Why We Should Avoid Petrolatum

White Petrolatum – By Kiyok – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2647443

What is Petroleum Jelly or Petrolatum?

Petroleum jelly is a byproduct of the oil refining process. This means it is not sustainable or eco-friendly, and it also explains some of the potential problems with using it. Petroleum jelly was originally found in the bottom of oil rigs and is further refined for use in the beauty industry. According to packaging and safety info, all of the harmful components are removed before use in beauty or personal care products, but some sources argue that it still contains some harmful components (like hydrocarbons).

Petrolatum, commonly known as petroleum jelly, is a byproduct of petroleum refining. Petrolatum is a soft paraffin or wax mixture sold as a topical skin ointment. It is acknowledged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an approved over-the-counter skin protectant and is used in the manufacturing of cosmetic skin care.

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Petroleum jelly, petrolatum, white petrolatum, soft paraffin/paraffin wax or multi-hydrocarbon, CAS number 8009-03-8, is a semi-solid mixture of hydrocarbons (with carbon numbers mainly higher than 25), originally promoted as a topical ointment for its healing properties.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a U.S. non-profit organization that does environmental and safety studies, says there’s petrolatum in one out of every 14 cosmetic products on the market, including 15 percent of lipsticks and 40 percent of baby lotions and oils. Plus, it is used as an active ingredient for healing cuts and burns.

The EWG says ’and governments and the CCTFA acknowledge’ there is a risk of contamination from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), cancer-causing chemicals found in crude oil and its by-products. While no studies have ever shown a direct link between petrolatum and cancer, the European Union put numerous grades of petrolatum on a list of dangerous substances. Only highly refined petrolatum can be used in cosmetics there.

How Does Petroleum Jelly Work on Skin?

Petroleum jelly is used in everything from lotions to baby products for its ability to create a protective barrier on the skin and hold in moisture. On labels, it may also appear as Petrolatum, Mineral oil, Liquid paraffin, or Paraffin oil.

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While the ability to hold in moisture may seem like a good thing, it can have its downsides as well. Since petroleum jelly is both waterproof and not water soluble, it creates a waterproof barrier on the skin. At first glance, this may sound good, but it also means that it blocks pores and can lock in residue and bacteria. This is also the reason petroleum jelly should not be used on a burn or sunburn, as it locks in heat and can block the body’s ability to heal.

Also, while it certainly gives the appearance of hydrated and moisturized skin, this may be an illusion as there is nothing in petroleum jelly that is actually nourishing the skin.

Petroleum jelly can’t be metabolized by the skin and just sits as a barrier until it wears off. This means that the body isn’t able to gain any benefit from petroleum jelly (like it can from nutrient rich substances like shea butter or cocoa butter), and there is concern that some of the components (like hydrocarbons) may be stored in fat tissue within the body.

There is strong evidence that mineral oil hydrocarbons are the greatest contaminant of the human body, amounting to approximately 1 g per person. Possible routes of contamination include air inhalation, food intake, and dermal absorption.

This suggests the potential for long-term accumulation of these hydrocarbons in the body. The study found no link between nutritional habits and hydrocarbon levels in the body but did find a strong potential link between cosmetic and beauty product use and contamination, suggesting that beauty products may be a major source of hydrocarbon exposure.

As moms, this study is especially interesting, since it shows the potential for passing on these contaminants to our children during breastfeeding. We also know that we can’t metabolize these substances, so they can build up in the body and are difficult to remove.

Collagen Breakdown

Because of the barrier that mineral oil/petroleum jelly creates on the skin, there is also some concern about its potential to cause collagen breakdown (which is the opposite of what most women want!). Essentially, the concern is that when petroleum jelly coats the skin it blocks the skin’s natural ability to breathe and absorb nutrients. This can slow the cell renewal process and cause the skin to pull the necessary moisture and nutrients from within, leading to collagen breakdown over time (aka wrinkles!).

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Estrogen Dominance

A growing problem in today’s world, estrogen dominance is when the body has high levels of estrogen and proportionately low levels of progesterone to balance it. It is linked to infertility, menstrual problems, accelerated aging, allergies and autoimmune problems as well as nutrient deficiencies, sleep problems and even some types of cancers.

