20 Unusual Uses For Vicks VapoRub

March 17, 2022 • By Benjamin Wilson
The estimated reading time is 11 minutes
uses of vicks vaporub

I remember that when I was a child and had a cold, my parents rubbed Vicks VapoRub on my chest and under my nose to stop me from coughing as well as open my airways to help me breathe more easily.

But, did you know that in addition to helping relieve symptoms of the common cold or flu, Vicks VapoRub has many other uses? From reducing the appearance of stretch marks to relieving muscle pain, this over-the-counter medication can be used for many other things.

So, in this article, we’re going to explain what Vicks VapoRub is, what it can be used for, how to use it, and what side effects it may cause.

What Is Vicks VapoRub?

Vicks VapoRub is a popular ointment that has been used for more than 115 years.

Vicks VapoRub contains the following active ingredients:

  • Menthol (2.6 %) – It is commonly used in analgesics and decongestants.
  • Eucalyptus oil (1.2%) – It is used to relieve symptoms of congestion, colds, and coughs. It’s also used in ointments and creams for soothing joint and muscle pain.
  • Camphor (4.7%) – It is used topically to ease pain and reduce itching and irritation.

Vicks VapoRub contains inactive ingredients which some of its most common uses may be attributed to:

  • Petrolatum
  • Cedarleaf oil
  • Turpentine oil
  • Nutmeg oil
  • Thymol

How Does Vicks VapoRub Work?

Vicks VapoRub is most commonly used for relieving cough and congestion due to the medicated vapors it contains. When these vapors enter your nasal passages, they soothe your cough and make it easier for you to breathe.

What Does Vicks VapoRub Do?

This ointment temporarily calms cough that occurs when your throat or bronchial tubes are slightly irritated. It can also temporarily alleviate minor muscle and joint pain. And many people find it effective in treating dry skin, acne, bruises, toenail fungus, scrapes, and stretch marks.

What Is Vicks VapoRub Good For?

This ointment is recommended for the following purposes:

1. Relieving Cough

Menthol, eucalyptus oil, and camphor are classified as cough suppressants.

To relieve cough using Vicks VapoRub, follow the following steps:

  • Rub a bit of Vicks VapoRub on your neck and chest. Make sure you don’t use it in your nostrils or near your mouth.
  • Sit upright and drape a towel over your head.
  • In order to allow the vapors to rise to your mouth and nose, make sure the clothing around your throat and chest is not tight.
  • Repeat the process up to 3 times a day.

2. Soothing Muscle Pain

Menthol and camphor are classified as topical analgesics, which means that they help relieve pain and soreness when applied to your skin.

Rubbing Vicks VapoRub on sore muscles can temporarily relieve pain. So, when having sore muscles after an intense workout, rub a bit of this ointment on the affected muscles to ease the pain.

3. Relieving Headaches

One study has found that gels that contain menthol can improve headache intensity when rubbed on the base of the skull. (1)

You can use the Vicks VapoRub ointment to relieve headaches by either rubbing a bit of it on your forehead or inhaling its scent.

4. Fading Stretch Marks

Although the effectiveness of Vicks VapoRub in fading stretch marks has not been backed by science yet, many people claim that this ointment is pretty effective in reducing scarring as well as fading stretch marks.

5. Relieving Congestion

Although Vicks VapoRub does not belong to the group of decongestants, the strong camphor and menthol vapors make you feel a cooling sensation in your nose, which tricks your mind and makes you feel like you’re breathing properly.

6. Treating Athlete’s Foot

Due to the antifungal properties of its active ingredients menthol and eucalyptus oil, Vicks VapoRub can help treat athletes’ feet.

7. Treating Acne

Opinions are mixed when it comes to using Vicks VapoRub for treating acne. While dermatologists recommend gels and creams containing camphor essential oil, present in Vicks VapoRub, for treating acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, petroleum jelly, or petrolatum, which is also present in this ointment, should not be used on acne-prone skin as this may lead to breakouts. (2)

Those who have used Vics VapoRub to treat acne and pimples report that this ointment reduces inflammation and soothes their skin. This effect can most probably be attributed to the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of eucalyptus and camphor.

8. Treating Scrapes

Thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties of eucalyptus and menthol, Vicks VapoRub helps heal minor scrapes.

However, never apply Vicks VapoRub to wounds since some of its ingredients may irritate an open wound.

Also, never apply the ointment on broken skin, such as deep cuts, since when the camphor is topically absorbed, it can be toxic.

9. Relieving Itching

Due to the anti-bacterial properties of menthol, Vicks VapoRub can help reduce irritation and relieve itching caused by bug bites or eczema.

10. Healing Cracked Heels

The petrolatum in Vicks VapoRub acts as a moisturizer when applied to damp skin as it prevents moisture from evaporating.

The effectiveness of Vicks in healing rough, dry skin on the heels may be attributed to this ingredient.

If you have this problem, apply a thick layer of Vicks VapoRub to your heels before going to bed. To maximize its effectiveness, put on socks after applying the ointment.

11. Moisturizing Dry Skin

In addition to healing cracked heels, Vicks VapoRub is helpful in treating other areas of dry, rough skin.

If you have this problem, apply a thin layer of Vicks VapoRub to any dry areas of your skin that need to be moisturized.

12. Treating Psoriasis And Eczema

You can relieve itching and reduce irritation and inflammation caused by eczema or psoriasis by applying a small amount of Vicks VapoRub to the affected area.

13. Treating Insect Bites

To relieve itching and reduce swelling caused by insect bites, rub a small amount of Vicks VapoRub on the spot of the bite. The antibacterial effects of this ointment will make the bites go away quickly.

14. Treating Toenail Fungus

Thanks to the anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of some of its ingredients, Vicks VapoRub can help treat toenail fungus.

