20 Petrochemicals to Avoid in Personal Care and Laundry Products


Re-posting with permission

20 of the most common Petrochemical Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid

The Organic Natural Beauty Directory urges all consumers to carefully read the ingredient labels on the products they intend to buy and be fully aware of what goes in them, that way you will know what to avoid. Ingredients are listed most used to least used (meaning that the first ingredient listed is what makes up the largest part of the product). It is extremely alarming to know that many major brands of skin care and personal care products contain petrochemicals in them.

It pains and angers me to see big beauty brands advertising on TV that they are ‘natural’ but when you look at their ingredients they may also contain some petrochemicals- so make sure you know your ingredients. This is why modern day consumers need to beware of ‘greenwashing’ and become educated on what the ingredients being used are.Your safest bet as a consumer is to choose products that contain all natural, whole and unprocessed botanical ingredients.

According to the ‘campaign for safe cosmetics website’.

“Many of these petrochemicals are known and scientifically proven to be toxic.”

“They can cause eye impairment, intestinal damage, kidney and liver problems, breathing problems, cysts, skin spots, rashes, premature aging and hair loss. Some are endocrine disruptors (that can cause hormonal disruptions and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects), and some even carcinogenic (that can cause cancer, and in particular breast cancer)”.

Our skin is the largest organ in our body so it makes sense that we as consumers wake up & start taking control of what we feed ourselves.

Here is the A-Z list of the 20 most common petrochemicals used in personal care products:

toxic skull and bones

Alcohol, isopropyl (SD-40)  A very drying and irritating solvent and dehydrator that strips your skin’s natural acid mantle, making us more vulnerable to bacteria, moulds and viruses. It is made from propylene, a petroleum derivative. It may promote brown spots and premature aging of skin.

Ammonium ingredients  Toxic, carcinogenic

Benzoates  Implicated in wide variety of health problems including testicular cancer, cell mutation and other cancers.

Benzoyl peroxide  Produces tremendously dangerous free radical in the skin increases the chances of cancer. It also causes over-drying of the skin. FDA has now changed the safety rating of benzoyl peroxide from category I to category III.

BHA and BHT  Encourages the breakdown of vitamins such as vitamin d, can cause lipid and cholesterol levels to increase, endocrine disruptor, toxic

DEA ingredients  All ingredients with DEA after the first word such as concamid-dea, cause cancer. These chemicals are already restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects.

Fragrances   Fragrance on a label can indicate the presence of up to four thousand separate ingredients, many toxic or carcinogenic. Clinical observation proves fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, and irritability.

Hydroquinone  Toxic, irritants, hydroquinone has been shown to cause leukemia in mice and other animals. The European Union banned it from cosmetics in 2001. Can cause hyper-pigmentation

Lanolin  Any chemicals used on sheep will contaminate the lanolin obtained from the wool. The majority of lanolin used in cosmetics is highly contaminated with chlorinated organo pesticides like DDT.

Laureth family ( sodium lauryl sulfate, any ingredients with laureth or lauryl in the name)  Carcinogenic, skin irritants may be contaminated with large amounts of toxins in manufacturing process contains ammonium salts, mutagen, acne and dermatitis producing and hair loss

PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene  Potentially carcinogenic petroleum ingredient that can alter and reduce the skin’s natural moisture factor. This could increase the appearance of aging and leave you more vulnerable to bacteria. Used in cleansers to dissolve oil and grease. It adjusts the melting point and thickens products. Also used in caustic spray-on oven cleaners.

Parabens – (methyl, propyl, etc, paraben family)   Implicated in a multitude of health problems, estrogenic, cancer causing, allergenic, found in breast tissue, replicates in dna, stored in fat cells

Petrochemicals (paraffin, mineral oil, petroleum, petrolatum, vaseline)   Coats the skin like plastic, clogging the pores, slows down skin function and cell development, resulting in premature aging, acne producing, may be carcinogenic, causes dry skin, respiratory toxin, may cause dizziness, any mineral oil derivative can be contaminated with cancer causing PAH ( polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons)

Phenol Carbolic Acid    Can cause circulatory collapse, paralysis, convulsions, coma, and even death.

