We are continuing with the Demystefying series! Today i'm talking about propeplyne glycol. This post is going to get a bit more sciency and technical so that you can better understand this ingredient.
What is propelyne glycol?
Propelyne glycol is an organic chemical compound that is created through the hydration propelyne oxide (basically adding hydrogen to propelyne oxide) and its chemical structure is C3H8O2 . It is found in almost all cosmetic products ranging from shampoos, conditioners, moisturisers to body lotions and soaps. You will even find it in food! It also goes by the names of propelyne glycone, 2-hydroxypropanol, methylethy glycol, 1, 2 propanediol, propane -1, 2-diol, PEG (polyethylene glycol), and PPG (poly propelyne glygol). It is a colourless, odourless liquid and is completely water soluble.
What does it do to my hair?
Because of its nature, it attracts water into the strand and is thus known as a humectant. Therefore it moisturises hair by drawing water into the strand and restoring suppleness. Perfect for dry, thirsty hair. In cosmetic products it is a popular ingredient because stabilises the chemical formulations and maintains the moisture content in the product.
Note that because it draws moisture into your hair it makes for shrinkage and frizzies. So if you are in a humid area and want to rock a banging braid out, afro or any style which requires a good amount of stretch or definition, I would suggest you avoid using a styling product which contains it. However you can still use rinse-out products that have it (e.g. the shampoo or conditioner). Just ensure they are well rinsed out so that there is a negligible amount left on your strands. On the plus side it is fabulous for maintaining soft and moisturised tresses. You would especially want it in moisturising sprays and your leave-in conditioners/moisturisers.
Now there have been a number of concerns about this ingredient in products because it is also used in anti-freeze, has been linked to skin irritations most especially in eczema and psoriasis sufferers, and may cause hives. Some of the other stuff I dug up suggested it is related to endocrine disorders as well.
When I read all of this I was petrified and like "Oh my gosh, what am I putting on my skin and hair??!" .The good news is that the Federal Drug Association of America has classified it as non-toxic and safe when ingested even in large amounts . Its metabolic cycle when broken down in the liver goes like this: propelyne glycol >lactic acid> pyruvic acid> carbon dioxide + water. So the end result of it is basically what you breathe out plus some water. Furthermore approximately 45% of any ingested PG is directly excreted by the body before it even comes into contact with the liver. Research also indicates that because of its half life (basically how it decays) which is about four hours, there is no accumulation of the product in the body.
Given all that it does, should I still be using products containing propylene glycol?
Well i've already broken down what it is, how it works and even its effects in your body. The decision is really up to you as to whether you want to use it or not. And as an eczema sufferer myself who uses lotions which contain this ingredient, I haven't had any flare ups from the products I use, because I realised that what triggers my flare ups is actually diet related plus I haven't had a flare up in months (but that's a post for another day and platform...most likely my blog...yeah). And all the hair products that work for me contain it. BUT as a word of caution to eczema and psoriasis suffers, if you noticed a product containing it is giving you trouble, you should chuck it. Health and safety first! If you want to eliminate propelyne glycol from your products and need an alternative to it, I would suggest that you go for products which have natural humectants such as honey, aloe vera juice/gel and glycerine.
What's your take on propelyne glycol?