WTF?! There’s anti-freeze in my moisturizer?!
*Anyone’s reaction to learning about Propylene Glycol (you know, the industrial anti-freeze used in brake and hydraulic fluids)*.
Yep and you shouldn’t worry about it.
No, I haven’t lost my marbles.
Propylene Glycol is one of those fellas that sound scary as hell. But when you look at it through science’s eyes, it’s just a little misunderstood molecule that doesn’t do anyone any harm.
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what science has to say about Propylene Glycol:
What The Heck Is Propylene Glycol?
Propylene Glycol is an organic alcohol that doesn’t dry out your skin. It’s derived from oil. That alone is enough for most people to accuse it of the most unspeakable crimes – WITHOUT proof.
When it’s absorbed by the skin, Propylene Glycol turns into lactic acid, a substance your body naturally produces when it exercises. No danger in that.
Why Is Propylene Glycol In My Skincare Products?
- Stability: it keep your lotions from freezing at low temperatures and melting at high ones.
- Humectant: it draws moisture from the environment into the skin, keeping it hydrated.
- Penetration-enhancer: it helps deliver other active ingredients into the skin.
- Solvent: it helps dissolve other ingredients.
Is Propylene Glycol Dangerous?
Critics claim that Propylene Glycol is super irritating and can cause liver and kidney problems. Cancer even.
Science has a different opinion:
- Irritation: yes, at 100% concentrations, Propylene Glycol is super irritating and can seriously sting your skin and eyes. BUT, you’ll never find that much in your lotions and potions. Propylene Glycol is usually used around 2% concentrations. Too small to irritate anyone (unless you have super super super sensitive skin).
- Cancer: there is no proof that Propylene Glycol causes cancer. I guess this rumour was started because Propylene Glycol is a petrolchemical, BUT studies have shown it is safe.
Wait! What About Skin Penetration?
Propylene Glycol can penetrate skin AND help other ingredients do the same. Surely, THAT must be dangerous?
Nope. Here’s the deal:
- Absorption is minimal: only the tiniest amount of Propylene Glycol penetrates into the skin.
- Safe to eat: according to the World Health Organization, ingesting 25 mg of propylene glycol per kg body weight every day is fine. You put much less on your skin. (Please, don’t start eating your skincare now!).
- Breakdown: as I’ve mentioned earlier, Propylene Glycol breaks down into lactic acid in the blood. What’s dangerous about lactic acid?
Ok, Propylene Glycol is safe. But what about the other ingredients it helps to get through the skin?
Well, as long as those aren’t dangerous, where’s the harm? Besides, propylene glycol is only a weak penetration enhancer. It won’t let ALL your cream get through. The little it lets in is HIGHLY unlikely to cause problems.
The Bottom Line
Propylene Glycol is safe. In the tiniest concentrations used in cosmetics, it won’t irritate skin, won’t give you cancer and won’t cause you any harm.
What do you think of Propylene Glycol? Will you keep avoiding it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.