Ingredients to Avoid: Petroleum in Skincare

It’s been a little while since I last did a post in my ingredients to avoid series, so I thought it was about time I did something about that! Today I wanted to focus on petroleum in skincare (and lip balm too!). Obviously petroleum is in so many things that we can’t avoid it completely in our lives, but avoiding it in skincare is an excellent place to start!

Ingredients to Avoid: Petroleum in Skincare

First things first, what is petroleum?

Petroleum is, well, exactly what you think it is! Crude oil, the same substance that goes into your petrol tank, albeit refined to its ‘purest’ form for use in skincare. It’s used in everything from moisturisers to lip balms, body lotions and more, including of course petroleum jelly (aka vaseline). It’s generally a cheap, highly processed ingredient, included in these products for its apparent moisturising properties.

Why is petroleum in skincare a problem?

The reason petroleum is generally used in moisturising type skincare products is because it ‘locks’ the moisture in your skin, which makes the product feel great when applied to your face or body. The problem is though, that whilst it may lock moisture in, it does this by creating a film over your skin, often clogging pores and stopping your skin from being able to regulate itself naturally. This can result in oil and dirt getting trapped in your skin, causing breakouts and blackheads. It also stops your skin from being able to absorb any of the actually useful ingredients that might be present in your skincare product (or in other products you’re using), whilst not actually providing any nourishing qualities itself.

In something like lip balm it might feel like your lips are soft and protected while you’re using it, but you’ll find you need to apply it incredibly often, and once you stop your lips will just dry out again quickly, as your lips haven’t been producing their own moisture. It makes you reliant on the lip balm, that’s for sure!

There are a number of other concerns around petroleum in skincare, starting with the fact it is not a renewable-resource, so the less of it we are using the better for the planet. There are also questions raised about its potential impact on our health, with some refining processes not removing a contaminant called 1,4 dioxane which is a known carcinogen in animals.

For me, the fact it doesn’t do what I’m using it for, as well as the fact it comes from a finite resource are the key reasons why I choose to avoid it.

How to spot petroleum in skincare?

Petroleum can show up under a number of guises in skincare, making it a little tricky to spot. Some of the most common ways it might appear on an ingredients list includes:

  • mineral oil
  • paraffin oil
  • liquid paraffin
  • petrolatum
  • toluene

What are the alternatives?

Thankfully there are lots of alternatives out there these days, with brands generally proudly displaying a ‘petroleum free’ or ‘mineral oil free’ label to help finding options that much easier. Look for moisturisers that use ingredients like coconut oil, jojoba oil, shea butter or cocoa butter as the main ingredient – they are much more nourishing, as well as not coming from a finite resource. Brands like Burt’s Bees are great as they are completely petroleum free (and do great lip balms!), as is Sukin which is my pick for face moisturisers.

There’s been a bit of buzz recently about the fact Lucas Paw Paw ointment, that ubiquitous red tube, is almost entirely made out of petroleum, but never fear, there are alternatives to that as well. I have a tube of Suvana Organic Paw Paw & Honey which I love, but there are a number of other brands that do petroleum free paw paw ointments as well.

I’d love to hear any petroleum-free brands you recommend as well!

What are your thoughts about petroleum in skincare and lip balms?

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2 Comments on Ingredients to Avoid: Petroleum in Skincare

  1. iAllure
    August 16, 2015 at 9:07 pm (9 years ago)

    I’ve been using Lucas Paw Paw ointment for ages 🙁 Didn’t realise about its true content. Now that I know I’m going for your recommended alternative. Thanks for sharing!

    • I Spy Plum Pie (admin)
      August 22, 2015 at 8:22 pm (9 years ago)

      My pleasure!


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