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What propylene glycol does for the skin: benefits, products, side effects



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It sounds kind of chemical and Googling could only confuse you further. What actually is Propylene Glycol and is it something you want in your skin care routine?

Propylene glycol sometimes gets a bad rap and it may seem mysterious, but it’s actually a very common ingredient found in thousands of makeup and skin care products.

It’s a clear, slightly viscous synthetic liquid that helps keep you hydrated, helps keep active ingredients from getting into your skin, and prevents products from melting in extreme temperatures (such as when you leave your moisturizer in a hot car).

So is this stuff useful in any way? And is there any legitimate harm or risk that you need to consider? You have questions, let̵

7;s talk the answers.

Propylene glycol 101

What is it: A clear, synthetic liquid with moisturizing and smoothing properties.

What it does: Draws more water onto the skin and locks in moisture to combat dryness and improve texture.

Where to find it: Pretty much everywhere. Propylene glycol is found in around 14,000 products, including detergents, moisturizers, lotions, soaps, shampoos and conditioners, deodorants and shaving creams.

Propylene glycol acts as both a humectant and a conditioner in skin care products. Basically, it helps you achieve two things that you really want for your skin: moisture and smoothness.

It can be an especially helpful ingredient if you’re constantly struggling with dryness, flaking, or gnarled rough texture.

Here you can see the advantages in more detail:

  • Blocks moisture. Propylene glycol has moisturizing properties, which means it draws water into your skin. It also acts as a barrier against to keep Moisture in your skin to keep it hydrated.
  • Protects the skin barrier. Propylene glycol’s moisturizing properties are believed to help protect and repair the skin’s outer barrier. This can be especially helpful when dealing with conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
  • Makes the skin look fresher. It’s simple: more hydration and a happy, healthy skin barrier means your skin is more likely to have a glowing, moist appearance.
  • Helps other ingredients work better. Propylene glycol actually helps other ingredients make their way into your skin. Ultimately, they help the moisturizer or serum do its job for you to get the best results possible.

Propylene glycol is an additive that you would not find in the drug store and would use on its own. And since it’s found in around 14,000 skin and personal care products, there’s a good chance you’re already using it.

Would you like to take advantage of additional benefits? First, chat with your dermatologist. She can recommend propylene glycol products to help you with your specific skin care problems and advice on how best to use them.

There are definitely some crazy articles labeling propylene glycol as a toxin or a carcinogen. So even though the stuff is everywhere … is it really bad for you?

Honestly no. The concern arises from the fact that propylene glycol is derived from petroleum, which is a potential carcinogen. But the two ingredients are not exactly the same.

In fact, cosmetic grade propylene glycol is considered safe and likely non-toxic by large organizations like the Environment Working Group. Hence, most people shouldn’t have a problem applying a lotion that contains propylene glycol.

Even so, propylene glycol can definitely irritate some people’s skin and cause an allergic reaction, especially if you have sensitive skin to begin with. It is especially known for irritation – that is, rashes and itching – when applied to the face.

Allergy warning: look out for these signs

Do you notice any redness, irritation, or itching after using a product that contains propylene glycol? Stop using it and contact your dermatologist. You may have a skin allergy to the ingredient.

If your skin is prone to handling new products, definitely be careful. Patch test a new product that contains propylene glycol on a small product before applying it all over your face or body.

If the patch test area doesn’t cause redness, irritation, or itching after 24 hours, you are probably good to go. But if it freaks your skin, avoid it.

Keep in mind that propylene glycol may not necessarily be causing the problem (skin care products are high in ingredients!). However, you should have the problem carried out by your dermatologist for the relevant information.

Your derm may suggest testing you for a skin allergy to propylene glycol or another ingredient in the product to find out what the ultimate culprit is.

Do not confuse propylene glycol with ethylene glycol. Although they have similar names, the latter is a well-known toxin used in antifreeze. In other words, definitely not something you would want anywhere near your skin.

Propylene glycol is used as a moisturizer and skin emollient in literally thousands of personal care products. It can be very helpful in combating dryness and improving the overall texture of your skin. And while it is generally considered safe, it is not for everyone.

The ingredient is a common irritant. So if you have sensitive skin or skin allergies, do a patch test of new propylene glycol-containing products before using the product anywhere.


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