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Petroleum and Petroleum By-Products in Sunscreen, Personal Care and Beauty Products

Petroleum and Petroleum By-Products in Sunscreen, Personal Care and Beauty Products

Petroleum and petroleum by-products are in many personal care products, including shampoos, conditioners, anti-aging creams, body lotions, mascaras, perfumes, lipsticks, lip balms, foundations, hair relaxers, conditioners, eye shadows, nail polishes, petrolatum (petroleum jelly) and OTC products including sunscreens.

Petroleum’s emollient and occlusive properties soothe, smooth, and create a waterproof barrier that seals the moisture into the skin, which means it occludes the skin and locks impurities into your skin. This usually leads to skin breakouts including pimples, whiteheads, or blackheads.


An incomplete refining process could contaminate the petrolatum with Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). There is no way to confirm proper refinement unless a complete refining history is provided. According to, “The National Toxicology Program (NTP) considers PAHs as a class to contain reasonably anticipated carcinogens; the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists 14 PAHs as probable or possible carcinogens and one PAH as a known carcinogen. A study on Long Island, NY, found that those women with high levels of PAH-DNA adducts had a 50 percent greater risk of breast cancer. The formation of PAH-DNA adducts, an indicator of PAH exposure, is linked to cancer development.”


Petroleum products can generate 1,4-dioxane. The compound 1,4-dioxane is a trace contaminant in some cosmetic products. It is not used as an ingredient in cosmetics but may be present in small amounts in some cosmetics. 1,4-dioxane forms as a byproduct during the manufacturing process of certain cosmetic ingredients. These ingredients include certain detergents, foaming agents, emulsifiers and solvents identifiable by the prefix, word, or syllables "PEG," "Polyethylene," "Polyethylene glycol," "Polyoxyethylene," "-eth-," or "-oxynol-."

The concentration and frequency of use can create long-term damage to your health.

Using heavily transformed or petroleum-based products disrupts your body and endocrine system.

1,4-Dioxane in Cosmetics: A Manufacturing Byproduct


In 2021 and 2022, benzene, a known carcinogen and cancer-causing chemical was found in widely available sunscreen and after-sun products. Benzene amounts can add up to a significant chronic exposure over a lifetime.

Another Sunscreen Recall Due to Benzene — Here's What You Need to Know

How can I recognize petroleum and petroleum by-products?

The international labelling conventions require ingredients to be mentioned with their Latin forms on labels. This makes it very hard to understand what really is in the product and to research on it. Nowadays, consumers want to know what is in the products they consume and/or ingest.

To identify ingredients derived from petroleum, look for:

  • Mineral oils (oil derived from petroleum)
  • Paraffinwax or Paraffin oil
  • Petrolatum, white petrolatum (refined form of Petrolatum)
  • Petroleum Jelly
  • Parabens’ family such as propylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben, benzylparaben
  • Words with “ethyl” such as PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, ethyl alcohol, ethylene oxide, ethylene dichloride, ethylene-diamine-tetracetatic acid (EDTA), ethylene glycol
  • Alcohol, isopropyl (SD-40)
  • Toluene may appear on ingredients as phenylmethane, methylbenzene or toluol
  • Laureth family (sodium lauryl sulfate, any ingredients with laureth or lauryl in the name) Words ending in "eth" (e.g., ceteareth, laureth, myreth, oleth)
  • Butanol and words with "butyl" such as butylene glycol and butyl alcohol
  • Synthetic fragrances almost all contain petroleum derived chemicals
  • ParaPhenoxyethanol
  • Benzene
  • Diethanolamine
  • Ethanolamine
  • Methanol and words with “methyl” such as methyl alcohol, methylparaben and methylcellulose
  • Propyl containing substances such as isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol, cocamidopropyl betaine.

Many companies have created alternative beauty and personal care products without petroleum based ingredients.

Love Sun Body sunscreens are 100% natural origin, safe for marine life without chemical filters or petroleum-based ingredients

Love Sun Body’s mission is to create the highest-quality natural sunscreens, proven safe for your body & the planet and to ensure our customers know that our formulas are truly effective and 100% natural origin, and free of any banned or harmful chemicals. The COSMOS-standard signature is a consumer guarantee for organic and natural cosmetics that you can trust. Being certified Cosmos Natural means Love Sun Body formulas contain only 100% natural origin ingredients with no chemical filters or petroleum-based ingredients.

Love Sun Body face, body and tinted SPF 30 and SPF 50 sunscreens meet the FDA standards for broad spectrum protection, and the much tougher EU standards that require at least 1/3 protection for UVA rays. Rated best for safety and efficacy from EWG (Environmental Working Group) in their Skin Deep guide.

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