Things My Grandmother Taught Me: Mercurochrome and Vaseline Heal Everything

by Karen Miner

Image via  MPCA Photos/Flickr  / Modified by Maximum Middle Age

Image via MPCA Photos/Flickr / Modified by Maximum Middle Age


Let me paint you a picture. There's a crusty bottle of Mercurochrome sitting in my grandmother's medicine cabinet. This bottle has been sitting there as long as I can remember. The expiration date is somewhere in the mid-'80s, and it is currently somewhere around 2006. Because of my grandmother's failing eyesight, I am "being helpful" by cleaning out said medicine cabinet. At least I think I am being helpful. She thinks I am part of the conspiracy. 

If you asked my grandma, she would tell you that Mercurochrome is the cure-all solution. No matter that is has been banned for sale in multiple countries due to its mercury content... mercury is apparently the healing salve that we have been looking for all our lives. In fact, this miracle liquid was likely banned because doctors and pharmacists were being put out of business. It's all one Big Pharma conspiracy. And no, it did not belong in the garbage (or more accurately, the haz mat disposal bin).

Read more: 3 Skin Creams That Probably Cost More Than Your First Car

There are many times throughout my childhood that I can remember Nanny coming at us with that bottle. Scrapes, cuts, abrasions, burns, bites... really anything that shouldn't be wrong with your skin, Mercurochrome could cure. I don't remember how many times she actually used it on me, if ever, but I remember thinking even way back when that it seemed like a bad idea. 

Image via  Janine Lavallee/Flickr  /  Speaking my grandmother's language

Image via Janine Lavallee/Flickr / Speaking my grandmother's language

Same goes for Vaseline on acne, and this one I felt REALLY strongly about.

Actually, no, my already greasy teenage skin most certainly did not need a layer of Vaseline to get rid of the zits. Oh, but she offered. More than once, I refused the grease-on-grease treatment. Hey, maybe Mercurochrome would have helped my complexion?

Back to 2006 — I did manage to convince her to throw out that ancient bottle of poison miracles. Maybe I consoled her with the fact that she still had her trusty tub of grease — I don't remember exactly. And while I never quite got on board with her particular method of treating common ailments, in her defense, she did live to be 90 with what I'm sure was a hearty regimen of Mercurochrome and Vaseline.

Let that be a lesson to us all: If mercury didn't kill off a whole generation, french fries probably won't either.