Bag Balm Side Effects

Bag Balm is an ointment long used by dairy farmers to keep cow udders and teats supple and to treat minor abrasions. It contains petrolatum, lanolin and an antiseptic called 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate. In its distinctive square green tin, it has also become a popular treatment for dry, chapped hands in humans. Although it is only approved for animals, many people swear by it. (ref 1, 2)

Cow with large udder (Image: Milosz_G/iStock/Getty Images)

No Reported Side Effects

Bag Balm has no reported negative side effects, although if rash occurs, use of the balm should be discontinued. It should be noted that Bag Balm is not approved for human use by the FDA. However, farmers have been applying it to animals for decades with no reported problems. (ref 2)

Petrolatum Side Effects

According to Organic Cosmetics, petrolatum, a jelly form of mineral oil, can cause an increased risk of photosensitivity resulting in sun damage. (Reference 4) In addition, the Allergy Site states that petrolatum creates a film to hold moisture in, but this also keeps oxygen from reaching the skin, inhibiting normal skin respiration. This barrier may also prevent the elimination of toxins and wastes through normal perspiration. (Reference 5)

8-hydroxyquinoline Sulfate Side Effects

There is some evidence that the active ingredient in Bag Balm, 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate, can help regrow hair. A small study using Bag Balm to relieve dry skin due to male pattern baldness showed that some men started to regrow hair in the affected location. (Reference 3) There are no other reported side effects of 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate.

Lanolin Side Effects

Lanolin is a fatty substance found in sheep's wool, and handspinners have long noted its softening effect on hands. (personal experience) Some people may be allergic to it, and may develop a rash. If this happens, discontinue use. (Reference 5)

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