Petrochemical is a chemical obtained from petroleum and natural gas. It is used in almost every skincare product found on department store and pharmacy shelves. These sneak culprits disguise themselves under many different names making it difficult to eliminate them from your shopping basket. They can be found on your ingredients list as propylene, ethylene, butadiene, benzene or xylene. You look at names like that and begin to understand why buying 100% organic products can be so hard!
Most commonly, petrochemicals are used to extend the shelf life of our cosmetics products, and sometimes to “water down” or increase the spread-ability of a product. They are also sometimes used to disperse fragrance throughout a product.
While there have been some claims that link petrochemicals to cancer and a myriad of other conditions and illnesses, this is still yet to be determined. Unfortunately, cosmetic companies and governing bodies like to take the stance of innocent until proven guilty.
It is however, very common for petroleum derived ingredients to be irritating, sensitising and very drying on the skin, not to mention comedogenic (pore clogging) as well – generally causing more damage than good. Petrochemicals are made from waste in the oil refinement process. These chemicals can be irritants at best and neurotoxins or carcinogens at worst. SLES itself has been shown to be a corrosive irritant to skin, stripping it of natural oils. It and other petrochemicals can be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane which are both “probably carcinogenic to humans,” toxic to the brain and central nervous system, kidneys, and liver, according to the CDC. 1-4 dioxane is also a leading groundwater contaminant.
What are the alternatives? While natural products are never going to last the same amount of time as a their commercially available counterparts, there are many natural preservatives that let them see through a good 6 months or more once opened. Citric acid (derived from citrus fruits), rosemary extract and natural sea salt are frequently found on our product ingredient lists.As far as spread-ability and fragrance go, there are SO many beautiful skin and earth loving oils out there that I wonder why you’d want to use anything else!