Posted on 15 Comments

Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol – Ingredients Well Worth Avoiding

Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol

There are many nasty ingredients out there, but in this post I want to touch on two that I find particularly bad: Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol. Otherwise known as PEG and PG, these ingredients are found in your car, in your food, in your pharmaceuticals, and (you guessed it) in your personal care products. All this exposure is bad news if you value your health. Here’s why:

Polyethylene Glycol – The Person You Don’t Want at a Party

Have you ever invited someone to a get-together, only to have that person invite a dozen of their friends? Before you know it, your food is gone, your house is ruined, and your neighbors aren’t speaking to you. Polyethylene glycol is that person.

The thing that PEG is best at is enhancing penetration. It helps other ingredients get deep down into your skin. When PEG joins a party it brings all its friends with it, really ramping up the impact that other undesirable compounds have on your skin. Not only that, but PEG is often contaminated with some really nasty things. According to a report in the International Journal of Toxicology, PEG has been found to be contaminated with heavy metals (including lead) and ethylene oxide (an ingredient used to make mustard gas). I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the kind of party I’d rather avoid.

When PEG penetrates your body, it also disrupts your skin’s ability to retain moisture. As a result, you’ll end up with dryer, itchier, and more irritated skin, which will probably leave you reaching for the same product that contained PEG in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle, and one that’s hard to break without making a dramatic change in your skincare mindset.

Propylene Glycol – It’s Everywhere

Here’s a fun game: try to find something that doesn’t contain Propylene Glycol. Intravenous drugs? Check. Antifreeze? Check. Cake mix? Check. Conventional personal care products? Big check on that one. PG is everywhere, and that’s scary.

It’s natural that an ingredient used in both brake fluid, flavored iced tea, and deodorant would raise some suspicion. There’s been quite a bit of research into PG, and the results are not comforting. Even at relatively low concentrations, exposure to PG has been proven to cause irritation and allergic reaction. One report even shows that exposure to PG can cause skin, liver, and kidney damage.

Finally, just like PEG, PG increases penetration. That means the other ingredients in your lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and sunblocks can make it into your system that much more easily. Over time this exposure can really add up, especially when you consider just how often the average person encounters PG. The safest bet is to avoid it as much as possible, which is why I never use it in my formulations.

Your Skin Deserves Better

There’s no need to keep exposing yourself to PEG and PG, especially when there are plenty of alternatives out there. Choose Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol-free products and enjoy healthier (and happier) skin.

What are your experiences with Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol? Let us know about them in the comments below. 


15 thoughts on “Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol – Ingredients Well Worth Avoiding

  1. My daughter has anaphylactic shock when in contact with propylene glycol !!!!! And even worse is Polyvidone. Here at home we have to read everything !!! And when walking in the street, if someone passes a perfume or a spray or any smelling environment that has propylene glycol, or polyvidone her throat closes almost instantly. She hás an exacerbated reaction. We always walk with injections of adrenaline and corticoid in the bag to guarantee her safety. We live in Brazil and are looking for an allergist who might know of some treatment or anything that might help us

  2. Oh my gosh! I know how you all feel! My husband has gone through many of the same things as you all. Doctors just don’t even seem to get it! We actually figured it out ourselves after a trip to the ER. He took Prilosec OTC, that he had been taking every now and then for at least a year with no problem but this time was much different. Out daughter is a nurse and gave him 4 Benadryl and off to the ER we went. We weren’t 2 miles down the road and had to call 911. Ambulance met us and we were told later if she hadn’t given him the Benadryl he might not have made it. Said they had never heard of anyone being allergic to Prilosec. Then a few months later an episode with MiraLAX. Had to use EpiPen this time. We googled ingredients in the two and guess what! So we now tell them all about it. Even our pharmacy knows. Since then problems with Movi Prep, fentanyl, Propofol and a shot docs gave him in his back in hopes of no surgery. First shot no problems. Went home right after it. The second shot gave him about a five hour stay in the hospital because he is now allergic to it! When I asked if there was anything different in this shot from the first doc said no the exact stuff. But no polyethylene glycol in either of them. So just wondering if maybe the name was changed and it got by everyone. Needless to say there wasn’t a 3rd shot but surgery. Pharmacy can filter precribed meds but not otc meds. So yes! Check those inactive ingredients in everything! I was told that even in juices sometimes. And maybe not this time but could be next time in the exact same brand and flavor! This is some bad stuff! The docs said they had never heard of it either!

  3. Propylene glycol in medicines caused me anaphylactic reactions. I was in an oil spill in 2004 and the fumes gave me a lung burn and sensitized me to petroleum in any form. The inhalers that I was using for my REACTIVE AIRWAY DISEASE, contained propylene glycol. Trying to follow the plan doctors set in place, not realizing that the very medication used to help me breathe was making me worst. But it was not until my pointer finger started turning black over the knuckle, and after I would use my inhaler, or take Avalox for infections, I would be shocked that with 10 minutes, my finger would look as though someone had poured hot grease on it. After a few very painful days, the burnt flesh would turn whitish and “molt”; peel off layer by layer. Finally a surgeon performed surgery on it , to remove what drs described as ‘bleeding under the skin’. But as soon as I exhaled the tar from a freshly paved road, my finger again swelled, turn reddish black and started to shed. Doctors would have to see it in the shedding state to believe what I was saying. Going from dermatologist to surgeons, to infectious disease drs was awful. Finally a hand surgeon took a biopsy while it was in the molting stage. The biopsy came back with unbelievable finding. But it was going to a bigger hospital to an allergist who right away recognized that the black, necrotic looking, painful finger was because I was allergic to propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, PEG, and glycerine . One of the problems is manufacturers create new names and hide the real dangerous ingredients under different names that a lay person would not identify as being dangerous. My disease now has left me with the slightest smell of an offending compound ( the glycols) my lips will blister, my throat will swell and close, and blister, my voice changes to this horrible sound and I have difficulty breathing. Research, be your own advocate, protect yourself. No government agency, is going to stop manufacturers from advertising and putting this known harmful additives to their products. When you get the chance, check out the MCS sites. Wish you wellness.

