Petroleum is found in numerous skincare and cosmetic products and has been used in the industry for decades. From lip balm to lubricants, an array of petroleum-based ingredients can be found lurking in commercial products. Unfortunately, these ingredients pose a risk to our health and our environment. We explain what ingredients to look out for, why to avoid them, and the best natural alternatives you can use.
What is Petroleum?
Petroleum is a thick, yellow-to-black liquid which is formed deep within the Earth’s crust. It is a fossil fuel formed naturally when large amounts of dead organisms are exposed to extremely high pressures and temperatures beneath the Earth’s surface. The crude oil produced is then drilled out of the ground and goes through a number of refining processes before it can be used. After refining, it can then be used to produce petrol as well as petrochemicals used in the production of plastics, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and skincare.
Petroleum Derived Ingredients in Skincare
Common skincare ingredients derived from petroleum include petrolatum (commonly known as petroleum jelly), mineral oil and liquid paraffin. These ingredients are frequently used in skincare products such as moisturisers, balms, creams, lotions, ointments and oils. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), petrolatum is found in one out of every 14 cosmetic products and is found in over 40% of baby lotions, and 15% of lipsticks.
Why should we avoid Petroleum based products?
While petroleum-based skin care products are thought to moisturise the skin, they tend to work more as an occlusive moisturiser. This means that it traps moisture inside the skin by sealing off the skin like a barrier, rather than actually adding extra moisture. Due to its make-up, petroleum tends to just cover the pores, trapping in sweat and doesn’t add any nutrition to the skin.
Some petroleum-derived ingredients may also have gone through an incomplete refining process. This means they could potentially be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – or PAHs for short. PAHs are known to have negative effects on human health, such as endocrine disruption, allergies and skin irritation, and are a possible carcinogen. In fact, the European Union categorise petrolatum as a carcinogen and therefore restricts its use in cosmetics.
Unfortunately, petroleum derived ingredients and their processes are far from eco-friendly. Crude oil is a non-renewable resource, and the refining processes it undergoes cause toxins to be released into the atmosphere. This not only poses a threat to us, but also a threat to our ecosystem. Any oil spills that might occur during the drilling process, transport or use, also greatly affect our environment.
What You Should Look Out For
Keep an eye out for these common names on your product labels when trying to avoid petroleum-derived ingredients:
- Mineral oil
- Liquid paraffin
- Paraffin oil/wax
- Petroleum jelly
- White petroleum
There are plenty of natural ingredients you can use to moisturise and soothe dry, cracked or irritated skin. Look for natural based products with ingredients such as beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, jojoba and calendula and sweet almond oil.
Our Better Choices Promise means you won’t find any petroleum-derived ingredients in any of our Good Ingredients Approved products. You can shop worry-free knowing our products are not only free from nasty chemicals, but environmental pollutants and animal testing too.