Follow us on our new Insta page »

Propylene Glycol

Irritancy: 0
Comedogenicity: 0

Official CosIng Information

Quick Facts

  • It's a helper ingredient that improves the freeze-thaw stability of products
  • It's also a solvent, humectant and to some extent a penetration enhancer
  • It has a bad reputation among natural cosmetics advocates but cosmetic scientists and toxicology experts do not agree (read more in the geeky details section)

Geeky Details

Propylene Glycol (PG) is a colorless liquid, whose main job, usually, is to improve the so-called freeze-thaw stability of the products. This means that it makes sure that a product doesn’t freeze or melt in low or high temperatures. To achieve this, small amounts - usually less than 2% - is used. 

Other functions of PG include being a humectant (helps skin attract water), being a solvent for other ingredients and being a penetration enhancer.

If you google PG or you like to read around on sites advocating natural cosmetics you might have read some really scary info about this ingredient. The two most common accusations are that it’s a strong skin irritant and that it modifies the skin to allow toxins to penetrate it.

As for the first one, yes PG can be a skin irritant if used 100% on your skin, but so can many things in their pure, 100% form. Think about salt. It’s not the same if you try to eat it in itself or if you put a pinch of it on your food. So PG used in small amounts in cosmetics is just fine according to every credible scientist and toxicology expert. 

As for the second thing (that PG allows toxins to get through our skin) it is somewhat true that PG might help some ingredients to penetrate the skin better. But it does not work so that a tiny amount of PG allows all the bad stuff to go right into our blood. English cosmetic chemist, Colin wrote a very good post about this. He writes that the skin is very good at keeping things out and getting some good ingredients into it is actually not easy. According to his experience PG is not a very good penetration enhancer and fairly large (10-25%) amount is needed for this function. But more than 10% can be irritating, so it’s very rare that a cosmetic product contains this large amount. 

The scientists at the Beauty Brains are even more accepting of PG. They write that PG is safe for ingestion  (it can be a food additive!) AND safe for use in injected drugs, so it’s unlikely to cause any problems in a topical cosmetic product applied on intact skin.

All in all, PG is a helper ingredient and is not especially good for your skin. But used in small (<5%) amounts it’s absolutely fine, not poisonous and there is no reason to be afraid of it. 

If you would like to read some more about PG here is the opinion of skin care expert, Paula Begoun, cosmetic chemists Colin and the Beauty Brains - all really good info on the topic. 

Products with Propylene Glycol

AOA Studio A+ Primer Spray Duke Cannon Natural Charcoal Deodorant (Trench Warfare) Evidence Skin Care Reverse C Serum Feel Beauty Restored Self Warming Clay Mask G&G teint uniforme Lightening Beauty Oil Helena Rubinstein Force C Helena Rubinstein Force C Eyes Hema Stroopwafel Self-Heating Face Mask ISDIN ISDINceutics Flavo-C Ultraglican ISDIN Isdinceutics Flavo-C By Auriga Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate Kopari Coconut Oil Deodorant L'oreal Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum Montarbo Skincare Vitalizing Vitamin C Serum 12% Obagi Professional-C™ Serum 10% Obagi Professional-C™ Serum 15% Obagi Professional-C™ Serum 20% Paula's Choice Resist Bha 9 Prai 24K Gold Caviar Wrinkle Repair Serum Prai Champagne Caviar Skin Renewal Serum QEI+ Concentrated Brightening Serum Gold Sample beauty Infinity In One Beauty Gel Serious Skincare Pure-Pep Peptide Concentrate Volition Helix AM/PM Eye Gel tom’s of maine 24Hr Natural Odor Protection Long Lasting Deodorant Lemongrass A'pieu Nonco Tea Tree Stick ACO Face Soft & Soothing Toner Acnes C10 Pure Vitamin C Serum Anatomicals Anti Pollutant Face Mask Anatomicals Facial Spritz Anne Semonin Super Active Serum Armani Eye Tint Liquid Eyeshadow Avon Nutraeffects Brightening Toner Avoskin Miraculous Refining Serum Balea Mizellen Augen-Make-Up-Entferner-Pads Barry M Makeup Setting Spray Dewy Finish Barry M Makeup Setting Spray Matte Finish Be Better Age Defying Vitamin C Serum BeRich Burnova Gel Plus Snow Algae Beauté Pacifique Body Lotion Dry Skin Bielenda Professional 10% Azelaic Acid Face Serum Biobellus Gel Bioregenerador Bioeffect EFG Day Serum Biologique Recherche Creme Adn Elastine Marine Collagene Marin Biologique Recherche Creme Dermopurifiante Biologique Recherche Creme Echinoderm Au Complexe Bio-Marin Biologique Recherche Creme Placenta Biologique Recherche Creme Vg Derm