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What is in your lotion?

Most hand lotions, body lotions, face creams, foot creams, and make-up removers are loaded with petrochemicals.  They are added for product stability, shelf life, and appearance.  Hand lotions are typically used on a daily basis to counteract the drying effects of soaps and detergents, but the problem is, however, is that they need to be reapplied often throughout the day.

Ingredients of a well-known brand of lotion labeled "Intensive Care Essential Healing" for dry skin:

Isoproply myristate, mineral oil, glyceryl stearate, glycol stearate, dimethicone, PEG-100 stearate, petrolatum, cetyl alcohol, phenoxyethanol, magnesium aluminum  silicate, methylparaben, fragrance, acrylates, propylparaben, disodium EDTA, dihydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, hydroxyethyl urea, propylene glycol.

Now let's break those down…

Isoproply myristate - a synthetic oil composed of isopropyl alcohol (a propane derivative) used in beauty products to reduce the greasy feel of the oils.  According the Environmental Working Group, there is evidence that this chemical can cause skin irritation.  It should be used with caution.

Mineral Oil - a distillation product of petroleum used as a moisturizer.

Glyceryl Stearate -  Is chemically used to reduce the greasiness of an oil and to stabilize the product.

Glycol Stearate - used as a thickening agent.

Dimethicone - is a silicone based polymer that works as an anti-foaming agent to prevent water loss by forming a hydrating barrier on the skin.

PEG-100 stearate - is defined as a chemical compound formed by the reaction between an acid and an alcohol.

Petrolatum - is a byproduct of petroleum and can suffocate the skin.

Cetyl Alcohol - can be derived from a petroleum product, it keeps the water and oil parts of an emulsion from separating.

Phenoxyethanol - is a chemical preservative with concern for safety.

Magnesium Aluminum  Silicate -  is a naturally occurring mineral derived from refined and purified clay that is used primarily as a thickener.  Although the molecules are too large to be absorbed into skin, there is always concern about the use of aluminum.

Methylparaben -  is a chemical preservative used as a fungicide in skin care products that is readily absorbed through the skin.   There is controversy over the safety of this ingredient.

Fragrance - can be from a man-made chemical component.

Acrylates - are from a family of polymers used for stabilization.

Propylparaben - used as an anti-fungal preservative, it occurs as a natural substance found in many plants, although it is manufactured synthetically for use in cosmetics.  Use of parabens is quite controversial.

Disodium EDTA - primarily used as a preservative and stabilizer, this ingredient is essentially used to  prevent products from deteriorating and from smelling rancid.  This can usually be found in most skin care products.

Dihydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride - a chemical composition classified as a humectant (prevents loss of moisture).

Hydroxyethyl Urea - this ingredient may be derived from the urine and other bodily fluids of animals.  Used as a humectant and skin conditioning.

Propylene Glycol - derived from petroleum, it is used as a humectant, solvent, and preservative in food. 

Prim and Primal takes the stand that anything that is put onto the skin should be safe enough to eat (not that we recommend eating hand lotion). Petrochemicals don't fit that requirement regardless of being deemed safe by the FDA.


Barbara McDonald
Barbara McDonald

Author