Many products (including petroleum jelly) contain chemicals called xenoestrogens which may increase estrogen problems in the body. Studies have shown that these chemicals may act on hormone receptors in the body and lead to estrogen dominance.

Does it heal skin?

While some beauty companies are promoting petrolatum alternatives, other manufacturers swear by its ability to moisturize and heal. Petrolatum seals off the skin from water and air, as it allows the skin to heal itself.

But there’s a potential downside. A study that was published in Pediatrics in 2000 found that extremely-low-birth-weight infants treated with petroleum jelly were more likely to develop systemic candidiasis; it created a warm, moist place for fungi to grow.

Petrolatum is an occlusive barrier, locking in moisture but it does not allow moisture to be absorbed from the atmosphere. For example, lip balms with petrolatum and other petrochemicals can be less moisturizing than those with emollients that enable moisture exchange.

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Alternatives to Petroleum Based Products for the Skin

Thankfully, there are many great alternatives to petroleum jelly and mineral oil that help increase moisture on the skin and provide nourishment as well. The best part? Most of them can be used alone and you don’t even have to make anything!

Looking for a simple alternative to petroleum jelly or petrolatum? Try Mother Jai’s Moisturizer. Simply all natural with Coconut, Olive and Sunflower Oils. A little goes a long way.

Shea Butter– A natural skin superfood that is high in Vitamins A, E and F. It also contains beneficial fatty acids that nourish skin and it may reduce skin inflammation and increase collagen production. It is excellent on its own or in homemade beauty products.

Cocoa Butter-A great source of antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids, cocoa butter is another great product for skin. There is even some evidence that it may reduce the signs of aging.

Beeswax– A great substitute for the waterproof and protective properties of petroleum jelly without the hydrocarbons. Though not usually used alone, beeswax can be blended into homemade beauty products for its skin-protective ability and is especially good in lip balms and body creams.

Coconut Oil– Coconut oil has so many benefits, internal and external, and it can be great for the skin. It does cause breakouts in some people, so I always suggest testing on a small area of skin first, but it is a source of skin-nourishing fatty acids, lauric acid and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Almond Oil– A liquid oil that is fragrance free and nourishing to skin.

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Sunflower Oil – Another liquid oil that is full of nutrients like omega fatty acids and minerals that are essential to skin health.

Jojoba Oil – A perfect choice for skin care because it naturally resembles sebum, the oily substance naturally produced by the body to nourish and protect skin. You can mix jojoba oil into shea butter for a natural lotion.

References:

  1. https://wellnessmama.com/61770/petroleum-jelly/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum_jelly
  3. www.livestrong.com/article/226763-side-effects-of-petrolatum/
  4. www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/petrolatum/
  5. http://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-looks/skin/the-truth-about-petrolatum/
  6. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/vaseline-petroleum-jelly_n_4136226.html
  7. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/petroleum-jelly
  8. https://beautyeditor.ca/2014/10/16/petroleum-mineral-oil-skin-products
  9. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/self-care/over-counter-products/article/petroleum-jelly-safe
  10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/019096229270060S
  11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S092318111200031X
  12. https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(15)01194-X/fulltext
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4885180/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6477564/
  15. https://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0365-05962018000200238
  16. http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/petrolatum/
  17. https://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/78/1/65
  18. https://www.aad.org/news/petroleum-jelly-for-skin-care
  19. https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/dirty-dozen-petrolatum/
  20. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2020.00785/full
  21. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/519971
  22. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00032719.2016.1153647?scroll=top&needAccess=true
  23. https://www.berkeleywellness.com/self-care/over-counter-products/article/petroleum-jelly-safe

May Chang

 Litsea cubeba foliage and flowers. Photo taken on Anma Mountain (鞍馬山), Da Xue Shan Forest Recreation Area (大雪山森林遊樂區), Tzuyu Village, Hoping HsiangTaichung CountyTaiwan, with a Nikon D200 digital camera.

