Ask The Allergista: Propylene Glycol

Q: Thank you for sharing your story. I too have been to doctor after doctor who have simply passed me along and given up on figuring me out. I have done food testing (nothing major found), environmental testing (allergic to all of the major stuff - all grasses, dust, etc.), and chemical testing (severely allergic to propylene glycol and two others). The propylene glycol allergy is a killer. How do you do it? How did you figure out what was causing your breakouts? Mine seem so sporadic that I can't find the triggers. After two years of trying to figure this out, I feel helpless. The doctors have tried everything or guessed at lots of things. They've thought I had lupus. They thought it was a tomato and strawberry allergy. They thought it was something like cealics. None of these have been it, but we have full-fledged done all of them. I haven't eat tomatoes in four months, strawberries in three, and gluten in two. Nothing has changed. I would love to talk to someone who has gone through this before and can offer any advice to help ease me through this transition.

Thanks for your time!

A:

I was so happy to see your e-mail when I woke up this morning! Having someone to turn to and talk with, rant with and someone to try and figure out solutions with is something we all need when any medical condition becomes a fixture in our lives. I've felt hopeless so many times, just like you. And even though I have a wonderful boyfriend, these allergies make me feel so alienated from everyone else and it can make me feel alone in the battle. There have been entire days that have been ruined bc of how hard it is to deal with these allergies. The transition is HARD. And it requires a lot of discipline which it sounds like you've definitely been exercising. When I went through patch testing (they filled my entire back up), that's when I found out about the Propylene Glycol allergy. PG is like poison to my skin. When my specialist told me about the PG allergy, he also gave me a chart bc there's a lot of hidden PG in products. He goes through CVS Pharmacy's items and charts all of the body care products out so that people like you and me can go through and find which products we can use. I'm also allergic to sodium benzoate and other things in body care products, so I really need the chart. Another tip:  I've found that alternating my shampoo helps slows my skin reactions. I'll use one shampoo for 2 days, then switch over to the other. Were you given a chart? Here's the link: (chart has since been removed by the owner). For my face and body, I use Dove's unscented sensitive skin bar soap and for my shampoo, I use classic Prell (weird, right?) and the original T-Gel.

Also, I eliminated synthetic fabrics and that helped my skin improve a LOT. I didn't go through the testing for fabrics because they didn't think I was allergic to them and I was honestly so tired of all the tests and doctors. It became my life! I've thought about eliminating gluten to see how that goes... I'm such a pasta fiend though, so I keep putting it off!

Going back to the PG, it's also in cake mixes, those "freshly baked goodies" in the grocery store bakery, e-cigarettes, theater smoke and it's everywhere in the body care industry. Oh! Get this: so my friend has a spot in a local farmer's market and I was visiting with her the other day while she was there. The little tent next to hers was an e-cigarette booth! And this one lady was really trying to get my friend to try them because she smokes when she's stressed. Then, because my friend has had a wonderful teacher (cough, cough), she says, "Aren't they full of... what's that stuff?" And I perked up and said "Propylene Glycol! Yeah, they're full of it." and the lady goes, "Oh, well it's in everything!" (I'm sorry... please tell me how that justifies it? Let's just think about that for a minute... Of course I didn't say that because I was respecting my friend's tent at the market) So, I said to her, "Yeah, I know! I'm allergic to it. I know AAAAAALL about Propylene Glycol." She pretty much gave up and walked away. I secretly felt glorious.

In regard to how I've figure out some of my allergens on my own (l figured out my synthetic fabric allergy before going to the holistic doctor who confirmed it), it's all about completely eliminating the potential allergen from your life and seeing what happens. Then, test it out every now and then and see how your skin reacts. Now at this point in the game, I usually have 1-3 bumps on my skin (dermatitis) and I go though waves of having tiny breakouts, but I've managed to not let it surpass that. I'm obsessive - I have to be. That's part of why what we're dealing with makes me so flipping angry sometimes. It becomes a lifestyle. But I'm finding that it's all about finding ways to manage the day to day activities - your routine. I've also thought about getting tested for vitamin deficiencies, have you? A technician at my vet was having major dermatitis because he's deficient in a certain vitamin. So, he just takes supplements and bam, he's fine!