I get it. When we find out that something upsetting, like how petroleum-based products that we've always used our whole life are actually bad for us, we become scared and overwhelmed. We can feel anxious, and worry that we've already done the damage because we've been using those products for a long time. It's okay. Now that we know what's better for us, we can focus on making healthy changes from this point on. There's always time to start over! Each minute is a new opportunity to try again.
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What is Petroleum
Petroleum—paraffin, petrolatum, mineral oil—is created through the oil refining process that turns crude oil into the same liquid that we put in our lawnmowers and machinery. Crude oil is toxic and though petroleum is refined crude oil, it is not any less toxic in this respect. We, then, put it in all sorts of products from our shampoo to baby bath soap. We put it on our lips and eyelids, bringing it precariously close to vulnerable parts of our bodies.
Petroleum products have been valued for its ability to sit on top of skin and lock moisture in. It also helps to make certain products spread on more smoothly and improve its texture. It’s a great filler product. However, are all the benefits worth the price to pay when we continually expose ourselves to its toxins? Especially when there are many healthier and safer products out there that can provide practically the same benefits, maybe even more?
Why is it bad?
Though petroleum jelly locks in moisture, it plugs up pores completely, preventing any bacteria from being expelled from skin and keeping skin devoid of nutrients. Petroleum jelly does not have any nutrients on its own and as it blocks our pores, our skin rapidly releases its own moisture and nutrients to compensate, breaking down collagen (making us look older) and speeding up skin degeneration.
Furthermore, petroleum cannot be metabolized in the body, meaning it cannot be readily processed then removed in natural ways like through sweat or human waste. Instead, it remains in the body, just hanging out and releasing toxins as it waits to finally, eventually, leave the body.
It contains xenoestrogen, a chemical that increases estrogen in the body whether you are a man or a woman. Too much estrogen—called estrogen dominance—leads to problems such as infertility, menstrual issues, autoimmune problems, allergies, sleep disruption, and some cancers.
Remember when we demanded BPA to be removed from plastic water bottles? It was because it contained chemicals like xenoestrogens and caused health problems. So why are we keeping it in products we put on our bodies?
What can we do?
Avoid products that list petroleum, petrolatum, paraffin, or mineral oil as part of its ingredient list.
Take the time to read everything on the bottle. Petroleum can lurk in the most unexpected places!
Request alternative products at your store if they only carry petroleum-based products. It sounds like a pain, but I’ve tried it and it works. Stores really do take your requests into account!
What are alternatives?
Petroleum products are devoid of nutrients. They don’t have anything good that it can give your skin. These other products are filled with nutrients and minerals that can benefit your skin making them cleaner and clearer in many ways!
Shea Butter: This is a natural product found easily and affordably in many stores. It has fatty acids good for anti-aging, and vitamins A, E, and F that boosts skin regeneration, healing, and health. You can use it on your skin or in your hair.
Cocoa Butter: Who wouldn’t want to smell like cocoa! This has tons of fatty acids and antioxidants and has been shown to reduce stretch marks and scarring. Anti-aging is a big benefit as well. Cocoa butter may be the most affordable, but if you can, try to find organic or fair-trade cocoa butter rather than the super-cheap stuff you find on the bottom shelf of the drug store.
Coconut Oil: This oil has boomed in popularity, and for good reason. Some say that a healthy layer of coconut oil can boost your sun protection and work as an effective bug repellent. (After using this religiously on an island for summer camp, I can vouch for its effectiveness as well!) It is anti-inflammatory so it’s good for skin irritation, but can be too heavy for faces and cause acne.
Olive Oil: The same stuff you keep in the kitchen deserves a place in your bathroom. It has antioxidants and fatty acids that makes it super-moisturizing and good for anti-aging. It also has amazing skin regenerating properties and can be used after a day in the sun to calm the skin and reduce redness and some degree of sunburn.
Jojoba Oil: This oil reacts and feels like sebum, the oil we already create in our skin. Therefore it is a natural match for our skin for nourishment and protection. A good all-around moisturizer but it can be mixed with any of the above oils and butters for more moisturizing and nutritious benefits.
Beeswax: This acts most like petroleum jelly because it can lock in moisture, sit on top of the skin, and is water-resistant. It’s not typically used by itself and should be mixed with butters or oils for a nice lip balm or hand salve. And yes, it has tons of minerals and nutrients. If it's good enough for the bees to live on, it's good enough for us! This option is not vegan, but all other oils and butters above can be found as vegan.
It can be intimidating and frightening to realize that the products you already have can be toxic and dangerous for your health. However, taking the time to learn about what’s in your products and looking for healthier alternatives is one of the easiest and best things you can do for yourself.
Keep checking back here for more posts, ask me anything you have a question about, or if you have an alternative you like to use- tell us in the comments below!