May Chang (Litsea cubeba)

May chang (Litsea cubeba), often referred to “mountain pepper” for the fruit’s resemblance to a pepper, is a kind of citrus that grows in China. It has a bright, lemony aroma and, like other citrus oils, offers uplifting and cleansing benefits. It is a wonderful addition to the collection of any essential oil user.

This shrub is native to China and areas of Southeast Asia. The essential oil is extracted through distillation from the small fruits that are grown on tress featuring white or pale yellow flowers. The flowers have a lemony aroma similar to the aroma of the essential oil.

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Bright, lemony, and energizing, it is most commonly known for its usefulness in dealing with skin problems. This oil has uplifting properties, and it has a strong effect on promoting mental and physical well-being.

Blends Well With: Bergamot, Citronella, Clove Bud, Geranium Egyptian, Ginger Root CO2, Grapefruit Pink, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Marjoram Sweet, Orange Sweet, Petitgrain and Rosemary 1,8-Cineole.

Benefits of May Chang Essential Oil

  • In massage treatments, May Chang can act as a digestive and liver tonic, particularly useful in abdominal massage.
  • May Chang can also help to clear the head and refresh the mind and spirit, soothing and restoring frayed nerves.
  • When used in a diffuser, this oil has uplifting qualities. It is known for lowering blood pressure and relieving stress without causing drowsiness. It can also promote overall physical and mental well-being.
  • May Chang has natural insect repellent qualities. It can be blended into body lotion, shampoo, or liquid body wash to help repel mosquitoes. Adding a couple drops to a candle and placing it outdoors will help keep pests away.
  • This oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties making it popular for use in skin care products. It is useful for preventing the growth of bacteria that can cause acne. Some people use it to treat eczema and similar skin conditions.
  • As an astringent, it is used to eliminate excess skin oil and shrink enlarged pores. It may also have anti-inflammatory properties that can help clear up skin irritation. Users should always dilute the oil before applying it to the skin. This skin tonic is said to leave skin feeling silky-smooth and refreshed.
  • This oil is known to have a stimulant action on the digestive system and can even help in case of poor appetite. The blend of May Chang oil and a carrier oil is perfect for massage over the stomach to improve digestive tract function.
  • Combined with a carrier oil on throat, chest, neck and back provides instant relief from respiratory infections. This essential oil even helps in quieting down coughs and improving cold too.

Cautions

To avoid the risk of various safety issues, we recommend a maximum dilution of 0.8% for topical applications. Possible drug interactions. 

Recipes

May Chang Toner 

Ingredients:
8 drops Aura Cacia May Chang Essential Oil
10 drops Aura Cacia Tea Tree Essential Oil
2 fluid ounces witch hazel
2-ounce Aura Cacia Amber Glass Mist Bottle 

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Directions:
In bottle, combine oils and witch hazel. Replace lid, shake until well blended, then mist face, avoiding eyes. 

References:

  1. https://www.planttherapy.com/may-chang-essential-oil
  2. https://www.epainassist.com/articles/uses-of-may-chang-essential-oil
  3. https://plantessentials.com.au/blogs/news/81438913-exploring-the-health-benefits-and-uses-of-may-chang-essential-oil
  4. https://lumitylife.co.uk/pages/oil-ingredient-may-chang
  5. https://www.tisserand.com/aromatherapy/may-chang-ethically-harvested-pure-essential-oil-9ml/
  6. https://www.aromaweb.eu/product/organic-may-chang-essential-oil-litsea-cubeba-10ml/

Lemon Oil

Lemon Peel Oil (Citrus limon)

Lemon, scientifically called Citrus limon, is a flowering plant that belongs to the Rutaceae family. Lemon plants are grown in many countries all over the world, although they are native to Asia and are believed to have been brought to Europe around 200 A.D. In America, English sailors would use lemons while on the sea to protect themselves from scurvy and conditions caused by bacterial infections.

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The essential oil comes from cold-pressing the peel and not the inner fruit. The peel is actually the most nutrient-dense portion of the lemon because of its fat soluble phytonutrients. Lemon essential oil is composed of many natural compounds, including terpenes, sesquiterpenes, aldehydes, alcohols, esters and sterols.

