Would you be surprised to learn that of the average make-up and skin care products out there, over half contain ingredients derived from petroleum? Petroleum is a nonrenewable resource and toxic byproduct of oil refining. Although it helps to keep costs down for cosmetic manufacturers who want to offer price-competitive products while still ensuring customer satisfaction, in the long run, it can actually damage your skin.
Many petroleum-derived ingredients are known irritants and many more have not been tested for safety, which leaves us wondering how safe they really are for use on the delicate skin of our faces and bodies. To help you avoid these potentially dangerous chemicals, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most common petroleum-derived ingredients and of some healthier alternatives. The following list highlights the most commonly used chemicals derived from petroleum which you will typically find in skin care products such as moisturizers, facial cleansers, make-up bases/foundations, and body washes.
Petroleum Distillates (also known as volatile organic compounds) – A petroleum-derived chemical that enhances penetration of other ingredients into the skin, which means it helps your skin absorb more of what you’re putting on it. It’s used in acne products, antiwrinkle eye creams and wrinkle fillers such as Restylane and Juviderm, foundation make-up to keep them blendable, smoothing hair conditioners, and even dry shampoo.
Talc – A mineral silicate compound that has no absorbency properties at all. What it does is simply create a barrier on the skin that prevents moisture from escaping which can actually cause your skin to become more oily and lead to breakouts or clogged pores.
Mineral Oil – A petroleum by-product that coats skin and hair like plastic wrap to keep moisture from escaping. It may also cause blackheads, acne, and clogged pores if you’re prone to them.
Silicones – Any of a vast collection of synthetic compounds derived from silica (sand) that are used in nearly all skin care products to smooth and soften, create a barrier to prevent moisture loss, and provide a more uniform application. They also help other ingredients dissolve in the skin and give them better penetration. Silicone derivatives such as cyclomethicone are preferred for use on face make-up because they have no color or scent. Common forms of silicone include dimethicone, methicone, and cyclomethicone.
The alternative to these ingredients is to look for plant-derived, biodegradable alternatives such as jojoba oil, shea butter, and jasmine extract. Jojoba oil is similar in molecular structure to the sebum our glands produce so it can penetrate deeply into the pores without clogging them. It also helps skin retain moisture by forming a protective barrier and is actually a good source of vitamin E. Shea butter is rich in fatty acids that can nourish the outer layers of skin, restoring its suppleness while protecting it from harsh environmental factors.
Jasmine extract has natural astringent properties that help remove excess oil from the skin while allowing it to remain hydrated. There are also a number of other plant-derived ingredients like hyaluronic acid and collagen derived from seaweed or oysters which effectively keep moisture locked in with no risk of clogging pores.
Another great alternative is to use soaps with herbal extracts that are gentle enough for the most sensitive skin. Anything with tea tree oil, chamomile extract, or yucca schidigera extract is great for cleansing without stripping the natural oils from your skin. All of these ingredients are readily available in a wide range of products to suit any budget.