If I asked you to name a cosmetics brand, you would probably say something like CoverGirl, Dove, or Cerave—not Shell, Exxon, or Chevron. Still, make no mistake: these brands have as much of an investment in the beauty industry as the former. In 2021, 30% of Exxon Mobile’s total sales were owed to their production of petroleum products, including the plastic packaging used for beauty and skincare goods. Dig deeper, and you’ll find that many cosmetic products also include ingredients derived from fossil fuels and petroleum products.

Although the materials in goods like food and medication are often heavily monitored, there is a shocking lack of regulation in the beauty products that hit the shelves. Oil companies are banking on this continuing. It’s not that these companies don’t know what’s going into their products; they would rather you not know. So how have gas and oil companies gotten away with leaking into the beauty industry—and why should you care?


It’s no secret that plastic pollution is one of the biggest culprits in the climate crisis. You might remember our blog on plastic waste in the cosmetic industry and the harm of rarely recycled packaging. We can thank the oil companies for this, too: Fossil fuels make up 99% of the materials that feed into plastic products, providing a frightening perspective on how much of a monopoly these oil overlords have over catastrophic global pollution. With just 20 businesses producing over half the world’s plastic waste—Exxon Mobil leading the charge—it’s no wonder that the big earners in the beauty industry would prefer to push these facts to the sidelines.

And the oil industry’s grip on cosmetics doesn’t stop at the packaging. Though invisible to the naked eye, certain cosmetics are rich in petroleum-derived ingredients and plastic chemicals. One of the biggest offenders is petrolatum, a water-resistant material that is used to “moisturize” (i.e. coat your skin to prevent water from escaping). This ingredient has been around as long as the oil industry has existed, and is commonly found in products like Vaseline and Aquaphor, which are peddled to those with sensitive, dry, or damaged skin.

As of 2023, EWG’s Skin Deep lists 1,484 cosmetics containing petrolatum (not including the packaging). But aside from pollution, what’s the issue? Products with petrolatum (especially in the U.S.) can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). With elongated exposure, these significantly increase your risk for skin, bladder, liver, stomach, and other kinds of cancer cancer. Add up daily use of petrolatum-inclusive products, and your risk skyrockets. Plus, petrolatum is only one of the ingredients that we have to worry about.


I know what you’re thinking: Why isn’t this a bigger story? You’ll find the answer in the payroll. Plenty of executives profit from minimizing this dirty secret. This includes not only those who sit on the boards of oil companies but also high-dollar individuals in the beauty industry (and there is certainly overlap). Even the beauty influencers sweeping across TikTok and YouTube would rather keep this all quiet: after all, how else can they maintain brand deals if they choose to speak out against a scandal of this size?

While the beauty industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry, the chemical industry is a multi-trillion-dollar industry, and combined, their influence is dangerous. Those with the big bucks have power over the public perception, and they have a vested interest in continuing to convince consumers that all plastic packaging is recycled and that petroleum jelly is the only cure for dry skin. Outrage is bad for business, right? And while Europe has wised up to limiting the use of petrolatum in cosmetics, the U.S. is charging full-steam ahead on these petro-product rollouts (leaving consumers to foot the consequences).


 A list of common petrol-product ingredients include:

  • Mineral oil
  • Petrolatum
  • Paraffin Wax
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs)
  • Isoparaffin
  • Toulene
  • Butylene Glycol
  • Ozokerite
  • Ceresin
  • Isododecane
  • Isohexadecane
  • Microcrystalline Wax
  • Synthetic Fragrances
  • Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA, PHOH)
  • PVP technologies (styrene, copolymer)
  • Acrylate technologies (copolymer, acrylic acid, polyacrylate, sodium polyacrylate, acrylamide, methacrylate). Many versions of this

Check out our list of common plastic-derived ingredients HERE for more details.

We know this is a lengthy list, and if you’re having trouble finding beauty products without any of these listed, you’re not alone. DEW Mighty emerged from the thesis that you shouldn’t have to choose between the health and wellness of yourself/the planet and effective, powerful skincare. Our products are completely free of petroleum byproducts and ingredients, with a formula and packaging that reflects our compassion for both the earth and our consumers.

It’s time for oil companies and their bigwig buddies (including brands like Coke, Pepsi, and Nestle) to stop blaming the consumers. With a successful recycling rate of under 5% for recyclable products, it’s those producing the plastic that are the top offenders in the pollution crisis. However, we all have a role to play, and it’s more important than ever to stay conscious of cutting out oil industry products to preserve our environment and prevent these chemicals from leaching into our everyday use products. We can dew better to care for ourselves and our planet; what better place to start than with your cosmetics?

Great additional reads

“A Beginner's Guide to Petroleum-Based Ingredients (and How To Avoid Them)” 

Exxon Mobile’s 2022 Earnings Report


“What’s Up With Petroleum in Beauty Products?”

“You Have Fossil Fuels on Your Face” 

“For fossil-free makeup, the cosmetics industry needs key biobased inputs”

Collab Piper Gourley