If you have this problem, apply a thin layer of the ointment to the affected toenail before going to sleep. Also, before applying the ointment, make sure the nail is dry and clean. You’ll also need to cover the nail with a clean, dry cloth and put on socks. You can apply Vicks VapoRub on the affected toenail for as long as the nail grows out. And when it does, just keep trimming it until you get rid of the fungus completely.

15. Treating Bruises

Vicks VapoRub is effective in treating minor bruises due to the cooling sensation that the menthol in this ointment provides. This ingredient helps reduce inflammation and ease minor pain.

16. Relieving Joint Pain

This effect of Vicks VapoRub can be attributed to the camphor, which is a topical analgesic. Applying a small amount of the ointment to the affected joint will help reduce discomfort and ease the pain.

17. Treating A Dry Scalp

If you have a dry scalp, you can rub a small amount of Vicks VapoRub on the dry parts of your scalp. The petrolatum and eucalyptus in the ointment will keep your scalp moisturized. Avoid doing this when your hair is wet as it’ll make it look greasy. It’s best to apply the ointment before going to bed.

18. Relieving Earache

When having an earache or an ear infection, it’s best to head to your doctor. But, until you get there, you can use Vicks VapoRub to ease pain. Just put a small amount of the ointment on a cotton ball and place it in your ear. Leave it there for a couple of hours.

19. Training Pets

Many people claim that due to the strong smell, Vicks VapoRub can prevent cats and dogs from scratching up doors and furniture as well as urinating in your home.

So, applying a thin layer of the ointment on your couch, or chairs in your dining room, or whatever area you want to protect may prevent your pet from ruining it. However, ensure that your pet can’t lick the Vicks off the furniture. The camphor in the ointment can lead to skin irritation in animals, and in large quantities, it can lead to seizures and even have lethal consequences.

20. Deterring Insects

While it may not be as helpful in preventing bites as insect repellants, Vicks VapoRub does help keep annoying insects at bay.

One study has indicated that camphor has insecticidal properties and can be used as a natural repellant to kill insects. (3)

Additionally, another study has found that menthol can protect against mosquito bites. (4)

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Should I Put Vicks VapoRub For Stuffy Nose?

To treat nasal congestion, apply a small amount of the ointment above your upper lip. Do not put the ointment in your nostrils as this can cause a rare form of pneumonia, known as exogenous lipoid pneumonia. You can also rub a thick layer of Vicks on your chest and let the vapors reach your nose.

Additionally, to clear stuffiness, you can add 2 teaspoons of Vicks VapoRub in a bowl of steaming water. Drape a towel over your head and inhale the vapors.

Can Vicks Benefit The Skin On Your Face?

Yes, it can. As we already said, Vicks VapoRub can help moisturize dry skin and reduce inflammation caused by eczema or acne. This effect can be attributed to the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of eucalyptus and camphor found in this ointment.

Is Vicks VapoRub Safe?

This ointment is generally safe. However, it mustn’t be used on children younger than two years.

Vicks VapoRub should never be used internally, such as in your nostrils or throat.

Additionally, you should not apply it to your mouth since it can be poisonous if swallowed.

How To Use Vicks VapoRub

  • To relieve cough, rub the ointment on your chest and neck. Do not put it anywhere near your nostrils since breathing in the petrolatum, present in Vicks, can cause a rare form of pneumonia.
  • To treat muscle or joint pain, apply the ointment directly to the affected muscles or joints.

Side Effects Of Vicks VapoRub

Vicks VapoRub does not usually cause side effects. However, in some people, it may cause:

  • Rash
  • Skin irritations
  • Hives
  • Redness
  • Difficulty breathing

If you notice any of these symptoms, stop using the ointment and call your health care provider.

  • Overuse of Vicks VapoRub can cause pneumonia and respiratory distress.
  • Vicks VapoRub should not be used on children younger than two years as the camphor in the ointment can cause leukocytosis, seizures, and high blood sugar.
  • This ointment can also cause the following symptoms in children younger than two years:
  • Hives
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • You should never swallow or allow Vicks VapoRub to get in your eyes.
  • If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding or have a chronic cough, consult your doctor prior to using Vicks VapoRub.
  • The eucalyptus oil, camphor, and menthol in Vicks VapoRub can cause an allergic reactions in some people.


Vicks VapoRub is an ointment that helps with coughs. It is also used to relieve congestion as well as muscle and joint pain.

Other uses of Vicks VapoRub include:

  • It relieves headaches
  • It fades stretch marks
  • It helps treat a dry scalp, acne, scrapes, psoriasis, eczema, insect bites, and bruises
  • It relieves itching
  • It moisturizes dry skin
  • It relieves joint pain and earache
  • It helps train pets not to urinate and scratch up furniture in your   home
  • It deters insects
  • Vicks can benefit your feet as it can be effective in treating athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, and cracked heels.
  • To relieve cough or congestion, Vicks VapoRub should be applied on the chest and neck.
  • To relieve muscle and joint pain, the ointment should be applied directly to the affected muscles and joints.
  • Vicks VapoRub is typically safe, but it should not be used on children younger than two years.

Vicks in some people can cause:

  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Skin irritations
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Redness
  • Using Vicks VapoRub in large amounts can cause pneumonia and respiratory distress.
  • Vicks should never be ingested or applied close to the nose or eyes.

Sources And References

Efficacy of a Topical Aromatic Rub

Vapor Rub, Petrolatum, and No Treatment for Children With Nocturnal Cough and Cold Symptoms

Benjamin Wilson

He is a fitness trainer and part-time blogger interested in nutrition and in leading a healthy lifestyle. He writes smart and inspirational articles on nutrition supported by scientific research and his own personal experience in the healthcare industry.
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