What Lurks in Lotions

Updated: Feb 8

Our journey to Evolve at Home has been crammed full of discovery of the chemical soups sold as wholesome products. Lotions are some of the worst chemical concoctions (alliteration!) sold to us with [empty] promises to heal dry, itchy skin; to bestow eternal youth; to restore your face to that of a 20 year old; to lift, plump, tighten, brighten. I could go on...

These are all just empty promises made by the mass producers who embraced “better living through science,” which really just means “creating mass produced products from the bastardization of natural substances to make cheap products that we can sell at a premium by making empty promises, and then selling other chemically laden products with empty promises of undoing what our other products did in the first place but telling the consumer that it’s normal to be miserable and trust us these ingredients are safe.” Whew. Made it.

So, what’s a person to do? That's where I come in! First, read this post in its entirety! Then, if you haven’t, go read Slippery Slope of Soap and What’s the Matter with ‘Poo to get all the info you need on soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Next, go read Beat the Hard Water Blues to understand that your water is also causing you misery. Yep. Devastating, I know. But you don’t have to be miserable! Those posts will only take just a few minutes of your time but will springboard you leaps and bounds ahead on your journey to Evolve at Home.

What to Avoid

The simplest rule: if you don’t know what it is, don’t put it on your skin. Remember folks, anything that touches your skin, just a couple seconds, is absorbed into your body. Then it’s a volley pass to your liver and other filtering organs to deal with, and, trust me, your body has enough to deal with just living in the environment. Anything mass produced is likely going to have things you don’t want anywhere near your body. Yes, even that brand you just thought of that promises it is “all natural” made with "natural" ingredients. Just turn that bad boy over and look at the ingredients list. I imagine most of it is “better living through science” chemicals with a couple of somewhat natural things like oatmeal and vitamin E.

Let’s start with probably (definitely) the worst offender: petroleum chemicals. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid! I cannot stress this enough. But why do they use these [dangerous] chemicals? Because they’re cheap to produce and they can sell these cheaply made products at a premium price using handy, dandy marketing.

When we’re talking “moisturizer” (since this is a lotion focused post), the petroleum based oils in fact just interrupt the natural functions of the skin, coating it in this impenetrable goo. Petroleum goo disrupts the skins natural functions for regulation and respiration (yes, your skin breathes in a sense).

Okay, Jenna. That sounds awful. How do I identify these sneaky petroleum chemicals in my lotions and potions? Tah-dah! Here’s a helpful list from NaturallySavvy.com:

  • Benzene

  • Butanol and words with “butyl”

  • Diethanolamine

  • Ethanolamine

  • Ethanol and words with “ethyl”

  • Fragrance or parfum

  • Methanol and words with “methyl”

  • Mineral oil

  • Parabens

  • Paraffin wax

  • Phenoxyethanol

  • Propyl-containing substances such as isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol, cocamidopropyl betaine

  • Toluene

  • Words ending in “eth”

One last thought about petroleum: these chemicals are are not only lurking in your lotions but in your shampoo, conditioner, soaps, and FOOD. YES. FOOD. So, get your reading glasses on (or just get your eyeballs ready, you lucky duck) and start reading labels whenever you are about to take home something that comes in a box, tube, container, jar, bottle, bag, whatever. Read. Read. Read.

Other scary things lurking in your lotions:

  • Retinyl Palmitate - fake vitamin A that in studies has been linked to cancer when exposed to sun – and yes it can be found in sunscreen. I’ll let you just sit with that for a minute… … … Here is a blog giving what I would consider unbiased info on it.

  • Alcohols - dries out your skin. So why put it in lotions? Hmmm...

  • Formaldehyde - may only be a by-product of other chemicals and not a listed ingredient

  • Phthalates - usually hiding as “fragrance” or “fragrance oil”

  • Triclosan - an endocrine disruptor. Avoid it.

You can search all these on your favorite search engine to understand exactly what kind of havoc these chemicals can wreak on your body and immune system. I suggest DuckDuckGo or EWG.org.

Is this scary? Sure. Should you look away and pretend you don't know? No. By confronting and accepting information that is scary or uncomfortable, you take a step (or a giant leap) forward on your personal journey to evolve your life.

What Should You Buy?

Now that we got the scary bit over with, we can get to the fun part – finding new and exciting things that will actually help your skin become healthier, brighter, softer, and less itchy and miserable (yes – almost like the fountain of youth)! But first, you’ll have to arm (hahaha) yourself with information. So, get ready to do some research and learning to find out what natural ingredients align with your values. You can elect to purchase or make (YES! MAKE!) your own lotions (and doubles as lip balm).

Look for ingredients that are from the earth. Simple things like tallow, lard, coconut oil or milk, essential oils, honey, shea butter, cocoa butter, beeswax, carefully processed plant based oils like jojoba, etc.

Here’s examples of lotion bars, which are solid and you warm up in your hands to apply:

  • Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, Grapeseed Oil

  • 100% Grass Fed Beef Tallow, Shea Butter, Beeswax, Lavender Essential Oil

Here’s an example from a more traditional liquid type lotion:

  • Jojoba oil, coconut milk, hemp oil, mango butter, aloe vera

Seek and Ye Shall Find!

Visit Etsy or your local farmer’s market to find handcrafted lotions to support your healthy skin journey. Amazon can be a good starting point to find sellers of such wares, but, as always, I encourage you to purchase in line with your values. I always support small businesses, even if they are on Amazon. Typically, a quick search online yields information about the small businesses selling through Amazon. Sometimes you even find that they sell directly through their websites, and you can cut out the middleman! Woohoo!

But WAIT! Didn’t You Say I Can Make My Own?


You can make lotions (and lip balms!) in your own kitchen!

Pause for quick back story: Waaaaaay back in 2012, my boss and I were discussing all things natural. She’s a crunchy mom and we hit it off big time over living natural lifestyles in this insane world of consumerism and mass production. I was complaining one day about the exorbitant cost of a popular natural-ish lip balm. She looked at me, rather confused, like I had missed the most obvious thing in the world, and said, “Oh, you don’t make your own? I do. It’s super easy.”

Those three sentences changed. my. life. forever.

Lotion bars and lip balm (same stuff, different container, basically) are the first natural, not food things I ever made for my family on our journey to Evolve at Home. While the ingredients have evolved to fit our needs and lifestyle, the intention and love put into it have not. Well, I take that back. The love and intention have evolved exponentially because, as the years have gone by, I’ve come to deeply understand the value of t