From the oil rigs to your lips – the impacts of petrolatum

It’s in the fuel that powers our cars, it’s in the fibres in our clothes, it’s in our plastic drinking bottles. Oil is everywhere. It’s also in a lot of products you wouldn’t expect to find it – products that are absorbed into your skin, such as lip balms and body lotions. It’s called Petrolatum.

It’s in the fuel that powers our cars, it’s in the fibres in our clothes, it’s in our plastic drinking bottles. Oil is everywhere. It’s also in a lot of products you wouldn’t expect to find it – products that are absorbed into your skin, such as lip balms and body lotions. It’s called Petrolatum.

The use of petrolatum in everyday products

It’s estimated that one in 14 products on the market contain petrolatum, and it’s most prevalent in personal care products. As much as 15% of all lip balms and 40% of all baby lotion contain this multi-function jelly. And because of its low cost and abundance, petrolatum is here to stay. 

“Although petrolatum has been deemed a safe chemical, some products containing this substance may be contaminated.”

The main concerns regarding petrolatum

Although petrolatum has been deemed a safe chemical, it’s important to understand that some products containing this substance may be contaminated. It’s possible that mistakes were made during the treatment of the crude oil residue, making the product a health hazard. Petrolatum, if contaminated, can contain the chemical compound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which has been proven to lead to cancer.

Knowing which products contain petrolatum

Depending on the product, petrolatum may be listed under a variety of different names. If you don’t see its name under the ingredients list, look for petroleum jelly, white petrolatum or soft paraffin. They all mean the same thing.

“Petrolatum, if contaminated, can contain the chemical compound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which has been proven to lead to cancer.”

Should you make the switch?

Although there’s no concrete evidence related to the health or environmental impact of petrolatum, the possibility of contamination exists and could pose a risk if it were to occur. So it’s safer to avoid it and choose among the numerous petrolatum-free options on the market.

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