  4. I discovered my reaction to propylene glycol when I was around theatrical fog (PG in fog form). This caused immediate stabbing pain in my head and temporary loss of my voice (1-6 hrs). Since then I discovered it to be the cause of severe constipation due to the removal of moisture in the intestines. It is even in cigarette filters and many air fresheners such as Glade plugins. Even pills which has PG in the ink used to stamp ID# on pills cause noticeable constipation and after pro-longed use I have trouble with deep breathing such as in singing. Products such as Biotene (has PG) for dry mouth actually causes my gums to bleed. PG seems to be everywhere! The more costly non-generic drugs often do not have PG, but prior authorization is usually required and it cost more. PG is making life very difficult for me.

  5. I have had several anaphalactic allergic reactions from different coloscopy preps: go lightly, osmo prep, mirilax and hives all over my body from topical things such as spray tanning, liquid soaps (mostly all of them) moisturizer, laundry detergent. I went to a dermatologist and she finally discovered that I was allergic to PEG. It is not commonly known as an allergen. My doctor who gave me preps said he never heard of it in his 25 years of practicing. Educate yourself! Any medications or hospital visits TELL THEM!!!!!!! I almost died 2x from anaphylactic allergic reactions!!!!!

  6. I was given Polyethylene Glycol to DRINK!!! Thats correct!! My doc gave it to me for constipation..yep, it works…but i DID NOT Know how dangerous it is until now. Thanks for the article

  7. Propylene glycol is the main ingredient in e-liquids inhaled as ‘vapour’ along with nicotine in e-cigarettes (‘vaping’). It is said to be ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS List). Of course it was not usually inhaled, but a food additive. Since about 20-30% of teens and young adults have tried vaping, this may now be the main source of exposure to PG. Safer than inhaling smoke to get nicotine, but its long term effects are an uncontrolled experiment in progress.

  8. We have discovered that my husband is allergic to polyethylene glycol. He went into anaphylaxis shock after a colonoscopy. They say there was no PEG involved but there was PG. wonder if that did it. He was having problems with Colonoscopy preps, generic mucinex D, skin cream from dermatologist for rash. Now wondering about shave cream and deodorants. It’s crazy. It would answer a lot of questions Really need to read ingredients and he actually has a emergency alert bracelet

    1. I also went into anaphylactic shock during a colonoscopy. I told them I was allergic to PEG (as I knew from my trip to the emergency room after drinking MiraLAX before a previously scheduled colonoscopy, but I reacted either to the PEG in the lubricant my doctor used or the PG in the sedative (Propofol) the anesthesiologist used — or both. Please find an allergist who will perform skin tests on you and get to the bottom of it. The makers of Propofol pretend that the only problems come from egg and soy allergies, but that’s not true. There is a terrible lack of information by ER doctors, anesthesiologists, and gastroenterologists about the dangers posed by PG and PEG to those sensitive to it. (Not everyone is, but if you are, you are very sensitive and possibly very allergic to it.) Also, children should NEVER take MiraLAX or any laxative with PG, but pediatricians prescribe it anyway, with sometimes tragic results.

  9. Could you list the products which are PEG free??

  10. I found out I was allergic to propylene glycol several years ago after my the skin under my eyes became dry, itchy and peeled off! My skin can tolerate some, but my dermatologist suggested I stay away from it as much as possible. I’m now trying contacts but my eyes are apparently dry, so I was given “blink” drops to use. Well, turns out they have polyethylene glycol, which drove me to research the similarities between the two ingredients. I’ll be looking for different eye drops.

  11. I have been breaking out for several years now and have narrowed the cause down to Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol in some of the products I had been using. Propylene Glycol seems to be in everything from even Dove Sensitive Skin Soap to Shampoo and conditioners and in medications as fillers. As soon as I come in contact with something that it is in, I break out, sometimes even look like I have the measles; I believe it also causes blood to pool up under my skin. I believe the FDA needs to eliminate these 2 ingredients from all items that it is currently in. No wonder we have a bad epidemic of skin diseases, as the FDA keeps approving the use of chemicals that are clearly bad. They need to eliminate both of these products from everything.

    1. That’s interesting. I’ve just had my second anaphylactic reaction to PEG. My first was to magrogol (which is the same thing as PEG). My allergic was severe and today I was told PEG is in a lot of surgical preps. Be very careful if you have topical reactions as you might have an allergy like mine. Life threatening.

    2. I found out that I’m allergic to propylene glycol and was wondering what soaps do not have this in it.

      1. Three years ago I broke out with a rash on one leg. After being treated for poison ivy, scabies etc my rash kept spreading until I was covered from head to toe. The 24/7 itch and rash that lasted for six months nearly caused me to go crazy. Finally I had an allergy patch test administered which showed that I was allergic to propylene glycol and 2 other things. That was when my life changed because I had to find all new personal care products, change many of the foods I ate, quit dying my hair, quit drinking soda and many other fluids, ETC. because they all contained propylene glycol. I was told to avoid PG but was not told products that would be safe for me. I had to be my own advocate so after hours and hours of research I began to put my life back together. I’ve been rash free for over a year now so my hours of research paid off.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *