Beeswax.
    3-4 oz. Skin oil such as: 2 oz. Of Almond Oil & 2 oz. Soy Oil.
    1 oz. Herb Water such as: 1 oz. Rose Water.
    5 drops Essential Oil: 1 drop/oz. Optional) such as: 5 drops oil of Rose.

    Melt the Solidifier/ or Solid Fat together in a double boiler, or in a small Enamal Pot, on low.
    Add the Oils a bit at a time, stirring continuously.
    Turn off the Heat. Slowly adding the Herb Water, again stirring continuously until the cream has cooled
    Add the Essentisl Oils. Stir it in completely.
    Spoon or pour into the jar.

  3. Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life
    Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life at |

    Thank you!

  4. Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life
    Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life at |

    Thanks very much Angela – very helpful. I'll give that a go.

  5. Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life
    Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life at |

    Hi Fi – check out the comment below to for a pawpaw ointment recipe. See you tomorrow.

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous at |

    Wow! What a pity. I found this great page detailing which brands are worthy of our spend.
    Also, here's a suggested recipe from "The Eco Mum" that I haven't tried, so can't tell you if it's any good. She does say that a slower method would be to macerate in olive oil for 6 weeks rather than heating.
    Warm the skins and seeds (& stems and leaves if you can) of 3 – 4 paw paws in 2 cups olive oil for 20 – 30 minutes on very low heat over a double boiler. Temp should not be higher than 45 degrees. You can add flesh here too but the skins and seeds contain more of the beneficial properties. After warming the above for 30 mins, strain off the solids and add 30g of beeswax or shea butter to every cup of infused oil. Allow the wax to melt completely and pour into jars or tins. Allow to cool and set.
    Hope that helps . . . Angela

  7. Selina B
    Selina B at |

    i always found pawpaw ointment way too pricey to buy & never thought much of it anyway, plus i don't like pawpaw. i use like you now, a leaf of aloe or coconut oil if my skin has gone too dry.
    a lot of products use petroleum jelly, heck i grew up with it but never used it later in life & only used it on my eldest bubs bottom when she had urinary problems, which it seemed to help; these days i won't touch the stuff.
    thanx for the link