Read the Ingredients: Propylene Glycol

Happy Thursday, friends!

Today, I'm beginning a new series called Read the Ingredients, where I will research and discuss common ingredients found in health and beauty products, as well as food. Basically, I'll pick an ingredient, let you know what I find out about it, and talk about whether or not it's a health risk.

First up to the plate: Propylene Glycol...

Image of PG  via

Image of PG via

Propylene Glycol is a common ingredient found in liquid and cream products. It is technically an antifreeze, but the not the kind of scary antifreeze that comes to mind when someone says...well..."antifreeze."

1. Propylene Glycol is an antifreeze agent.

However, do not confuse it with its highly toxic cousin, Ethylene Glycol. Propylene Glycol is not immediately toxic when you come into contact with it. Ethylene Glycol is used in radiators to help them maintain a certain temperature. Veterinarians often see pets who have been poisoned by ethylene glycol, because it has a sweet taste and pets may drink it if it's spilled on the floor.

2. Propylene Glycol is a byproduct of fossil fuels.

It is known as what's called a "third product." Basically, it begins with propene, which is then converted to propylene oxide, and then water is added, and you get propylene glycol. If sustainability is really important to you, and you want to stear clear of the fossil fuel industry as much as possible, then you may want to skip Propylene Glycol.

3. Propylene Glycol has been classified by the FDA as safe.

The FDA has said that propylene glycol is "generally recognized as safe" for food and other products. The FDA isn't foolproof by any means, and they don't always have everyone's best interests at heart, so I would take their classifications with a grain of salt. But do what's right for you and your family.

4. Propylene Glycol has been given a score of 3 by the EWG.

I personally trust the EWG more than I trust the FDA, and even though 3 is more toxic than 1, it's still considered a "fair" score. The only rub is, there is little to no clinical research done on propylene glycol's safety for humans. Most (if not all) lab tests have been done on monkeys, rats, and other test animals. 

5. Propylene Glycol can be a skin and eye irritant.

It is also used as a penetration enhancer, meaning that if it is, say, in your moisturizer, it is used to make the other ingredients penetrate deeper into the body. This doesn't sound too bad, but if some of the other ingredients are causing your skin to be sensitized, then the propylene glycol is only helping them along.

6. Propylene Glycol could be toxic to Infants.

Our kidneys and liver do the work of ridding our bodies of toxins. Infants' kidneys and livers don't work as well as ours do, so they have a harder time ridding their bodies of toxins. So pregnant ladies, nursing mamas, and mamas in general, be on the lookout for this ingredient in your health and beauty products, as well as the products that come into contact with your baby. 

I'd also note that if you have poor liver or kidney function, you should be aware of potentially harmful products that come into contact with your body. Good apps to have that can help with this are the EWG app and the Think Dirty app. If your products are in their system, they will tell you what the ingredients are and if they're harmful or not.

As always, don't take my word as law. I actually like researching this type of stuff, so I'm happy to share what I find, but always do what works for you. If you happily use products that contain propylene glycol, more power to you. To each his own, as they say!

I hope this post has been helpful, and if it has, feel free to let me know of any ingredient you'd like me to research for future posts!

LesLeigh J.