Examples of products that contain polyethylene glycol. Image 1: Source, Image 2: Source, Image 3: Source
Note: Everyman Jack is actually labelled as a “natural” product on this website, but if you look at the ingredients list it’s got some pretty bad ingredients in there mixed in with some good ones. That’s why it’s a good idea to read the ingredients list of the products you use.
What it is:
Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a petroleum based compound widely used in cosmetics as a thickener, moisturizer, and base. It is also used in pharmaceutical applications as a laxative. You’ll often find PEG’s in skin creams, laxatives, personal lubricants, toothpaste, printer ink, paintball fills and as an anti-foaming agent in foods.
Why you should avoid it:
- Does not biodegrade without special treatment. So when you wash this off your skin in the shower or bath it could affect the water quality of local bodies of water.
- Impurities during manufacturing can lead to carcinogenic ingredients. Carcinogens are substances that directly cause cancer.
- If used on broken skin PEG’s can lead to skin irritation and system toxicity
- Penetrates the skin deeply and allows other harmful ingredients to do the same (Epstein, S with Fitzgerald, R. Toxic Beauty. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009: 158-9.)
Some people will say that articles like these promote “scare mongering”. But I would rather know what is in the products I use and if they have negative side effects. As I’ve written in previous instances of this series, if your family medical history includes a risk of cancer (for example) then you may want to avoid all products that contain possible carcinogens. That way you reduce the amount of chemicals your body has to detoxify itself from. That sounds like common sense to me!