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Ingredient Review - Propylene Glycol


Propylene Glycol can be found in personal care products and food. It is an ingredient I chose to avoid because of the links to skin irritation and contact dermatitis. I am fully aware that any ingredient, natural or synthetic, has the potential to cause a reaction. It will depend on how our individual bodies react and the quantity applied. As someone who suffers with eczema, I make it my mission to avoid certain ingredients because I have to do what is right for my skin. Others may avoid Propylene Glycol because it is a product of the petrochemical industry and we have to consider it is an industry which is unsustainable and polluting the environment. 

Propylene Glycol comes in more than one formulation, industrial and pharmaceutical and because of this it has various uses. A quick Google search will bring up some scary claims and a connection to antifreeze. Propylene Glycol is commonly used in engine coolants and antifreeze solutions, however it is used as a safer replacement to ethylene glycol which is toxic and dangerous. Whilst there may be scaremongering tactics circulating the internet, I am still not comfortable knowing Propylene Glycol is used commercially to defrost airplanes. What benefit could that possibly offer my skin?

When it comes to skincare, propylene glycol is used as a moisturising agent (aka humectant) and it is a cheap filler ingredient. One natural alternative is glycerine which can be sourced from soya bean or coconut but it may also be derived from animals or synthetically produced. My research leads me to believe that glycerin is a more effective humectant than propylene glycol so that supports my decision to avoid it. There is another natural alternative called Propanediol Glycol (Chemical name: Propan-1,3-diol) which is derived from vegetable sources (corn) making it more eco-friendly in comparison to Propylene Glycol. It does have EcoCert approval and is considered safe for cosmetics and food.

The quantity of propylene glycol in cosmetic products is small and it is not considered a risk. However, I look at the bigger picture and mainstream products contain a cocktail of undesirable ingredients which from my perspective increases the risk of allergic reactions. My skin responds better to natural ingredients and that gives me justification to continue using skincare which is considered natural, green and clean.

What are your thoughts and feeling about the use of Propylene Glycol in cosmetics/skincare and food?

Sarah x