“Harsh chemicals” is often used as a blanket term for a host of questionable ingredients. Petroleum is one such chemical. While it’s still unclear if this common cosmetic ingredient is indeed harmful, many regard it as a possible carcinogen and not-so-environmentally-friendly resource. In an effort to avoid potential exposure and take a more earth-conscious approach to self-care, more and more people are opting out of petroleum-laced products entirely. If you’re hoping to clean up your medicine cabinet in more ways than one, here’s what you need to know about shopping petroleum-free.
What Is Petroleum?
A common ingredient in many personal care products, petroleum is a petrochemical that is a derivative of oil refining, and therefore an non-renewable resource. Petroleum jelly, which is often used to moisturize and hydrate skin and added to cosmetics for lips and skin. It was first discovered in 1859 on oil rigs, where it would come up with the crude and collect on the oil pump’s rigging.
Why Avoid Petroleum?
The safety of petroleum—particularly petroleum jelly—has come into question for a couple for reasons. For starters, there’s the risk of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are formed when oil is burned and are known carcinogens. Many petroleum products claim to use a refining process to eliminate PAHs, but the U.S. doesn’t have a regulatory requirement on this. Another concern over the use of petroleum jelly is that, even though it feels hydrating when you apply it, it actually smothers pores and repels water, only making skin more dry in the end.
Tips for Shopping Petroleum-Free
To ensure your personal care routine is free of petroleum, you’ll want to read labels carefully. Beyond just avoiding petroleum and petroleum jelly on ingredients lists, you’ll also want to be on the lookout for other petrochemicals, including:
- PEG (polythene glycol)
- Ingredients that end with “-eth,” e.g. myreth, ceteareth, etc.
- Ingredients with MEA (monoethanolamine) or DEA (diethanolamine)
- Ingredients with “propyl” in name
Top Petroleum-Free Brands
Stock up on these petroleum-free buys.
This family-friendly brand goes easy on sensitive skin with gentle products everyone can enjoy, including body lotions, sunscreens, and shampoos.
Eczema and dry skin is no fun, especially for little ones. Soften and soothe delicate skin with this hypoallergenic, petroleum-free salve made with medical-grade colloidal oatmeal and zero harsh chemicals.
This family-owned, nature-based brand crafts skin care must-haves like moisturizers, cleansers, and more with wholesome, organic ingredients—and completely eschews harmful additives and petroleum.
Acure Mega Moisture Conditioner
Want naturally silky smooth locks? This ultra-moisturizing conditioner quenches dry, brittle strands with aloe, argan oil, and pumpkin.
What started with a single product in 1984 (the iconic beeswax lip balm) has since expanded to offer all types of skin care essentials, including soap and lotion. Burt’s driving philosophy is the belief that what you put on your body should be made from the best nature has to offer.
Get to the bottom of things with this pediatrician-tested formula that uses 40 percent zinc oxide along with jojoba seed oil, sweet almond oil, and shea butter to treat irritated skin.
You Might Like
Want more? Dig into the Thrive Market blog.
As if we needed another reason to love this pantry staple, it turns out that you can use coconut oil to treat a variety of skin conditions like chapped lips, sunburns, dry skin, and even acne.
Give your laundry a chemical-free spin with this easy DIY tablet recipe. All you need is laundry powder, lemon essential oil, and white vinegar for a fresh-from-the-dryer clean.
What’s so bad about parabens? We break down what goes into this controversial family of chemical preservatives and explain why ridding them from your daily routine could make a big difference.