I'm just gonna say it: living with propylene glycol allergy can be a real bitch. It's in such a wide range of products that it's practically impossible to avoid. The only real way you can eliminate it from your life is to adapt a new lifestyle by taking a look at every product that touches your skin. Being diagnosed with propylene glycol allergy can even mean needing to switch careers. Think about all the products hair dressers come into contact with or all of the products skin care professionals use at corporate spas. It's not like you can just bring in your own products. You have to use products approved by the company... I've heard that it's also used in factories to help plastic molds from sticking together. It's even used in bakeries that use boxed mixes!
So, What is Propylene Glycol?
It's a clear, ordorless, almost tasteless liquid which freezes at a lower than normal temperature. This is why you'll usually find it in anti-freeze. Since it's odorless and pretty tasteless (it's ever so slightly sweet), PG is perfect for dissolving other chemicals like flavoring into it.
Which Types of Products can Contain Propylene Glycol?
- body wash
- make – up
- medicine (oral, injectable & topical)
- theater smoke
- botanical extracts
- hand sanitizer
- mouth wash
- baby wipes
- gel cap pills and vitamins
- eye drops
- contact lens solution (even the solution in the lens packaging)
- polyester resin (laminate countertops & more)
- tobacco products
- electronic cigarettes
- emergency eye wash stations
- water-based paints
- water-based system cleaners
- processed food such as:
- dry baking mixes
- baked goods
- potato salad
- snack foods
- salad dressing
- salad dressings
- modified food starch
- artificial flavoring
- fast food
- liquid sweeteners
- ice cream
- whipped dairy products
- food for dogs and sugar gliders
Propylene glycol is Sneaky
One would hope that reading ingredient labels would be enough, but sadly it isn't. For whatever crazy reason, hidden ingredients are completely legal! Whether it's food or a body product, companies can hide ingredients in their all day long. This is how it works: not every ingredient is pure, right? For example: modified food starch. What do you think that means? Really, without doing research.... a person would have no idea! The truth about modified food starch is that it can be modified with a whole bunch of different chemicals. All they have to do is call it modified food starch, though. Companies aren't required to tell you which chemicals the starch has been modified with. Read more about that here. Another example is the good ol' botanical extract. When you get a "natural" shampoo with all sorts of lovely smelling extracts... you're not necessarily getting a pure extract... and companies aren't required to disclose this either. This is how I learned about that whole thing.
Propylene Glycol also goes by more than one name. Not only does a person with PG allergy need to look for "propylene glycol" or PG on ingredient lists, they need to look for all of these as well. Make sure to scroll down to the comments for other alternate names added by readers of this blog. Even doctors are confused by Propylene Glycol's many names. I investigated whether or not Propylene Glycol and Propanediol are the same (read more about that) and here's what the doctors said.
PG Allergy at Your Job
Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, your employer is required to provide you with a safe work environment. For me, this means that I have a doctor's note requiring my desk to be covered in glass. At every place of employment that I've worked, the desks and counter tops are made of laminate. Laminate is that plastic-y, fake type of counter top. I figured out the link between PG and polyester resin after I noticed the underside of my right forearm developing eczema... not my left, though. The one thing I touched the most with my right forearm was the desk. I taped computer paper onto that area of the desk and sure enough, the eczema began disappearing. I did some research and found that propylene glycol is part of the production process of polyester resin. Read more about that here.
How to Live With This Allergy
- Here's the hard and fast rule: if there's a word before or after "propylene glycol" or "PG", then it contains propylene glycol and you must avoid it. If there is a word, letter or number between "propylene glycol" or "PG", then it's a different chemical unless you're allergic to that other chemical, you don't need to avoid it.
- Read every single ingredient label
- Make sure all your doctors and dentist know about this allergy
- Have your pharmacy check to see if the ingredients have changed before filling any prescription
- Get the list of ingredients before you're injected with anything
- Don't assume that your doctor or anybody else has checked the ingredients. Double check. I learned this the hard way.
- Educate yourself by doing research about the content of anything you consume or put on your skin... especially when it comes to hidden ingredients
- Find other people with the same allergy
- And last but not least... take time for YOU. In the beginning, this allergy can be overwhelming, aggravating, depressing and as a result, it can really ruin your mood. Sometimes it helps the mind to create a little PG-Free environment at home. Make yourself a recipe completely from scratch and savor every bite... cozy up with a bunch of fluffy blankets and your pj's while you read a good book or watch a movie. Go to sleep early and allow yourself some rest and relaxation. You deserve it!
Stories From Other People With Propylene Glycol Allergy:
- Propylene Glycol: It Doesn't Have to be Used
- One Reader's Incredible Journey of Discovering Her Propylene Glycol Allergy
- Allergies & Eczema
- Propylene Glycol and Eating at Restaurants
- Itchy Rash
- Allergic to Propylene Glycol
- Propylene Glycol: Only Allergic on The Inside
- My 34 Year Battle
- Propylene Glycol is Everywhere!
- Breast Cancer, Allergies, Eczema and Thyroid Issues Won't Keep This Person Down!
- Processing of Sugar & Salt