If you’re not used to reading ingredient labels, a positive patch test to propylene glycol might not mean much to you. If you do read labels, finding our you’re allergic to propylene glycol could send you into a bit of a tailspin. Propylene glycol is everywhere! It’s even in hydrocortisone cream, a common topical steroid used to treat allergic skin reactions.
First things first. What is propylene glycol?
Propylene glycol is an alcohol used as a softening agent, preservative, humectant (draws water molecules to it), and solvent. It is often used in products containing both oils and water.
Where can I find it?
Propylene glycol is used throughout the auto, pharmaceutical, medical, food, cosmetic, and chemical industries. It can be found in:
- Antiperspirants and deodorants
- Cosmetics like eye shadow, liquid makeup, concealer, lip gloss, lipstick, mascara, and anti-aging treatments
- Body creams and lotions
- Hair products like conditioner, hairspray, shampoo, gel, and mousse
- Oral care products like toothpaste, breath strips, and mouthwash
- Shaving creams and gels
- Soaps and cleansers
- Wet wipes and moist toilet wipes
- Topical medications such as hydrocortisone cream, acne treatment, gels and sprays for athlete’s foot, and hemorrhoid cream
- Internal medications like liquid gel capsules and lozenges
- Foods like avocado, donuts, marinating sauces, tartar sauce, brownies, jalepeno sauce, and salad dressings
- Pet shampoo and conditioner
- Household cleaners and detergents
- Paints, stains, enamels, and sealers
- Auto care products including de-icer, air sanitizer, leather care, tire foam, tire sealant and flat preventative, vinyl/rubber cleaner and conditioner, and cooling systems
- Yard care products like fungicide
- Industrial chemicals like solvents, thinners, antifreeze, dessicants, brake fluids, and polyester resins
What is a typical reaction to propylene glycol?
Propylene glycol often causes redness, swelling, itching, and fluid-filled blisters. Ouch! These symptoms can appear up to seven days after exposure.
- EPA Pesticide Chemical Code 068603
- EINECS 200-338-0
- Isopropylene glycol
- Methylethyl glycol
If you’re diagnosed with an allergy to propylene glycol, the first thing to do is check the ingredients in your topical medication to ensure propylene glycol isn’t there. If it is, speak with your doctor or a pharmacist about alternatives. Next, check any products you use on the area(s) of your body that is/are reacting or that you are constantly exposed to in your place of work. Then check any products that you use on your face, including makeup, lotions, and oral care products. The skin on your face is very sensitive, and if you are going to experience a reaction, that may be one of the first places it shows. Once you’ve covered the basics, you can then spread to the other common sources of exposure to eliminate any other necessary products from your life.
Unless you know you have a food allergy, it’s possible the food items containing propylene glycol might not be affecting you, but you can check by avoiding them for a month and then reintroducing them one every 4-5 days and checking for resurgence of symptoms.
It is possible to avoid many sources of propylene glycol exposure, but it takes diligence. What other types of products have you found that contain propylene glycol? Comment below.