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by author, natural beauty expert & cancer survivor Britta AragonRSS



“But My Doctor Recommended It For My Compromised Skin?” The Dangers (and Alternatives) To Petroleum-Based Products

By Britta Aragon on April 3, 2009 | 14 Comments

Did you know that your soaps and shampoos could be endangering your health? Although cancer patients may believe that by keeping themselves clean they’re keeping germs at bay, the majority of household and cosmetic soaps on the market contain dangerous petroleums and petroleum by-products (like paraffin gel or petroleum jelly), which can have severely negative effects on overall health.

Contributing author to HealthTruthRevealed.com Greg Ciola explains the danger petroleum can present in the work place (as well as in our bathroom cabinets): “Auto mechanics are warned that long-term exposure to petroleum products can cause skin cancer and other skin maladies…yet we’re led to believe by the cosmetics industry that these products clean and moisturize your skin.” Unfortunately, many physicians continue to recommend petroleum-based products (such as moisturizing creams or ointments) to cancer patients, without realizing the dangers. The author of the blog “Avoiding Cancer One Day At a Time” adds that if petroleum products use fossil fuels (which accumulate and damage our environment), why do we want to put those ingredients on our skin?

Recent studies reported by the Chemtox website suggest stunning side effects of toxic petroleum ingredients: “Petroleum based chemicals are being found to cause significant attritional effects to the nervous system and immune system after prolonged exposure. Illnesses identified in the medical research include adult and child cancers, numerous neurological disorders, immune system weakening, autoimmune disorders [and more].”

An additional study performed by the Susan Lehman Cullman Labratory for Cancer Research found that mice—that had contracted skin cancer from weeks of ultraviolet light exposure—increased their tumor rate from 24% to 95% in 17 weeks after consistent applications of name-brand moisturizers. (Placebo creams had no effect.) Researchers believe that two of the petroleum-derived ingredients found in the moisturizers (sodium lauryl sulfate and mineral oil) promote UVB-induced tumor growth. This means that although many cancer sufferers and fighters believe they are helping their skin by treating with daily moisturizers, they may actually be harming themselves with toxic chemicals.

Petroleum ingredients appear in many common cosmetic products and cleansers, and can be listed as any number of petroleum derivatives. By-products most commonly include mineral oil, paraffin gel, propylene glycol, or PVP/VA Copolymere. Research done by the Environmental Working Group adds that, “Many of the cosmetic industry’s chemical safety assessments reveal that common petroleum-based cosmetic ingredients can be contaminated with a cancer-causing impurity called 1,4-dioxane.” According to natural-product producer Aurora Group, petroleum can be used in everything from lip gloss (as petroleum oil) to nail polish (as solvents like toluene).

Luckily, there are safe alternatives available, so try researching organic and all-natural moisturizing products that are free from chemical and toxic ingredients. The best alternatives to petroleum-based formulas are natural butters like shea and coco; oils like olive, castor and jojoba; and waxes like beeswax and caranuba. We love Alba’s Un-Petroleum Jelly or click here to make your own petroleum jelly alternative at home (only 3 ingredients needed). Other good petro-chemical-free brands are Dr. Bronner and Pangea Organics. Read labels before purchasing a product, or try researching cosmetic brands at the Environmental Working Group’s website. Check out our list of toxic ingredients to avoid here.

* Do you look out for petroleum in your beauty products? How do you avoid this ingredient, or what do you recommend instead?

Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Posted in: Hands and Feet, Skin, Lip and Body Care, Toxic Talk and Labels


14 Comments to ““But My Doctor Recommended It For My Compromised Skin?” The Dangers (and Alternatives) To Petroleum-Based Products”

  1. Berganza says:

    thanks a lot for your nice articles about health and medicine! I’ll recommend your blog to my friends.

  2. Kelli Garner says:

    Really nice posts. I will be checking back here regularly.

  3. Tina says:

    Thank you for this article. I use Vaseline on my lips, but will now be looking for alternatives.

  4. Sarah Bellum says:

    I am glad that I located this information on MSN. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. Britta says:

    Thanks for spreading the word Berganza. I hope that you enjoy all of my future posts as well – Britta

  6. Britta says:

    Thanks for commenting Tina! I’m so glad that you are making the change to healthier / nontoxic products. Please check back here for more great information. Best, Britta

  7. Ejyo says:

    Thank you for the wonderful article. Check out Waxelene, The Petroleum Jelly Alternative. All natural/organic with beeswax and organic oils – yum!

  8. Britta says:

    Thanks Ejyo for sharing this resource! I know that my readers appreciate it. – Britta

  9. Carol says:

    I looked up petrolatum on Skin Deep and found they only rate it as a 2, which is pretty benign. I am surprised! Why do you suppose they not more concerned about petroleum based products?

  10. Britta Aragon says:

    Hi, Carol. I think the reason is the Skin Deep database rates petroleum products fairly low is that studies so far have indicated long-term exposure to high amounts—such as that experienced by those who work with the product—may increase the risk of skin cancer, but no similar studies exist on the everyday, long term exposure experienced by customers like you and me. So we’re missing some data. In addition, one of the main concerns with petroleum products is their potential contamination with other toxins, which can also be difficult to study.

    I’m not sure what criteria the organization uses to come up with their ratings. What I do know is that petroleum isn’t nourishing for your skin—it can actually contribute to dryness and wrinkles. So it’s not just because of the toxic concern that it’s best to avoid—it’s also because you can find much better ingredients that will actually contribute, rather than take away, from the health of your skin.

  11. [...] “But My Doctor Recommended It For My Compromised Skin?” The Dangers (and Alternatives) To Petrol… on cincovidas.com written by Britta Aragon, author, beauty expert, cancer survivor and founder of CV Skin Labs. [...]

  12. [...] why petroleum jelly is bad then google it or read an article here on Britta Aragon’s blog Cinco Vidas The first clue is that petroleum jelly is the by-product of turning crude oil into gas. Eww! [...]

  13. Thank you for all your great articles!
    I’m always on the look out for petroleum in my skincare products. My favourite alternative to Vaseline is Egyptian Magic. It has the exact same texture as Vaseline and can be used in the exact same way but contains only pure and natural ingredients which are also healing on the skin. It’s so disappointing that there are still so many iconic products with petroleum bases around especially when there are so many alternatives!

  14. Britta Aragon says:

    Thank you for your recommendation! You’re right that it is disappointing that so many major brands use petroleum, but it’s cheap and it’s been used for decades, and it seems to take companies a long time to change. The best way we can help is to do just as you suggest—use our hard-earned money to make better decisions. When these companies start losing money on their products, they will be more motivated to change.


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