Want a Side of Fossil Fuels With Your Skincare? How your 7-step routine may be harming the planet.

You’re shopping local, reducing plastic, cycling to work and refilling your jar of oats. 


Your skincare, makeup and hair care products are likely reliant on fossil fuels for their ingredients.  


These climate change contributors are lurking in the most unlikely place - your skincare cabinet. 

And unless you’re carefully reading labels, chances are your skincare includes petrochemicals, the byproducts of oil production. 

What’s worse is that even ‘sustainable’ brands may include these nasties, and seemingly innocuous ingredients. Even some essential oils are extracted using the petrochemical hexane. 

For many skincare products, petrochemicals are used at almost every step of the way. 

Because it’s a fossil fuel minefield out there, so we’ve provided a list to help you wade through the nasties.


  • Petroleum jelly
    • The #1 skincare product in the U.S 
  • Any word with propyl
    • Isopropyl alcohol
    • Propylene glycol
    • Propyl alcohol
    • Cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Paraffin wax
  • Mineral oil
  • Castor oil
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium laureth sulfate
  • Polyethylene glycol (and anything with PEG in it)
  • Parfum or fragrance

We’ve saved the sneakiest villain - parfum - till last for a reason. Ninety five percent of chemicals used in fragrance or parfums are from petroleum, making it likely that any product that has ‘parfum’ on the label is probably contributing to fossil fuel production.

There are some other troubling social and environmental issues with fossil fuel byproducts in our skincare. 

1. Pollution

There’s an argument to be made that while there’s growing pushback on other dependent fossil fuel industries, the reliance on petroleum in the cosmetic and skincare industry is strategic and continues to grow. Petroleum jelly is the #1 skincare product in the U.S.A currently. 

And ironically, it’s used to protect your skin’s barrier from environmental pollutants, yet at the same time is contributing to the very thing it’s trying to protect your skin from

2. Compromised Skin Health

The more we pollute our air with fossil fuels, the worse our skin microbiome becomes. As pollution increases, the diversity of our skin microbiome decreases, leading to skin disorders and compromised skin health. 

3. Social and Racial Inequality

It’s forecast that “every year through 2050, there will be 10 million metric tons of growth in the market for petrochemicals, which are used to make plastics and other products…much of that will be shipped overseas.”

What’s that got to do with inequality? 

Well, naturally, Westerners like to ship their plastic waste to get ‘recycled’ elsewhere, to keep their own countries as clean as possible. 

Countries like Africa, India, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

But as these countries are struggling to stay atop of the plastic avalanche, they’re implementing restrictions. As a result, domestic petrochemical build outs are occurring in some parts of the U.S.A. 

And predominantly, you guessed it, in black neighbourhoods. This can have dire health effects on the quality of water, soil and air. One stretch of over 150 petrochemical facilities in the U.S.A has been dubbed ‘cancer alley’ after the increased air pollution was linked to cancerous outcomes for its poor communities. 

4. Serious Health Concerns

It comes as a shock to no-one that petroleum products aren’t life-giving. 

In fact, these products can create something called 1,4-dioxane. It’s a skin irritant that’s been proven to cause drowsiness, headaches, vertigo, anorexia and irritation of the eyes, throat, nose and lungs. 

It’s also a known toxin that readily penetrates the skin (neurotoxin, respiratory toxin, kidney toxin and a groundwater contaminant), with some evidence linking it to breast cancer. 

So What Can We Do?

First, a deep breath. 

It can sometimes feel overwhelming, but we can take the power back for Mother Earth by implementing small changes:

→Get savvy and start taking a magnifying glass to those labels. →Bookmark this article to keep a list of planet-harming ingredients handy

→Always choose products like MOTHER that are fossil fuel free, and put the planet first

And above all, do your imperfect best. 

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