Petroleum based ingredients can be found in a lot of the personal care, skincare and beauty products we use in our daily lives. Petroleum is also the basis for most plastics, and believe it or not, also the chemical basis for many pharmaceutical drugs. Petroleum by-products are also in topical hygiene and beauty products, and are often found in our food products as well. Especially processed foods (no surprise there).
So, it’s not just big business for the gasoline and oil industry, petroleum has infiltrated so many other parts of our lives, even in the most unexpected places. So why avoid petroleum in your personal care and beauty products?
The issues with petroleum
One of the main problems with petroleum in skin and body care products is that it doesn’t “breathe” like many natural oils so. It coats and masks the skin, which can invite acne and irritation. Also concerning is the fact that petroleum-based ingredients are often tainted with other chemicals due to the refining process.
This earth-mined oil also doesn’t contain any beneficial vitamins or fats like natural oils do. It’s essentially a “dead”, nutrient-vacant ingredient that simply possesses the properties of slickness and slip that an oil has.
So let’s talk about some of the names these petro-based ingredients go by. This way you can make educated buying decisions when picking out everything from your deodorant and face cream to your sunscreen and body wash.
This is one of the most pervasive ingredients you will see both in personal care products and in food items. This is used in food to help with preservation but also to help in improving the texture and density of the food product. Even foods like ice cream can contain this ingredient.
It’s best to avoid this in food not only because it’s has no nutritional value, but foods that contain this don’t get any added flavor enhancement. So there is really no benefit other than it acts somewhat like a “filler” ingredient.
It is also widely used in stick deodorants and antiperspirants. It helps the deodorant to “glide” better. This makes application smoother and helps the product to spread better on the skin. It also fulfills that “filler” duty by helping to bulk up the product. It serves no actual deodorizing or antiperspirant purpose.
You’ll also see propylene glycol in a lot of body lotions, personal care products like antibiotic ointments, itch creams and other skin remedies. It serves the same purpose in these. It works as a cheap filler ingredient while also bulking up the product and making it spread better into the skin.
This is the same as that big jar every household used to have. It was always slathered on wounds and abrasions as a quick way to protect the broken skin from the elements. It was also used as a cheap lip balm, rough skin soother and a variety of other purposes.
While it might not be bad to use as a quick fix here and there, petroleum jelly really doesn’t have any therapeutic benefits for the skin. It is still found in many lip glosses, lipsticks and lip balms as a protective agent. As with deodorants and other “spreadable” types of cosmetic and self-care products, it helps with a smooth application.
But why even bother when you have superior natural ingredients that do the same thing? Beeswax and castor oil both act as excellent protective ingredients for the lips. They also contain active components that add nutritional benefits.
Castor oil is rich in ricinoleic acid, a fatty acid that is excellent for skin softening and protection. Castor oil has also been studied for its reported ability to help speed wound healing. It is very thick and is excellent for forming a natural barrier between your skin (or lips) and the elements. It also stays put pretty well due to it’s high viscosity.
Other Petroleum Based Ingredients
We got through the two major ones, but this is by no means an exhaustive list if you’re looking to truly go petroleum free. Here are some others to look out for in the ingredient list: