Take a moment to think about your skin. Touch it. Rub some water over it. Is it dry and cracked or soft and smooth? Make fists with your hands and watch the skin stretch over your knuckles. Skin is amazing, isn’t it? It seems to keep everything together in our body and to block things on the outside from getting in. You spill pop on your legs and you can wash it off. If you fall asleep at a party and wake up with sharpie drawings all over your face, there’s nothing to worry about. It comes off eventually, one way or another.
Unfortunately, as much as it seems like it, skin is not all that waterproof. It doesn't work like plastic wrap pulled tightly over your bones and muscles. It’s like the shell of an egg, deceivingly solid, yet porous and fragile. Our skin is covered with thousand of pores like little openings where the outside can get inside. Whatever you spread across your skin eventually gets soaked up. Any substance you put on will penetrate and travel along your bloodstreams and camp out in your kidneys and liver. It will target your reproductive system and take a vacation in your brain. How would you feel if you knew you were spreading crude oil on your face? Washing it into your hair? What happens if you bathe in it?
Chances are, you are already doing that. Do you put Vaseline on your lips? Have you ever noticed it’s also called petroleum jelly? Have you turned over your makeup and found mineral oil as part of the ingredients list? What about paraffin? All these ingredients are petrochemicals, refined from crude oil. These chemicals, being cheap and very cooperative additives, are found in your make-up, soap, lotion, and shampoo. They provide the perfect consistency with which to spread color across your eyelids and just the right amount of lather to convince you your hair is being washed. These chemicals practically miracle ingredients. They quickly penetrate into your skin, making them perfect moisturizers. Did you get that? They’re so eager, so happy to penetrate your skin, breaking through that barrier you thought kept you safe.
Though dialogue has been steadily increasing, it’s usually just a select few shopping at Whole Foods and Lucky’s who search out mineral oil-free products. The rest of the public is generally happy with Target and Walgreen’s, not quite understanding why they should pay up to twenty dollars more for a product that otherwise looks exactly the same. However, studies have been providing mounting evidence pointing to these petroleum-based ingredients as carcinogenic, altering DNA and mimicking estrogen to increase our risk of cancer. These chemicals can increase estrogen in the body causing breast cancer in women and men. They can cause miscarriages and birth defects. It's not a guarantee, but it happens often enough that we need to pay attention, speak up, and demand safer products.
By masquerading under the names of mineral oil and paraffin, we are unaware that we have petroleum in our bathroom cabinets and that we are putting it on and in our bodies. It is so prevalent in all of our products that it becomes truly difficult to avoid it. In this way, it really is the ultimate silent killer.
So how do we stand up for ourselves and find products that are safe and petroleum-free?
It's not hopeless though, there are things we can do. Check out Breaking away from petroleum to find out more about petroleum products and what we can use instead!
Also, go to EWG Skin Deep to see their ratings on common household products and educate yourself. The more you buy safe products, the more demand for it on the market. Vote with your money and your words.
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