If you just walk to your dressing table, pick up a few of your skincare products and check their labels, I am sure that you would encounter the word ‘Propylene Glycol‘ at least once. Propylene Glycol is a common ingredient in most beauty products – from cleansers to moisturizers to deodorants and liquid foundations.
So, what is this ingredient and what does it do? Does it have any dangers associated with it?
Let’s learn about Propylene Glycol today!
WHAT IS PROPYLENE GLYCOL?
Propylene Glycol or 1,2-propanediol is a synthetic (i.e., man-made) alcohol derived from either petroleum, natural gas or vegetable sources. It is classified as an ‘organic’ compound in chemistry, based on its chemical attributes.
Propylene Glycol is a viscous, colourless and odourless, water-soluble liquid. It acts as a humectant, solvent, emulsifier and stabilizer and is widely used as an ingredient in beauty, food as well as the pharmaceutical industry.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PROPYLENE GLYCOL?
At low concentration levels, Propylene Glycol acts as a humectant, i.e., it draws/attracts water to the outer layer of your skin, thus helping it stay hydrated. It also works as an emollient, forming a protective barrier on the skin and preventing water-loss. It can offer some moisturization to the skin as well. It is an effective ingredient for dry skin.
As the skin loses moisture and dries out with age, using Propylene Glycol can help hydrate ageing skin and make it look healthier. It may also make the skin softer and smoother.
This ingredient acts as an epidermal delivery agent and enhances the absorption of other active ingredients present in the product. This in turn helps the product work more efficiently and provide better results.
Additionally, it is not oily and hence, is considered safe for acne-prone skin.
It is also used to temperature stabilize a product (for example – a lotion or cream) so that the product doesn’t change consistency with varying temperatures.
ARE THERE ANY DANGERS ASSOCIATED WITH PROPYLENE GLYCOL?
Propylene Glycol is usually derived from Propylene Oxide, which in turn comes from petroleum. It is the mention of ‘Petroleum’ – a carcinogen, that scares people and raises safety concerns. Propylene Glycol is also used as an industrial antifreeze and is a major ingredient in brake and hydraulic fluids. Many websites even claim that it dries out the skin in the long term or that it allows toxins and pollutants to penetrate the skin/enter the bloodstream.
So, should the presence of Propylene Glycol in your lotion be a cause for concern?
No, not really.
First of all, not everything derived from petroleum is harmful or toxic. It is totally possible to derive a safe product from a toxic substance. So, unless there is a contamination, ‘derived from petroleum’ is not an issue. Also, there are different grades used in the industry, like pharmaceutical and industrial grades. So, the Propylene Glycol present in your cosmetic product is not of the same grade as the one present in brake fluids.
Secondly, the claims that Propylene Glycol will lead to dry skin or that it allows unwanted chemicals to penetrate the skin/bloodstream are just ‘claims’ – with no research or proper scientific data to back it up.
On the other hand, the U.S. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board reviewed the available data for Propylene Glycol and concluded that is it safe for use in cosmetic products when formulated to be non-irritating to the skin. The FDA considers it safe for direct and indirect addition to food. EU has also listed the ingredient as safe for cosmetic use and NTP considered it pretty safe as well.
Having said all that, Propylene Glycol can irritate your skin or trigger an allergic reaction (eg. redness, rashes), especially if your skin is sensitive. So, you should always do a patch test before using a new product. If your skin doesn’t show signs of irritation even after 24 hours, you can safely use the product. Remember that even if there is a reaction, it may or may not be due to Propylene Glycol.
[Note: If you notice any redness, itching or allergic reaction after using a product, please stop using it immediately. Consult a doctor if needed.]
~ END NOTE ~
Based on what I learnt, Propylene Glycol is considered safe for cosmetic use and you can use products containing the ingredient. But remember to do a patch test first to see you are not allergic to any of the ingredients present!
Disclosure & Disclaimer: This blog is provided for general informational purposes only. I have tried my best to provide accurate information but please understand that I am not a medical doctor, researcher or an expert in any field. Please do not consider my opinions to be substitutes for sound professional advice.