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The Hidden Dangers of Petroleum-Based Ingredients

Petroleum-based ingredients are a common component in many beauty, personal care, and OTC products, including sunscreens. According to the American Journal of Public Health, the skin can absorb between 64% and 100% of the chemicals found in skincare products. This absorption rate depends on several factors such as the size of the molecules, the condition of the skin (e.g., broken skin, or compromised skin barrier due to conditions like acne, eczema, and rosacea). 

The History and Health Risks of Petroleum-Based Ingredients 

Petroleum-based ingredients have been used in skincare since the late 19th century. Initially, oil workers used an unrefined petroleum product called “rod wax” to heal burns and wounds. Inspired by this, chemist Robert Chesebrough refined the gel found on oil wells' walls to create petrolatum.

These ingredients, derived from crude oil, are prevalent in beauty products because of their low cost and widespread availability. They are found in a range of products from anti-aging creams and moisturizers to shampoos, conditioners, lip balms, and makeup. Manufacturers favor them as a cheaper way to “moisturize” and “hydrate” the skin. However, they don’t actually hydrate the skin. Instead, they create an occlusive barrier that can trap impurities, prevent the skin from breathing, and potentially lead to breakouts, especially for acne-prone individuals. This barrier also inhibits the skin’s ability to absorb moisture from the environment, making it less effective than products using emollients like shea butter.

Potential Health Hazards

Petroleum-based products can cause irritation, clog pores, and suffocate the skin. For instance, a study published in Pediatrics found that topical petrolatum on low birth weight infants increased the risk of systemic candidiasis by creating a warm, damp environment for yeast to thrive. Natural alternatives like sunflower oil are much safer for delicate baby skin.

Far from being a beauty booster, petroleum-based ingredients can negatively impact skin and overall health. The David Suzuki Foundation includes petrolatum in its Dirty Dozen Cosmetic Chemicals to Avoid because of potential contamination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Research has linked exposure to these substances, including skin contact, to various cancers such as lung, skin, and bladder cancer. On this basis, the European Union classifies petrolatum as a carcinogen and restricts its use in cosmetics.

Additional Risks and Alternatives

Beyond PAHs, petroleum-based ingredients may cause:

  • Irritation or redness
  • Clogged pores leading to breakouts
  • Suffocation of the skin, impacting the skin microbiome
  • Contamination with dioxanes, which are cancer-causing substances

Phthalates, another group of chemicals derived from petroleum, can disrupt hormones, leading to early puberty in girls and lowered sperm counts in men.

Look for ingredients derived from petroleum by searching for:

Mineral oils, paraffinwax, petrolatum, petroleum jelly, and parabens, words with ethyl, eth, butyl, and methyl, synthetic fragrances, specific chemicals like toluene, benzene, diethanolamine, and methanol.

Embrace the Sun Confidently and Shield Your Skin with Love Sun Body

Love Sun Body’s 100% Natural Origin Mineral Sunscreens are free from petroleum-based ingredients and synthetic UV filters. Love Sun Body offers safe and effective hydrating sun protection for the whole family, ensuring peace of mind and enjoyable sun care. EWG Verified and praised by Think Dirty® and Yuka.

Say goodbye to worries and hello to healthy, happy skin with our safe and truly effective 100% natural origin sunscreens!

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