Propylene Glycol is an organic alcohol found in a wide variety of cosmetics, fragrances, personal care products and even food. Once it is absorbed by the skin, this ingredient is metabolized into lactic acid, which is the substance that occurs naturally when muscles are exercised.
Still, this colorless and viscous liquid is getting a bad reputation as a toxic and dangerous ingredient that should be avoided at all costs. But what’s the truth? Is Propylene Glycol really as bad as some people make it out to be?
Why is Propylene Glycol used in beauty products?
Propylene Glycol is used in beauty products for several reasons. It is used to attract water from the environment to the skin, keeping it hydrated and moisturized, as a solvent to dissolve other substances, and to help active ingredients penetrate the skin better. In addition, Propylene Glycol helps the various ingredients used in products to combine, binding them together and keeps these products from freezing at low temperatures or from melting at high ones.
A quick search around the web will bring up lots of websites claiming that Propylene Glycol is a very dangerous ingredient.They claim that it is an industrial antifreeze and that it is used in brake and hydraulic fluids. They also state that Propylene Glycol is very irritating and that, when it comes into contact with the skin, it can cause kidney and liver problems. Not only that, but according to the critics, it can cause cancer too! Scary stuff, huh? But is all that true?
The truth about Propylene Glycol
Well, there is some truth to these claims, but as it often happens, the truth has been twisted. Sometimes by people in good faith who didn’t dig into the matter deep enough, other times by natural companies that, to sell more of their products, claim all sort of nasty and dangerous stories about any synthetic ingredient. It is true that Propylene Glycol is used as an antifreeze, but at concentrations of 100%! And yes, such high concentrations can be very irritating and cause redness and stinging when they come into contact with the skin.
But the amount used in cosmetics and personal care products is much lower than that and safe to be used on the skin. Some particularly sensitive people can still be irritated by this substance but that’s rare and besides, each and every ingredient, including natural ones, used in beauty products can cause a negative reaction to someone, so there’s no need to worry. The majority of people will be able to use this ingredient without any problems at all.
Also, there is no scientific proof that Propylene Glycol causes cancer. No study has ever linked this ingredient to cancer and according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry it isn’t carcinogenic at all. I have no idea how or when this rumour started but it’s a relief it’s completely unfounded, isn’t it?
The Bottom Line
There’s no need to panic and run to your cabinet to throw out all products that contain Propylene Glycol. This ingredient is safe to be used in cosmetics and personal care products and won’t harm your skin nor cause cancer.