What is propylene glycol? It is is a chemical found in personal care products that acts as a penetration enhancer that keeps products from melting in heat and/or freezing when it is cold. It is found in items such as shampoo, conditioner, soap, acne treatment, moisturizer, toothpaste, deodorant, nail polish, mascara; basically anything you could possibly use on your body, propylene glycol is in it. But why should you avoid propylene glycol?
For starters it alters the structure of the skin by allowing chemicals to penetrate deep beneath it while increasing their ability to reach the blood stream. Sounds lovely, right? So even if propylene glycol was good for you, it’s main job is to help any other chemicals you come in contact with reach your bloodstream. Who wants to use a chemical designed to help other chemicals penetrate even deeper into your skin? Not me.
However, there is even more to it than just that…
How Toxic is Propylene Glycol
According to the Environmental Working Group, propylene glycol can cause a whole host of problems. It is rated a 3 by them, which is categorized as a “moderate” health issue. It has been shown to be linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive issues, allergies/immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and organ system toxicity. It has been found to provoke skin irritation and sensitization in humans as low as 2% concentration, while the industry review panel recommends cosmetics can contain up to 50% of the substance. It has also been classified as “expected to be toxic or harmful” by Environment Canada.
How to Spot Propylene Glycol
When looking at ingredient lists, you can look for names like 1,2-Dihydroxypropane; 2-Hydroxypropanol; Methylethy Glycol; 1,2-Propanediol; Propane-1,2-Diol. Some popular products that contain propylene glycol include:
- Biolage by Matrix Conditioning Balm
- Nivea for Men Hair & Body Wash, Sensitive
- Aveeno Active Naturals Skin Relief Overnight Cream
- Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant, Unscented
- Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer For All Skin Types
So take a look at the ingredients of the products that you use and search for propylene glycol or the other names it is often called/listed as. I try my best to only use safe, natural products, but I am always reading labels in the store before I purchase anything. Chances are there is a safe alternative to a toxic favorite. Next time you are shopping for a personal care item, be sure to remember what propylene glycol is and do your best to avoid it!