Until recently, I used a C.O. Bigelow face cleanser. I found C.O. Bigelow to be a relatively clean skincare brand that I could trust – and even read an article about the founder in The New Yorker last month. The products always did what they said they were going to – whether it was a moisturizer, shaving cream, lip gloss or face wash. I’d been using C.O. Bigelow Deluxe Gentle Cleanser before I started to become conscious about clean – and dirty – beauty product ingredients. Checking this ingredient list was the first time I consciously remembered noticing propylene glycol.
As it happened, this two-word ingredient started popping up in all different elements of my life. When I got a really bad ear infection and had to use antibiotic and steroid ear drops, propylene glycol was listed first on that ingredient list. I was in work picking something up from the printer and saw the ingredient list of a nearby package of hand-wipes and not surprisingly, propylene glycol was on there as well. After seeing the term on these three very different items, you can imagine my surprise to find that while I was making a rose-water infused bundt cake, the second ingredient on my Rose Water Extract was propylene glycol.
This really got me thinking – what is this synthetic, chemical ingredient that is used in practically everything? We put it on our bodies when we use moisturizer or face wash, we put it in our bodies when we’re sick, and we’ll actually put it in our mouths and ingest it when we eat baked goods.
Here’s what my research found from National Center for Biotechnical Information (NCBI) studies:
“Propylene glycol is a synthetic liquid substance that absorbs water. It is also used to make polyester compounds. Propylene glycol is used by the chemical, food, and pharmaceutical industries as an antifreeze when leakage might lead to contact with food.”
An understandable introduction, considering I had found it in beauty products, food and medication. Then I read this from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which, as you might remember from my previous post, has no power to demand an ingredient or product be taken off the market when it is deemed to be harmful, toxic or carcinogenic. Statements from them do not mean much to me, especially since they are such a powerless organization, however here is what they say about it:
“Propylene glycol has been classified as an additive that is “generally recognized as safe” for use in food.”
“It is used to absorb extra water and maintain moisture in certain medicines, cosmetics, or food products. It is used as a solvent for food colors and flavors, and in the paint and plastics industry.”
AND “Propylene glycol is also used to create artificial smoke or fog used in firefighting training and in theatrical productions.”
After reading all of this, I continued to do some digging and found that the compound has been causing issues to dog digestive systems as it is found in many brands of dog food as well. Propylene glycol has the same properties as antifreeze – and should not be consumed in bulk by anyone or anything.
So what do you do with this information? If you’re in the process of cleaning out your beauty and personal care products for cleaner versions, I wouldn’t necessarily toss a product you love just because of this ingredient, especially if it’s not one of the first three ingredients listed. There are no health risks associated with moderate use – however if it is found in a product that you use multiple times a day, I would recommend checking out other options.
I’m listing a few of my favorites face cleansers that are made without propylene glycol and have been vetted as clean, non-toxic products!
Bulldog Original Face Wash ($8) – This one’s for men. I got my boyfriend to use it once and now he’s hooked for life!
Belli Beauty Anti-Blemish Face Wash ($22) – I’ve been using this for months and LOVE it!
Stay Classy! xx