Lemons and lemon oil are popular because of their refreshing scent and invigorating, purifying and cleaning properties. Research shows that lemon oil contains powerful antioxidants and helps to reduce inflammation, fight bacteria and fungi, boost energy levels and ease digestion.

Major Constituents of Cold Pressed Lemon Peel: (+)-Limonene, B-Pinene, Gamma-Terpinene, a-Terpineol, a-Pinene, and Geranial

BENEFITS OF LEMON (OrganicFacts.net)

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The health benefits of this citrus oil include its ability to treat skin disorders, hair conditions, stress disorders, fever, infections, asthma, obesity, insomnia, stomach problems, and fatigue. All these benefits of lemon can be attributed to its stimulating, calming, carminative, anti-infection, astringent, detoxifying, antiseptic, disinfectant, sleep-inducing, and antifungal properties.

Antidepressant: uplifting and mood enhancing. It has been found to reduce anxiety and assist in relieving the physical symptoms of depression.

Antimicrobial: works as a natural antimicrobial agent because of two dominant compounds found in the oil, limonene and b-pinene. This makes lemon oil a powerful tool in cleaning and food protection.

Antitumoral: limonene, a major component of this essential oil, has anti-tumor and chemotherapeutic effects. Oral feeding of lemon has resulted in significant regression of mammary carcinoma (a breast cancer), without any observable systemic toxicity.

Asthma: inhaling the essential oil has been proven to open airways and clear nasal passages and sinuses.

Cancer: A mixture of lemon combined with eucalyptus, melaleuca, lemongrass, clove leaf, and thyme, in a 40 percent ethanol base, demonstrated anti-tumorigenic effects when administered to patients with metastatic tumorigenic ulcers. Cancer patients have also found relief from pain, anxiety, nausea, and vomiting by using lemon and other essential oils.

Cleaning: used to cleanse your home of harmful pathogens, like bacteria, fungi and viruses. Using lemon as a natural cleaning product also keeps your home free of conventional products that are made with dangerous chemicals.

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Cold & Cough: has antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so it helps to boost your immune system and fight respiratory conditions.

Detoxification: has a purifying, cleansing and protective effect on the body. It helps to defend the body against harmful pathogens and promotes detoxification through the blood and liver. It also stimulates lymphatic drainage, which helps the body to cleanse itself of wastes and toxins.

Digestion: can help to soothe digestive problems, including issues like gastritis and constipation. It reduces gastritis symptoms by reducing the erosion of gastric mucosa (the lining of your stomach) and working as a gastro-protective agent against stomach lesions.

Nausea: can be used as a tool for reducing nausea and vomiting safely during pregnancy.

Oral Health: has antibacterial and antifungal properties, it works as a natural remedy for many oral conditions, including oral thrush and bad breath. It can also be used to whiten your teeth naturally and prevent tooth decay.

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Skin Care: benefits your skin by reducing acne, nourishing damaged skin and hydrating the skin. It is also effective against skin issues like blisters, insect bites, greasy and oily conditions, cuts, wounds, cellulite, rosacea, and viral infections of the skin like cold sores and warts.

Weight Loss: this essential oil contains d-limonene, which is known to help support your metabolism and cleanse your lymphatic glands, which can help with weight loss.

USES FOR LEMON ESSENTIAL OIL

Athlete’s foot, chilblains, colds, corns, dull skin, flu, oily skin, spots, varicose veins, warts. [Julia Lawless, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils (Rockport, MA: Element Books, 1995), 56-66.]

Detergent: Mix washing soda, purified water, vinegar, citric acid, and kosher salt with orange and/or lemon. Must be stored in the fridge. (See specific recipe below) Works for scrubbing dishes, in the dishwasher, and on hard surfaces. Cleaning your dishwasher is important at least once a month, run it empty with a cup of vinegar and baking soda.

Disinfectant & Degreaser: Add 40 drops of lemon and 20 drops of tea tree to a 16 ounce spray bottle fill with pure water (and a little bit of apple cider vinegar) for a traditional cleaning favorite. This natural cleaning product can be used to kill toxins and bacteria in your home, especially in places like your kitchen and bathroom.

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Facewash: combine 2-3 drops lemon essential oil with baking soda and honey and scrub face and rinse with warm water.

Goo-Be-Gone: 3-5 drops of lemon will dissolve it, then you can wipe it off. Use it on your hands to remove grease and oil.

Sore Throat Relief: adding the essential oil to water and baking soda and gargling can relieve sore throat, reduce mouth inflammation and soothe tonsillitis.

Tooth Whitener: mix baking soda, coconut oil and lemon, rub on teeth after brushing and flossing, allow to sit at least 2min before rinsing.

Wood & Silver Polish: 10 drops of lemon essential oil on a cloth and polish silver and jewelry safely, or clean and nourish wood surfaces.

PRECAUTIONS

Lemon essential oil can cause photosensitivity when used topically, so it’s important to avoid direct sunlight up to 12 hours after using lemon oil on your skin.

It can cause skin irritations in some people, so do a patch test on your arm or leg before using it topically just to be sure that you won’t have an adverse reaction. When using lemon oil on my skin, I like to dilute it with a carrier oil, like coconut oil or jojoba oil, especially on sensitive areas like my face.

RECIPES

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent with Orange and Lemon

Total Time: About 10 minutes  Serves: About 30 ounces

INGREDIENTS:

2 ounces washing soda

3¼ cups purified water

4 ounces white vinegar

1 ounce citric acid powder

1 cup kosher salt

20 drops wild orange essential oil

20 drops lemon essential oil

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients until well blended.

Use about 1½–2 tablespoons of detergent per load.

Homemade Melaleuca Citrus Household Cleaner

Total Time: 2 minutes  Serves: 30-90

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces water

4 ounces distilled white vinegar

15 drops melaleuca oil

15 drops lemon

Glass cleaning spray bottle

DIRECTIONS:

Fill spray bottle with ingredients.

Close bottle and shake to mix.

Swirl/shake bottle before each spray.

Homemade Dish Soap with Lemon and Lavender

Total Time: 10 minutes Serves: About 16 ounces

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup Castile soap

¼ cup soap flakes or grated Castile soap

4 tablespoons super washing soda

4 ounces purified water

30 drops lemon essential oil

30 drops lavender essential oil (optional, rosemary)

DIRECTIONS:

Place the soap flakes and washing soda into a bowl and blend with a whisk.

Bring the water to a boil, then pour on top of the ingredients. Stir.

Add the remaining ingredients.

Blend all ingredients well.

Allow to cool, stirring occasionally, then pour into a BPS-free squirt bottle or a glass bottle with a pump.

Homemade Face Wash

Total Time: 5 minutes Serves: 30

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup coconut oil

1 tbsp baking soda

5 drops lavender essential oil

5 drops frankincense essential oil

5 drops lemon essential oil

Glass Jar

(if acne prone, replace frankincense and lemon oils with 10 drops of tea tree essential oil)

DIRECTIONS:

Melt the coconut oil in a pan over low heat

Once melted, remove from heat and add in the remaining ingredients.

Store in wash dispenser or air tight jar and keep it in a cool place

References:

  1. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-lemon-oil.html
  2. https://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/lemon-oil.aspx
  3. https://www.planttherapy.com/lemon-essential-oil-fresh-zesty-pure-citrus-scent-plant-therapy
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon
  5. https://www.aromaweb.com/essential-oils/lemon-oil.asp
  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-lemon-health-benefits
  7. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0153643
  8. https://lipidworld.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12944-017-0487-5
  9. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10942912.2017.1303709
  10. https://aip.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/1.4973164
  11. https://irjponline.com/admin/php/uploads/2498_pdf.pdf
  12. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/real-benefits-lemon-water-according-science
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6073409/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4005434/
  15. https://thetruthaboutcancer.com/lemon-essential-oil-cancer-fighter/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5543433/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24829772
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/19410566/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10568210
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5435909/
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15778557
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2581754/
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27571876
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25272759
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606594/
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19109001
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11314887
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671226/
  29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5543433/
  30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3824622/
  31. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5894780/