It can be easy to look the other way when vaguely spotting PEG a.k.a Polyethylene Glycol or other non-natural ingredients in skincare and hair products, thinking it can’t be all that harmful since it’s been used in personal care products for as long as we remember, besides, is it really that bad for you?
Ingredients like the PEGs, are part of a family of synthetic chemical compounds and are used in personal care products as emulsifiers and surfactants. People often think of it as an important advantage to the skincare routine, and how nice it is for the skin to absorb that moisture to hydrate immediately.
What exactly is the skin absorbing when any of the PEGs are a part of our skin regime? PEGs tend to be followed by a number like PEG-6 or PEG-100, telling us how many units of ethylene glycol they’re constructed with. The higher the number the lower the molecular weight - the quicker and easier the skin drinks it up.
What are the concerns with PEGs:
- Carcinogenic contaminants are a primary concern.
PEG compounds themselves show some evidence of genotoxicity and if used on broken skin can cause irritation and systemic toxicity.
The industry panel that reviews the safety of cosmetics ingredients concluded that some PEG compounds are not safe for use on damaged skin (although the assessment generally approved of the use of these chemicals in cosmetics).
PEG functions as a “penetration enhancer,” increasing the permeability of the skin to allow greater absorption of the product — including harmful ingredients.
My rule of thumb is - if an ingredient is not good for you or harmful for nature I don’t put it in my hair or on my skin. We don’t want chemicals in our food and we stay away from MSG and other questionable ingredients. Why should that be any different when it comes to our personal care? What we put on our skin is food for our skin.
It’s convenient to grab a shampoo, lip balm or shower gel at the supermarket when grocery shopping and not scrutinize every ingredient, that are often written in impossibly small letters. (take you glasses with you shopping) :)
To simplify, it’s a good start to shy away from any of the PEGs, Paraffin, Petroleum, Parabens, Toluene, Benzene and please study the ingredients (INCI names) as all skincare products should have INCI names for their ingredient list. The INCI names are the same in all languages.
The contrasting beauty of all this is that in today’s beauty, skin care and wellness market are several options for beautiful non-toxic skin and hair care, both affordable and high-end. There shouldn’t be any reason for us to reach for the toxins when running through our busy schedules and looking for convenience. It’s easier than you think to be green.