Phthalates  (look for your plastics- squeeze bottles, soft plastics, fragrances) carcinogens, mutation agents, stored fat cells

Propylene/butylene glycol  Is a petroleum derivative, penetrates the skin very quickly and causes contact dermatitis, skin irritations, acne, allergies, the EPA considers PG so toxic that it warns against skin contact to prevent consequences such as brain, liver and kidney abnormalities, and can also weaken protein & cellular structure

Octyl stearate   Acne producing, contact dermatitis, allergic reactions

Silicone derived emollients – dimethicone copolyol, cyclomethicone etc…   Occlusive – that is they coat the skin, trapping anything beneath it, and do not allow the skin to breathe (much like plastic wrap would do.)

TEA ingredients (not tea, but rather ingredients with TEA in front such as Tea lauryl sulfate)  Severe irritants, can contain ammonium slats, eye irritant, sensitizers, highly acidic. Over 40% of cosmetics containing Triethanolamine (TEA), have been found to be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are potent carcinogens.

Toluene  May appear on ingredients labels as phenylmethane, methylbenzene, or toluol and is found in nail products

This list was originally posted here

ALSO…if you are really into reading labels and knowing your ingredients and the health effects they cause, be sure to check out this other post:

99 Ingredients you DON’T want in your beauty products.

“Don’t keep this list a secret: share it online, print it or photocopy it and give it to your family members and friends – help to spread the knowledge and education on what ingredients everyone should be on the lookout for when buying cosmetic and beauty products. Please minimize your exposure to these chemicals and ideally, eliminate them all together from your beauty routine. They are the worst enemies of your skin, hair, well being and health.”


Many thanks to The Organic Natural Beauty Directory for posting these lists and working on making it easier for people to find safer products.

Please note that I am woefully ignorant about the safest cosmetics out there these days, having given them all up many, years ago, so you will have to rely on others to steer you in the right direction. Here are some more resources you can use:

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Skin Deep / EWG (product ratings)

The Story of Cosmetics

Cosmetics and Fragrances

7 responses to “20 Petrochemicals to Avoid in Personal Care and Laundry Products

  1. Thanks for this and your other post today Linda. I think what we in West Wales, including many communities and groups, and the ecovillage Lammas, are doing is establishing a culture in which organic body care is the natural way of being. We choose home grown food and many of us have built our own houses free of chemicals and plastics as far as possible. I feel very fortunate that in this little corner of the world at least, we have built up a kind of immunity to the whole cosmetics/ consumerist/ plastic industry so that young people can grow up naturally questioning the need for these products, and can live without their effects. There are certainly other parts of the world like this – Freiburg in Germany, parts of Holland and France, some regions in Australia and New Zealand, and Vancouver and Victoria Islands come to mind. Maybe we should become more political, to strengthen and enlarge these safe zones. Bye for now Tony

    • I am so heart happy that communities such as yours have been and are being developed Tony!
      I wonder if you would consider writing a guest post (or series if you wish) outlining some of the guiding principles you and others have used? And what has been most successful or hasn’t worked out too well?
      I would love to have more people introduced to workable alternatives and what is needed to make them happen!

  2. On a related note, the US Department of Health and Human Resources has a Web site…Household Products Database.
    Granted, the information is from the manufacturers.
    However, ingredients are listed!

    Looking for more technical databases on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases. ?
    Toxnet (US National Library of Medicine) has related information, including
    **Hazardous Substances Data Bank – Broad scope in human and animal toxicity, safety and handling, environmental fate, and more. Scientifically peer-reviewed.
    **LactMed -A peer-reviewed and fully referenced database of drugs to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed. Among the data included are maternal and infant levels of drugs, possible effects on breastfed infants and on lactation, and alternate drugs to consider.
    **CCRIS-Chemical Carcinogenesis Research Information System – carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, tumor promotion, and tumor inhibition data provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI

    • Thanks so much Janice!

      I do have the Household Products Database link in the sidebar, and yes, it’s only based on manufacturer info and MSDS, so there are a lot of gaps, as everything does NOT have to be listed by law, but I have still had “fun” searching for all the supposedly scent and fragrance free products that list fragrance as one of their first ingredients!
      It is a good starting place, as is EWG.
      More financing is required for independent testing, as the regulations are too lax.
      I’ve just added the link for toxnet to the sidebar too.
      AND I will check out the last 2 sources you shared, as I haven’t looked them up yet.
      Are you aware of CHE’s Toxicant and Disease Database? I have that link in the sidebar. It’s a great resource too!

  3. Thank you for sharing our article Linda :)

  4. Pingback: How to Make Your Home Less Toxic on a Budget: Part 6A Personal Care Products | Life in the City with a Future

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.