Is Bag Balm just Vaseline?

Bag Balm and Vaseline are both petroleum jelly-based products used for skin care, but there are some key differences between them. In the opening paragraphs, we’ll provide quick answers to common questions about how Bag Balm and Vaseline compare.

Quick Answers

– Bag Balm contains additional ingredients like lanolin and antiseptic that provide added skin benefits compared to plain petroleum jelly like Vaseline.

– Bag Balm was originally developed to soothe cow udders, while Vaseline is marketed for general skin care use.

– Both can help moisturize and protect skin, but Bag Balm is more specialized for very dry, cracked skin conditions.

– Vaseline is cheaper and more widely available than Bag Balm.

What is Bag Balm?

Bag Balm is a salve or ointment first developed in 1899 by Dr. John W. Lyman to help soothe and soften the udders of milking cows. It helped protect the cow’s sensitive udder skin from irritation during milking. Bag Balm contains 8% petroleum jelly along with other ingredients like lanolin, an antiseptic, and paraffin wax.

Lanolin helps Bag Balm moisturize skin and retain moisture better than plain petroleum jelly. The antiseptic helps prevent infection in cracked skin or cuts. These additional active ingredients make Bag Balm more specialized than Vaseline for very dry and irritated skin conditions.

Uses of Bag Balm

While originally created for cow udders, Bag Balm quickly became popular for soothing many types of skin irritation and dryness in both humans and animals. Here are some of its main uses:

  • Chapped hands and lips
  • Minor cuts and scrapes
  • Rashes from eczema, poison ivy, etc
  • Diaper rash
  • Dry facial skin
  • Dry, cracked feet – especially calluses and heel fissures
  • Windburn and sunburn

It provides protective moisturization for extremely dry, cracked skin that needs more heavy-duty conditioning. The petrolatum creates a barrier to seal in moisture while the lanolin acts as an emollient that penetrates deeper into the skin. The small amount of antibacterial ingredient helps prevent infection in damaged skin.

What is Vaseline?

Vaseline is a brand name for pure petroleum jelly. It was developed in 1859 by chemist Robert Chesebrough after he observed oil workers would use the oil residue from drilling to heal cuts and burns on their skin. Vaseline petroleum jelly is made from a purified mixture of semi-solid hydrocarbons derived from petroleum.

Unlike Bag Balm, Vaseline contains 100% petroleum jelly and no other active ingredients. It offers similar skin-protecting moisturization as Bag Balm, but without the extra conditioning and antibacterial properties from the lanolin and antiseptic.

Uses of Vaseline

Vaseline is marketed as a general purpose moisturizing skin protectant that can be used:

  • To help heal dry, cracked skin
  • As lip balm and lip gloss
  • To soften rough patches like heels, elbows and knees
  • To protect minor cuts, scrapes and burns
  • As a facial and body moisturizer
  • To remove makeup

It is a versatile petroleum jelly used widely as an inexpensive skin protectant and basic moisturizer. Vaseline doesn’t have active ingredients designed for very damaged or broken skin like Bag Balm does.

Bag Balm vs Vaseline

Now that we’ve reviewed both products separately, here is a direct comparison of Bag Balm versus Vaseline petroleum jelly:

Bag Balm Vaseline
Contains 8% petroleum jelly plus lanolin, antiseptic 100% petroleum jelly
Specialized for extremely dry, cracked, damaged skin General purpose moisturizer for less severe dryness
Thicker in consistency like a salve Smooth, creamy jelly
Typically sold in tins or tubes Sold in small tubs or tubes
Originally created for cow udders Originally created as an oil worker skin protectant
Higher price point, around $10 for 4oz Very inexpensive, often $1-$2 for 3oz

The main takeaway when comparing Bag Balm vs Vaseline is that Bag Balm is specially formulated for extremely dry, irritated skin with ingredients that provide extra conditioning. Vaseline is a more widely used, general moisturizing product without those additional active ingredients.

