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Propylene Glycol

Irritancy: 0
Comedogenicity: 0

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

A'pieu Raspberry Vinegar Hair Treatment A'pieu Raspberry Vinegar Hair Treatment AA Wings Of Color Hydro Comfort Primer ACO Propyderm 20% Cream ADCOS Derma Complex - Concentrado De Vitamina C 20% AOA Studio A+ Primer Spray Alfaparf Milano Semi Di Lino Essential Oil Aliya Paris Carrot Intense Cream Alphascience Phytic [TC] Serum Arm & Hammer Essentials Deodorant- Orange Citrus- Solid Oval - Made With Natural Deodorizers- Free From Aluminum, Parabens & Phthalates Arm & Hammer Essentials Solid Deodorant, Rosemary Lavender Arnidol Gel Stick Athena Club All Day Deo Tropical Bergamot B.Glen C Serum BDR Re-action pH Babaria Vitamin C Ampollas Antiox Defense Balea Professional Beautiful Long Magical Water Balea Professional Glossy & Long Magical Water Bandi Concentrated Anti-acne Ampoule Bandi Professional Perfect Skin Concentrate Baxter of California Aluminium - Alcohol Free Deodorant Be Minimalist CPH Complex + Oligopeptide 0.8% Anti-dandruff Serum Beauty Formulas Nose Pore Strips Biome Renew Postbiotic Glycerin Soap Black velvet Unifying Body Oil Bravo Sierra Unscented Deodorant COLOR WOW Pop + Lock CVS Charcoal And Black Sugar Dual Action Scrub Facial Mask Cake Tush Cush Cantabria Labs Biretix Focus Gel Cos De BAHA AC Serum Crystolite Melona-C Cuccio Somatology Yogahhh Muscle Fitness Balm Curatio Proanagen Solution Danish Skin Care Perfect Skin Optimizer Davines Oi Liquid Luster Dermaflora Natural Deo Stick Sensitive With MSM Dermedicine 5-In-1 Super-Charged Serum Dior Sauvage Deodorant Stick Dr Secret C15 Essence 7 Dr. Scholl's Severe Cracked Heel Balm Dr. Sheth Basic Brightening Vitamin Glotion Duke Cannon Natural Charcoal Deodorant (Trench Warfare) Elizavecca Vitamin C 21% Ample Mask Ellen Tracy Cleansing Facial Toner Epielle Facial Essence Mask Cucumber Epilynx Brightening Vitamin C Serum Essence Hydro Hero Under Eye Stick Etude House Silk Scarf Hair Hologram Hair Serum Eveline Glycol Therapy 2% Vitamin Illuminating Treatment