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March 1950


Author Affiliations


From the Department of Dermatology and Syphililogy, Bellevue Hospital.

Arch Derm Syphilol. 1950;61(3):475-480. doi:10.1001/archderm.1950.01530100119016

THE USEFULNESS of petroleum products in dermatologic therapy has been well established for a long time. In the seventeenth century Bernardino Ramazzini,1 a famous physician and pioneer in industrial hygiene, reported, in his "Opera medica," miraculous cures with petroleum which was found on Mount Cibino, in the city of Modena, where he lived. He described the extraordinary healing powers of crude oil in putrid, foul-smelling ulcers, slowly healing wounds and a number of miscellaneous dermatoses. In 1871 Chesebrough produced vaseline (petrolatum U. S. P.) from Pennsylvania oil. Piffard in 1876 introduced this petroleum product into American dermatologic practice. Shortly after, Kaposi used it in Europe.

Since then various hydrocarbons, such as petrolatum, paraffin and liquid petrolatum, have been employed as standard bases in the preparation of cutaneous topical medications. Liquid petrolatum is used internally as a mild laxative; melted paraffin has been used subcutaneously for