Bag Balm Benefits

Here are some of the top benefits that Bag Balm offers:

  • Intense moisturizing – The combination of petroleum jelly and lanolin seals in moisture and creates long-lasting hydration.
  • Softens and soothes – Bag Balm smooths and calms rough, flaky, itchy, cracked skin.
  • Relieves chapping – It provides quick relief from painful chapped or split skin.
  • Protects skin – It forms an occlusive barrier to protect delicate skin from irritants.
  • Prevents infection – The antibacterial ingredient helps prevent bacterial growth in damaged skin and cuts.
  • Versatile uses – Bag Balm can be used on hands, feet, lips, face, body, and diaper rash.
  • Safe for sensitive skin – The formula is gentle enough for those with eczema or skin sensitivities.

Bag Balm offers medicated protection and hydration for extremely dry, cracked hands and feet during harsh winter conditions. Its versatility also makes it helpful for a wide range of other skin irritation issues.

Before and After Photos

Here are some before and after photos showing how Bag Balm can improve severely dry, cracked skin:

Vaseline Benefits

Here are some of the benefits of using Vaseline petroleum jelly:

  • Affordable – Vaseline is an inexpensive moisturizer available at any drugstore.
  • Easy to find – It can be purchased conveniently at most grocery stores and pharmacies.
  • Multipurpose – Vaseline has many uses for skin, hair, and household needs.
  • Occlusive moisturizer – It seals moisture in to hydrate dry skin.
  • Helps heal scrapes – Applying Vaseline can help prevent scab formation and speed healing.
  • Softens skin – It leaves skin feeling smooth and soft.
  • Simple formula – Vaseline has a short ingredient list with no fragrances or oils that could irritate skin.

As an affordable, pure petroleum jelly, Vaseline offers reliable moisturization without the extra specialized skin care properties of a product like Bag Balm. It’s versatility and availability make it a staple for household use.

Downsides and Considerations

There are a few potential downsides and considerations to keep in mind with both Bag Balm and Vaseline:

Bag Balm

  • Can leave behind greasy residue
  • Not recommended for use on open wounds or burns
  • May cause breakouts if used excessively on face
  • Has a distinctive barnyard smell some find unpleasant
  • Higher price point than basic petroleum jelly


  • Not formulated for very damaged, cracked skin
  • Can clog pores if applied heavily to face
  • Provides temporary surface-level moisturization that requires reapplication
  • May not penetrate as deeply as hydrating lotions

Vaseline and Bag Balm are quite safe for topical use, but you may want to do a patch test before applying them to larger areas of skin. Any petrolatum-based product could potentially clog pores or cause breakouts if misused.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Bag Balm good for eczema?

Yes, Bag Balm can be effective for eczema symptoms. It helps soothe itchy, inflamed skin and provides intense moisturization. The zinc oxide in Bag Balm may help protect against skin infections.

Can you put Bag Balm on your face?

You can use small amounts of Bag Balm on your face, focusing on any severely dry or flaky areas. Avoid applying it too heavily all over your face as it may clog pores. Never put Bag Balm in the eye area.

Is Bag Balm good for diaper rash?

Bag Balm is often recommended for soothing and healing mild diaper rash. It provides a protective barrier against wetness and helps skin heal. Consult your pediatrician for treating severe diaper rash.

Can dogs eat Bag Balm?

No, Bag Balm is not meant to be ingested. While small licks won’t seriously harm your dog, ingesting large amounts may cause an upset stomach. Keep Bag Balm safely out of your dog’s reach.

Does Bag Balm expire?

Properly stored Bag Balm has a shelf life of about 2 years. If you notice changes in texture, smell, or performance, it’s best to discard and get fresh product. Don’t use Bag Balm past the expiration date printed on the packaging.


In summary, Bag Balm and Vaseline share similarities as petroleum-based skin protectants, but have some differences:

  • Bag Balm contains additional moisturizers and antibacterials to treat extremely dry, cracked skin.
  • Vaseline is 100% petroleum jelly, better for general moisturization for less damaged skin.
  • Bag Balm’s thicker texture and active ingredients make it more specialized for certain conditions.
  • Vaseline is cheaper and easier to find at any drugstore.

While Bag Balm excels at soothing conditions like eczema, intensely chapped hands and feet, and diaper rash, Vaseline offers affordable and convenient moisturization. Evaluate your specific skin needs to determine which ointment is a better fit.

With its strong moisturizing abilities and versatility, it’s no wonder Bag Balm became a staple for dry, chapped skin after starting out soothing cow udders over a century ago! This medicated multi-tasker continues to provide relief when your skin needs some extra TLC.

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