Sign up with your email address to get the latest style advice on the best in sustainable and ethical fashion.

What The Hell Are Petrochemicals and Why Are They In My Beauty Products?

Petrochemicals Are Not Good For Our Bodies

By now, we are highly aware of the questionable ingredients in beauty products and how they are not regulated by the personal care industry.  Our beauty and healthcare products are filled with toxins. Trying to decipher all of the complex syllables of these toxic ingredients is like trying to understand a foreign language. Many of these ingredients fall under the category of petrochemicals. Petrochemicals, which are prevalent in many of the items we use, are derived from petroleum and natural gas/coal.  The same ingredient that is used to fuel airplanes and cars is in many of our personal care products. This category of ingredients poses a threat to our long-term health in the form of respiratory, kidney. and blood issues. It could also be contributing factor to certain cancers. Petrochemicals can also be harmful to the environment because it takes a lot of energy to produce these products which depletes our finite resources.

Here are some of the petrochemical offenders often found in our beauty products:

Paraffin Wax.  Anyone who has spent any amount of time in a nail salon knows what paraffin wax is that warm gooey pink or white concoction that nail techs dip your hands and feet to make them soft and smooth. Paraffin wax is also used in many other products, including lipstick, chapstick, and even eye makeup. It is inexpensive to make and doesn’t break down in the environment. While paraffin wax may not cause internal or external damage to the body, it doesn’t repair or hydrate the skin and can actually clogs pores after frequent use.

Toulene.  Toulene is a clear liquid and has a paint thinner scent. It is from the tolu tree and is found naturally in crude oil. With the biggest offender being nail polish, toulene is also found in hair dyes, paint thinners, adhesives, and rubber. Toulene can cause headaches, dizziness, vertigo and can be a developmental toxicant. When it comes to nail polishes, search for nail polishes that 3, 5, 6, or 7 free.

PEG (polyethylene glycol) and it’s derivatives. PEG’s are found in conditioners, moisturizers and deodorants. It’s an ingredient that is used as a solvent, thickener, softener and moisture carrier. PEG helps products absorb better into the skin and is also used as a laxative. The cause for concern is that PEG doesn’t biodegrade and contains 1,4 dioxane which is believed to cause cancer.

DEA (diethanolamine) and it’s derivatives. DEA is a lathering and smoothing agent which is not harmful in and of itself but when combined with other ingredients can become toxic by turning into a carcinogen. DEA’s, which can easily penetrate the skin, can be linked to various cancers.

MEA (ethanolamine) and it’s derivatives.  You know how you enjoy the lather or creamy texture of your favorite products? MEA is that ingredient that makes these products become creamy, foamy or sudsy. MEA is also used in various products because it makes other ingredients in your favorite products less acidic and non corrosive.  MEA, over time may cause changes in skin and thyroid and is harmful to acquatic life/organisms.

Butanol (any word with butyl: butyl alcohol, butylparaben, butylene glycol).  Butanol is a clear, flammable liquid that is used in hydrolic brake fluid, vitamins, nail polish, soap, and perfumes. It is also used as a dissolvant for other ingredients.  Butanol is a known eye and skin irritant and is known to depress the central nervous system after long-term exposure.

EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid).  EDTA, which is made from formaldehyde and sodium cyanide, is used to help the performance and longevity of a product. EDTA, which can be found in various products including hair dyes, moisturizers, packaged foods and vitamins, prevents products from deteriorizing, helps maintain clarity, and keeps products from becoming rancid.

Propyl (isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol, propyl alcohol, cocamidopropyl betaine).  Propyl can be found in most cosmetic products. It is used to prolong shelf life and reduce bacterial growth in products. It is thought to be a hormone disruptor and is a penetration enhancer, meaning it drives product deeper into the skin and into the bloodstream.

Parfum (or fragrance).  We all like to purchase certain products because we like the way they smell. Even when a product is “unscented”, there is usually some form of fragrance in it. Did you know that in many cases, fragrance is used to hide unfavorable ingredients in a product? Furthermore, fragrance is a also used to enhance the performance of a product. Fragrance not only is known to be a skin irritant and can also aggravate asthma in some individuals, but “95 percent of chemicals used in fragrance are from petroleum.  This one word can contain many chemicals that are not listed and are likely to be endocrine disruptors“.

For more information about Petrochemicals, check out these articles.

What’s Up With Petroleum In Beauty Products (

comment [ 0 ]
No tags 0

No Comments Yet.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *