<a href="http://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/julie#">Green challenges</a>

Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

How much petroleum is hiding in your cosmetics? Let’s find out.

A row of lipsticks

Credit: Riley via Flickr, Creative Commons licence.

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Today we’re starting a new challenge: ditching the petroleum-based cosmetics. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but hadn’t gotten around to, so I’m glad to have a chance to tackle it.

The first thing I did for this challenge was to look at what I’ve currently got in the bathroom. I don’t want to throw out or replace anything if it’s fine, but I don’t really want to be putting parabens, mineral oil and propylene on my face if I can help it.

All three are made from oil, as a byproduct of the process which turns it into petrol. As we know oil is a limited resource, but why would I want to put oil on my face anyway?. Also, there are potential health concerns. Parabens are a preservative, but they may be responsible for breast cancer. The studies are ongoing, and it may be years before a definite answer is found; I’m not keen to wait until they’re done. Propylene doesn’t accumulate in your body, but it dissolves in water and is damaging to marine life, so should be avoided for the same reasons we use greywater-friendly detergents.

So I got out my glasses to read the fine print on the pretty packaging. I’ve generally tried to pick cosmetics that aren’t tested on animals, and have recyclable packaging, but I’ve never looked at what’s in them before.

Here’s what I found:

  • Shampoo - four types of paraben.
  • Body scrub - nothing on our ‘avoid’ list, but still lots of chemical names.
  • Face moisturiser - only lists active ingredients. I’m guessing the rest is probably water and sorbolene, as some facial moisturisers are made from.
  • Body moisturiser - two types of paraben.
  • Hair mousse - parabens and propylene glycol.
  • Eyeliner - parabens.
  • Lipstick - nothing on our ‘avoid’ list. It’s a much shorter list than anything else, and hardly any chemical names I’ve never heard of before.

I also use a homemade goat’s milk soap. The label is long gone, and it was a gift, so I guess I’ll never know what else was in it. My foundation, eyeshadow, mascara and lip balm don’t have ingredients lists on them at all!

I don’t seem to have anything with mineral oil in it, but I know there are quite a few mineral brands out there. For me it seems to be parabens and propylene that are common.

Why don’t you take a look at your cosmetics and see what’s in them? Let me know if you find anything yucky or unexpected in there. I’ll be looking into the alternatives as we go along.