What Is Propylene Glycol

A woman applying lipstick.
••• TAGSTOCK1/iStock/Getty Images

Propylene glycol (PG) is a colorless and odorless liquid chemical used for decades in a wide array of applications. A synthetic substance produced in industrial quantities, it is a relatively simple organic compound that has the chemical formula C3H8O2. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers PG as non-toxic in small amounts; however, large doses can cause seizures in humans and kidney and liver damage in animals.

Food Additives

In foods, PG absorbs water and maintains moisture. It dissolves food dyes and flavorings in drinks, and it keeps foods from freezing, such as in breweries and dairies. In food, it would be difficult to consume a dangerous dose, but babies, infants, the elderly and those with certain allergies may be more sensitive to the chemical.

Cosmetics

In cosmetics, PG is commonly used to emulsify oil components to water-based components. Propylene glycol also helps cosmetic items keep from melting in high heat and freezing in low temperatures. The small amounts used in cosmetics do not pose health risks, except to those with sensitivities.

Pharmaceuticals

In medicines, PG acts as an emulsifier, specifically in topical agents and injectable medicines. It also acts as an excipient, or solvent, for the active ingredients in medications. Newborns have shown adverse reactions to medicines using this chemical.

Industrial Uses

Propylene glycol has a myriad of functions in industrial applications. The textile industry uses it as an intermediary in the production of polyester fiber. The military uses it to form smoke screens for troops. Military and commercial airlines use it as a de-icer for planes, however, ethylene glycol is also used because of its lower cost. PG can be found in liquid detergents, as well as a number of other uses.

Related Articles

How to Use Propylene Glycol
Citric Acid Powder Uses
What Is Disodium Diphosphate?
What Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?
Differences Between Glycolic Acid & Glycerin
The Common Uses for Tartaric Acid
Alternative Solvents to Benzene
What is Sodium Benzoate?
What Are the Uses of Carbon Dioxide Gas?
Difference Between Sodium Chlorite & Sodium Chloride
How to Make Bromine Water in the Chemistry Lab
List of Ingredients in Perricone MD Cold Plasma
What Is Mutton Tallow?
What Is Magnesium Carbonate?
Sodium Bicarbonate Secretion in the Body
Urethane vs. Polyurethane
What is Ethanolic Potassium Hydroxide?
Is Methanol & Isopropyl Alcohol the Same Thing?
What Products Are Made From Seaweed?
Properties of Kerosene

Dont Go!

We Have More Great Sciencing Articles!