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. 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 4 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 and endocrine disruption. 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.
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 (and you can see the full list of 1,041 here) that contain propylene glycol include:
- Clarins Extra Firming Starter Collection
- Colorsilk by Revlon
- Noxzema Bikini Clear Shave Gel
- Hawaiian Tropic Deep Tanning Creme Lotion
- Clairol Herbal Essences
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. I try my best to only use safe, natural products, but I am always reading labels in the store before I purchase anything. EWG lists safe products as well as pointing out the toxic ones, so if you are looking for alternatives to your favorites, be sure to check them out. 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!