Ditching petrochemicals


As a well-respected beauty expert, Sharon McGlinchey looked into the effects of petrochemicals in our cosmetics 15 years ago, and was surprised by the amount of secrecy and health problems associated with commonly-used cheap by-products of petroleum.


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McGlinchey shares with G why she decided to start her own skincare range, MV Skincare (www.mvskincare.com), as well as a few of her favourite tips and hints for good skincare.

Why did you decide to start MV Skincare?

“I got into developing my own skincare because of petrochemicals. Fifteen years ago, a client presented to me with a severe petrochemical reaction from a new product she had purchased from another salon. I rang all of the companies that I had worked with over the years to find out who had something that was petrochemical-free, and about 50 per cent of them came back to me immediately and said basically nothing, they all contain petrochemicals. It was then the remaining 40–50 per cent’s lack of openness with their information that really led me to wonder what everybody was keeping so quiet about. It was because of that lack of honesty and the quite obvious approach to trying to hide things from me that made me continue on with my research. And the more research that I did, the more aware that I became of petrochemical toxicity, of independent research findings on petrochemicals, which were thin on the ground 15 years ago, but they were there.

A lot of the research backing up petrochemicals being fine and safe is actually financed by the companies who brought those petrochemical-based ingredients into the country. So, I realised there was something huge going on with petrochemicals. Obviously with it being so prevalent in all skincare – including babycare – I just continued on doing my research and met different people in the industry who were also researching. It became very apparent that petrochemicals are not great to put on your skin, and they will absorb through the dermal barrier, they ultimately can create toxicity. Another problem most of us are unaware of is there are both fat and water soluble ingredients in skincare. The water soluble ingredients often end up in the bloodstream and are processed by one of our most forgiving organs, the liver. On the other hand, our not-so-forgiving organ - the skin - can can harbour fat soluble ingredients in fat tissue and remain in the body for a very long time, ultimately creating toxicity which can lead to disease."

So I began working with naturopaths and with a doctor of environmental medicine. I learned a lot about inner health and it really helped, particularly as I was treating more and more people with chronic sensitivities, allergies and reactions. I found that by working with people in the field of complimentary health I could achieve more rapid results with difficult skin conditions and speed the process of chemical detoxification. 
I realised it was only really because it was a cheap by-product of petroleum that everybody was using it. And the cheaper to buy a product the more money a skincare company can make. Then I became very aware that there was a massive lack of ethics in the world of skincare. So I set about really developing a health product, something that was like medicine for your skin.

As a by-product of petroleum, it’s going to take a long time before petrochemicals start to disappear from mainstream cosmetics – the big companies invest a lot of time and effort into telling you that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with petrochemicals, because the last thing they want to do is reformulate, and have to replace something which is very inexpensive with something that’s more costly.

I ended up going off on my own, because I realised I was a square peg in a round hole in the beauty industry, and that nobody really wanted to hear what I had to say, so for many years I just went on doing my own thing, being aligned with naturopaths, and helping people to look after their skin in a more natural way and to educate them, basically, because marketing is a massively powerful tool. Women will be blinded completely, even if they might have gone organic with their children, food, sheets and towels, cleaning products – they’re still completely blinded by the whole anti-ageing and ageing phenomena that has become pretty unhealthy.

One of my things is to teach women to look after their skin and to nurture it and just do things on a much more simple level. My skincare range is very small and succinct, the more I learnt, the more I researched, it became evident that a lot of things in the beauty industry are completely unnecessary. So I try and educate women about the simplicity of skincare, and how easy it is to avoid petrochemicals if they know how. And to obviously learn to read ingredient listings, but at the end of the day, beauty is going to be the last bastion – it always will be – because vanity thou art woman.”

Can you share an easy skincare tip with our readers in these harsh winter months?

"In the winter skin can be much drier, we work in heated environments and it's colder and windier. The mistake we often make is to buy a much richer night cream but this can actually overburden the skin, causing congestion and a dull appearance. I believe oils are the best thing for your skin, particularly at night so - during the winter - switch from a heavy cream to an organic plant oil like avocado, rosehip or sweet almond. All easy to find in any good health store."