Bag Balm vs. Vaseline: Are They The Same?

Just like the people of Westeros fear the arrival of White Walkers when the winter hits, many of us are afraid of dry and chapped skin when the winter months roll in. Vaseline and Bag Balm have been the Valyrian steel swords that most of us rely on to protect ourselves from the winter skin. However, is there a Bag Balm vs. Vaseline debate to be had? Aren’t they the same?

Many believe that Bag Balm and Vaseline are identical products that are packaged under different names. Yes, both are skin moisturizers, but they don’t have the same chemical composition. Let’s discuss the fundamental differences between these two items so that you can decide which one you should choose.

Bag Balm Vs. Vaseline: Side By Side Comparison

FeaturesBag BalmVaseline
Primary IngredientPetroleum Jelly and LanolinPetroleum Jelly
Antiseptic PropertiesYesNo
TextureThick and CreamySmooth And Slippery
AvailabilityLimited Availability Outside The USAvailable Worldwide

Details Difference Between Bag Balm and Vaseline


Primary Ingredients

Bag Balm 

Bag Balm is a 0.3% mixture of 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate in lanolin and petroleum jelly base. Previously, it had 0.005% ethylmercury. After the FDA implemented strict mercury regulatory policies, Bag Balm manufacturers started to use 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate in place of ethylmercury. Modern-day Bag Balm is 100% mercury free.

Petroleum is an effective moisturizing agent, so you can imagine why Bag Balm uses petroleum. It creates a barrier in your skin that helps to retain moisture for prolonged periods. So, Bag Balm is quite successful in preventing dry skin and making you look livelier than ever. On top of that, it was not so expensive. 

Lanolin closely replicates the sebum the sebaceous glands in our bodies produce. Sebum is our natural safeguard against dry skin. Thanks to its fatty structure, it can secure moisture in the skin even when the weather is dry. Lanolin serves as added sebum and keeps our skin moist. It’s also effective in warding off the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate can be a bit of a mouthful, but it gives the Bag Balm some excellent healing properties. The compound is extracted from coal tar and is known to have antibacterial and antiseptic properties. For this reason, you can apply Bag Balm to accelerate wound healing. However, relying solely on it to disinfect the affected area is not recommended.


Vaseline does not have lanolin and 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate. It’s basically petroleum jelly mixed with mineral oils and waxes. Mineral oils keep the skin surface hydrated by preventing evaporation. It also softens the skin and makes it more pleasant to touch. The wax locks in the mineral oils and keeps them longer in the skin.


Bag Balm

Originally, Bag Balm was not meant for human use. American farmers used it to relieve the inflammation and soreness of cow udders after milking. But soon, people started to use it on their skin after realizing it works tremendously well on human skin as well. Now, it’s used mainly as a winter skin care cream.

The presence of a proven antiseptic in 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate makes the ointment a good fit for treating minor cuts and burns. It can hydrate the wound area and speed up the recovery process. Besides your skin, you can also put it on your dry lips to revitalize and soften them. It works pretty well in healing cracked lips. 


Vaseline does everything the Bag Balm can do, minus the disinfecting part. There is no antimicrobial agent in Vaseline. So, it cannot do much in disinfecting a wound. However, you can use Vaseline to moisturize an open wound. It accelerates the healing process but might not deliver desired results as fast as Bag Balm.


Bag Balm

The Bag Balm is a yellowish substance that feels quite thick and creamy when you touch it. The Bag Balm is made of lanolin and petroleum. Lanolin is one of the thickest natural waxes. Petroleum jelly is also a dense substance. There are no additional oils to thin out the mixture. So, the end product is a thick, heavy cream.


Vaseline is also a yellowish and greasy material. However, the yellow tint is lighter than the Bag Balm, and it’s also thinner. Unlike the Bag Balm, Vaseline is infused with multiple essential oils. Wax and petroleum make for a thick compound. But, mineral oils reduce the overall viscosity. For this reason, Vaseline is thinner than Bag Balm.


Bag Balm

A medicinal smell will hit your nose as soon as you open the lid of a Bag Balm can. It might appear a bit pungent at first whiff, but it fades away over time. While some users don’t mind the smell, very few said they found the smell to be repelling. The scent mostly comes from the lanolin.


Vaseline does not have any distinctive odor. Vaseline is mostly pure petroleum jelly. It does have wax and mineral oils, but none of them have recognizable fragrances. Since Vaseline is purified petroleum, it’s all hydrocarbons. There are no sulfur compounds or other odorous elements.


Bag Balm

Bag Balm has been around since 1899. But it’s still an unknown entity outside the United States. As of 2014, Bag Balm was a family-owned business in Vermont. In 2014, a group of investors bought the company and expanded its operations. Still, Bag Balm is not a common name in the international market.


No matter what part of the world you travel to, you will find Vaseline. It’s marketed and produced worldwide by Unilever, one of the biggest companies in the world. Vaseline is such a familiar product that it has become synonymous with petroleum jelly across many parts of the world. Its global market value was reported to be $463.8 million in 2022.

Final Words

Bag Balm vs. Vaseline has been an age-long rivalry in the US market. Both are excellent skin moisturizers, but they are not exactly the same. Bag Balm and Vaseline have their own set of admirers because of their unique properties. The choice mostly goes down to personal preference in this case. You can’t go wrong with any of these two proven products. 


My name is Maria and I am a beauty blogger and writer. I am passionate about all things beauty, from skincare to makeup. On my blog, I share product reviews, tips, and tricks to help others feel confident and beautiful in their own skin. I strive to create a positive and inclusive space for everyone. Join me on my journey as I discover my unique beauty brand and share it with you.