To The Depths: Petroleum in Skincare
Petroleum (L. petroleum, from early 15c. "petroleum, rock oil" (mid-14c. in Anglo-French), from Medieval Latin petroleum, from Latin petra rock(see petrous) + Latin: oleum oil (see oil (n.)).) is a naturally occurring, yellow-to-black liquid found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface, which is commonly refined into various types of fuels.
Patented in the late 1800’s, petroleum and petroleum jelly have been a part of society’s skincare regimen for quite some time. Whether used as a miracle skin cure-all or to help prevent chapped skin, we have slathered it on our largest organ without asking the questions “why” or “what is this made of” for way too long.
A fossil fuel itself, petroleum is extracted from the earth, distilled & refined to manufacture a vast range of everyday products. Petroleum jelly is created through a specific distillation process of crude material through bone char, allowing it to take on a thick & creamy consistency.
Petroleum has been used to heal skin irritations by simply creating a water insoluble barrier on the skin’s surface, preventing water loss via evaporation. While this barrier effect is beneficial to temporarily heal irritations, this leads to the dehydration of skin and pores over time. We want to prevent water loss AND provide the skin with essential moisture so the dermis can regenerate healthy & new skin cells. If we just have a barrier that prevents moisture from being absorbed into the skin, we cannot adequately give the body what it needs to repair & truly hydrate deeply.
As you can imagine, the issue of toxicity arises when the origin of the ingredient is compromised and/or is processed with known cancer causing by-products such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PHA’s), in the case of petroleum.
We have many other options to choose from that have the same beneficial barrier effect on skin while still allowing water permeability. A few of our favorites include unrefined organic coconut oil, organic cocoa butter, organic olive oil & organic jojoba oil, all cold-pressed oils. If you take a gander at our moisturizer/balm list, you will see these oils used in combination with non-GMO (soy) vitamin E, organic vegetable glycerin, organic beeswax & non-GMO (soy) emulsifying wax. We formulate our products to provide a barrier on skin and hydrate the second layer with antioxidant rich oils. A difference that can be seen & felt.
Be sure to check out our blog next month, “Soap Making: A Dying Art”