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Petroleum: Critical Substances in Cosmetics

Friday, 12. June 2015

Petroleum: Critical Substances in Cosmetics

The Stiftung Warentest has recently examined selected cosmetics that are based on petroleum. It was found that all of them contain critical substances. Of these, some are even considered potential carcinogens. These are the so-called aromatic hydrocarbons.

Aromatic hydrocarbons are suspected of being carcinogenic. Stiftung Warentest tested various cosmetics such as body oils, creams, baby and lip care products from well-known manufacturers to test for these substances. All products based on petroleum and all were charged aromatic hydrocarbons.

For decades, cosmetics have always used petroleum as the basis for various products. The reason is simple: it is cheap and durable, always has the same quality and does not cause allergies. The petroleum used for the production of these materials is treated and cleaned in a multistage process.

A final assessment of petroleum is still pending, but the European Food Safety Authority is of the opinion that these substances may pose a carcinogenic risk. Above all, a dietary intake is considered potentially worrisome because the substances then pass directly into the body. From this point of view, especially lip care products are problematic because they easily ingested after application. Whether aromatic hydrocarbons can be absorbed through the skin is not yet fully understood. There are still large gaps in the data.

In addition to aromatic hydrocarbons, products that are made from petroleum contain saturated hydrocarbons. These can not be avoided in petroleum products and often appear in cosmetics. However, there are indications that they can accumulate in the body. In some animal studies, these accumulations have led to chronic inflammation, although this has not been observed in humans.

Whether or not a product contains petroleum can be seen on the list of contents. Natural cosmetics are not made with petroleum, nor are all conventional cosmetics. 

The tests done by the Stiftung Warentest are available with detailed results in German here.

“Everything you can imagine, nature has already created.”

Albert Einstein