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Propylene Glycol

Veterinarian Reviewed on June 20, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

Propylene Glycol


Propylene glycol may also be called propane – 1, 2 – diol or 1, 2 – propanediol. It is described as a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid which has a somewhat sweet taste. It is miscible with acetone, chloroform and water. Propylene glycol is flammable by nature and it is usually used a solvent in many chemical reactions. It is produced through the fermentation of yeast and carbohydrates.
There are many industries that use propylene glycol and one of these is for hair care and skin care products. It improves the moisture retention property of such personal care products. This chemical may have many applications but direct contact may cause severe skin irritation and if ingested may also cause liver and kidney abnormalities.

History and Origin

Propylene glycol is industrially made from propylene oxide. It is made from either a catalytic or a non-catalytic method which exposes the propylene into extremes of temperature and a small amount of sulfuric acid or alkali to yield propylene glycol for industrial purposes. The final product is purified and processed to be used for cosmetics and personal skin care products that we use every day.

Ancient Uses

The use of propylene glycol was unheard of during ancient times. Personal care products for the hair and skin back then were mostly made of natural ingredients such as Herbs, fruit extracts and nut butters. Skin conditions like itching, inflammation, burns, cuts and wounds were often treated naturally with the use of herbs and many other natural remedies.

Modern Uses

Propylene glycol is used in many skin care products including soaps, hand sanitizers, moisturizers, hand creams and baby powder. Hair care products that may contain propylene glycol are shampoos, conditioners, detanglers, styling aids and hair care treatments.
Some cosmetics also have propylene glycol as its main ingredient, such as mascaras, eye makeup, toners, concealers and lipsticks. Other daily personal care products that contain this chemical are baby wipes, aftershaves, deodorants and bubble baths.

Other industries also use propylene glycol. It is one of the main ingredients in tire sealants, rubber cleaners, paint, antifreeze, degreasers, adhesives and in wall paper strippers. It is also found in fabric softeners, stain removers, detergents and many other common products that we use at home.

Side Effects

Direct contact with propylene glycol and continuous exposure to products with this chemical may cause headaches, throat irritation and allergic reactions. If the chemical is swallowed, it may also cause vomiting, difficulty of breathing, sleepiness, slurred speech, convulsion and if ingested in large amounts, can cause death.
It is important therefore for factory workers and anyone who works with harmful chemicals like propylene glycol to always wear protective clothing such as masks, goggles, gloves and an apron. Never handle chemicals without wearing protective clothing. If you must use products that contain propylene glycol as one of the main ingredients, be sure to rinse your hair thoroughly, rinse your skin after application or use and remember to remove your makeup completely immediately after arriving home and/or before going to bed.

If you develop any untoward reaction after using personal products with propylene glycol, consult medical help at once. If you have extra sensitive skin, consult your dermatologist for the ideal skin care product to use.

Read also: Phytol

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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