What is Propylene Glycol?

Written by: Rebecca Baird, August 17, 2010

The question “what is propylene glycol” came up when my husband was reading the ingredients on a bottle of  Solarcaine Cool Aloe Burn Relief Formula. My answer was, “I am not sure, but Kelly said it was bad for you years ago, so it must be bad.” Kelly, my daughter, had studied about cosmetic ingredients and the effects they have on the skin and body and found that propylene glycol was one of the major offenders in many skin care products. In order to more comprehensively answer the question I decided to do some research.

My research brought me first to an article by author Brian Adamson who has written many medical journals and medical training materials. He has done extensive research on ingredients contained in our skin care products and has defined many of the toxic outcomes of these products. Propylene glycol is just one of the many ingredients which he has researched and found that propylene glycol is “A cosmetic form of mineral oil found in automatic brake and hydraulic fluid and industrial antifreeze. In the skin and hair, propylene glycol works as a humescent, which causes retention of moisture content of skin or cosmetic products by preventing the escape of moisture or water. The Material Safety Data Sheet warns users to avoid skin contact with propylene glycol as this strong skin irritant can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.” I decided to go to the actual Material Safety Data Sheet to see what it had to say; this was what it said about skin contact, “Skin Contact: In case of contact, immediately flush skin with plenty of water. Cover the irritated skin with an emollient. Remove contaminated clothing and shoes. Cold water may be used. Wash clothing before reuse. Thoroughly clean shoes before reuse. Get medical attention.” In another hazardous materials sheet I found that propylene glycol “May cause reproductive and fetal effects. Laboratory experiments have resulted in mutagenic effects.”

Some of the cosmetics which propylene glycol can be found in are:

Makeup
Shampoo
Deodorant
Detangler
Styling Mousse
Cleansing Cream
Mascara
Soap
Skin Cream
Bubble Bath
Baby Powder
Conditioner
Toner
After Shave
Baby Wipes

It is also found in:
Tire sealant
Rubber cleaner
De-icer
Stain removers
Fabric softener
De-greaser
Paint
Adhesive
Wallpaper stripper

The best way to protect you and your family from harmful chemicals is to read the ingredient labels on the products and do some research to find out what exactly those ingredients are and how they may affect your health.