Are petrochemicals bad for you? You’ve decided to stick with all natural ingredients in your daily routines, knowing that what’s put on your skin goes in your body. Now comes the hard part: sorting through the list of ingredients on your skincare products and deciding what stays and what goes.
One large class of skincare ingredients you’ll do better without are the petrochemicals. These are compounds derived from petroleum or natural gas, and, strictly speaking, they’re natural—but not the right sort of natural.
Mined by oil rigs from deep under the earth’s crust, petroleum was formed when living organisms were subjected to extraordinarily intense heat and pressure over a long period of time. Petroleum is definitely a useful substance and powers both our cars and our factories—but many petrochemicals have been shown to be toxic or carcinogenic, and it’s not something you want to be eating. Or soaking in through your epidermis, either.
Why Are Petrochemicals Bad?
There is a wide range of petrochemical compounds used in skincare today. Some of these compounds are skin irritants, triggering conditions like acne and blackheads. Others may cause allergies. But it turns out the problems you see are only the tip of the iceberg: the real problem occurs when petrochemicals are absorbed into your skin.
1,4-dioxane is a substance generated by many petroleum products. It’s a respiratory toxin, a neurotoxin, and a kidney toxin, and it’s been implicated as a possible carcinogenic, too. A wide variety of petrochemicals end up laced with this poisonous substance, and the Environmental Working Group found that a full 22 percent of your conventional personal care products contained it at unsafe levels.
Many petrochemicals are also endocrine disrupters, meaning they interfere with the way that our hormones regulate our bodies. These substances are associated with abnormal growth patterns and neurodevelopment delay in children, as well as altered reproductive functions and changes in immune function in adults.
But let’s face it, even if we could do something to eliminate all the toxicity in petrochemicals and make them good for you they would still be problematic to the ethically-minded. That’s because the mining process is incredibly invasive, and the purification and manufacture of each petroleum by-product adds more pollution and greenhouse gas to our atmosphere. Petroleum is also a limited resource: one day, crude oil will run out, and shortly after that all the factories of the world will stop.
Names to Look Out For
Parabens—These petrochemicals are used for preservation, and can be found in anything that might spoil: that includes lotions, soaps, and shampoos. They’re proven endocrine disrupters and interfere with the male reproductive system, decreasing sperm count and increasing the percentage of abnormally shaped sperm. Top parabens included in skincare products are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.
Phthalates--- this class of petrochemicals is often used to improve the texture of shampoos and skincare products, and give that creamy, almost-liquid consistency you’re used to. They’re also androgen blockers—suppressing one of the male hormones—and have been linked to a wide range of health problems, including autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development, breast cancer, diabetes, neurodevelopment issues and ADHD.
Formaldehyde—here’s another preservative that has been proven to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Sometimes formaldehyde doesn’t make the ingredient list, but another preservative which contains it does: quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, and imidazolidinyl urea all contain formaldehyde in various percentages.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t cover it. Other skincare petrochemicals include:
- Paraffin Wax
- Mineral Oil
- Butanol (and any compound with butyl in it: butyl alcohol, butylparaben, butylene glycol)
- Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (for obvious reasons, this is sometimes abbrievieted EDTA)
- Anything with PEG, DEA, or MEA in the name (polyethylene glycol, diethanolamine, and ethanolomine)
And that’s still only a beginning. It’s not easy to go through your skincare labels, and even if you do, and throw out all the other obvious violators, you still might end up putting petrochemicals on your face. The ingredients in perfumes and fragrances are considered trade secrets, and can be 95.9767 percent petrochemical products. That means that even the cleanest looking ingredient list: [i.e., coconut oil, shea butter, fragrance] can actually contain a good many toxins.
So what’s the best way to make sure that you aren’t putting harmful petrochemicals on your face? Go with men’s skincare that you trust, and a company that can guarantee that no petrochemicals or other harmful substances are included in their products. The best men’s skincare set is one that cleanses and nourishes your skin without leaving any poisonous residue: clean, wholesome skincare that does your whole body good.
Our Fabric guarantee: no petrochemicals are included in any of our products.