Find It: Be a Label Detective

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Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Glycols are not always easy to find. Since they’re commonly used as inactive ingredients, pharmacists, medical professionals and manufacturers often overlook glycols. They are often abbreviated, which makes it difficult to find them in a long list of ingredients. Some manufacturers use proprietary or brand names for products that are essentially glycols. Because they are not active ingredients, they are not legally required to be listed in many products. Glycol compounds are in a category of substances that are “GRAS,” or “generally recognized as safe” and therefore they often fly under the radar. To avoid them, you’ll have to learn what they’re called. Below are some names for members of the glycol family. It’s not a complete list- it’s only what I’ve been able to find. I’ll continue to add to it as I find more. Feel free to email if you see something I’ve omitted.

butylene glycol

  • 2,3-butanediol
  • dimethylene glycol
  • 2,3-dihydroxybutane


ethylene glycol

  • monoethylene glycol
  • 1,2-ethanediol
  • MEG
  • glycol


polyethylene glycol

  • PEG
  • PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate
  • PEG-8
  • PEG-8 stearate
  • PEG-20 stearate
  • PEG-20 methyl glucose sesquistearate
  • PEG-30 lanolin
  • PEG-75 lanolin
  • PEG-75 stearate
  • PEG-80 sorbitan laurate
  • PEG-100 stearate
  • PEG-120 methyl glucose dioleate
  • PEG-150 distearate
  • PEG-3350
  • methoxypolyethylene glycol
  • PEO
  • polyethylene oxide
  • POE
  • polyoxyethylene
  • polyoxyethylene fatty acid esters
  • macrogols
  • Polyethylene oxide


propylene glycol

  • PG
  • propane-2,2-diol
  • 1,2-propanediol
  • a-propylene glycol
  • mono-propylene glycol
  • MPG
  • MEG
  • mono-ethylene glycol
  • Propylene glycol stearate
  • PPG
  • PPG-15 stearyl ether
  • Propylene glycol dicaprylate/dicaprate,

Possibly related to glycols (may cause similar reactions)

  • 1,3-propanediol
  • Polylactic acid
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol
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23 Comments on “Find It: Be a Label Detective”

  1. Jim Burns says:

    Thanks for the information. I also just started a wordpress blog. https://polyethelynegyycolallergy.wordpress.com/

    Like

  2. Jill Leonard says:

    Thank you. I’ve now worked out that 100%polyester curtains with thermal and blackout qualities have got a polymer coating, which when mixed with fabric conditioner (or could be wash liquid – got to try that combination yet) gives off fumes which affect my breathing and cause an allergic reaction in my mouth and on lips.

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    • Wow, that’s a pretty strong reaction. When you say it causes an an allergic reaction in your mouth and on your lips, does that mean swelling? Or a rash? I have usually only heard of rashes on mouth and lips due to direct contact or due to eating something. Make sure there’s not something you’re eating that you’ve developed an allergy to.
      Also, if you have any reaction that causes your tongue to swell or difficulty breathing, get to an emergency room right away. Anaphylaxis can be deadly and fast. For more info, read this article in WebMD. The article is for parents with allergic reactions in children, but it’s the same process.
      Let me know what you find out. Your info could help someone else.
      Amber

      Like

  3. Kerry Kuzak says:

    It’s my understanding that the polysorbates (e.g. 20, 60, 80) are ethylene oxide, in the family of PEG, also. Polyoxyethylene is a derivative too.

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  4. Kerry Kuzak says:

    I’m sorry–you did list polyoxyethylene. I was thinking of phenoxyethanol. Also: polymer 2; Carbowax; and Miralax. In the United Kingdom, E1521 is a PEG and E405, E477 and E1521 are PG’s. Thank you for your good work! I’m so happy your blog is here.

    Like

  5. Excellent write-up. I absolutely appreciate this website.

    Continue the good work!

    Like

  6. Kerry Kuzak says:

    I’ve just done a little research on ethylhexylglycerin which is in my Alba Botanica deodorant stick. I believe its synonym is 1.2 propanediol which is also a synonym for PG. Perhaps you can confirm/deny this and post accordingly. Thank you!

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  7. ethylhexylglycerin is a fairly new chemical and is not in the database on chemindustry.com, but there is a lively discussion about ethylhexylglycerin at this URL:

    http://chemicaloftheday.squarespace.com/todays-chemical/2009/7/31/ethylhexylglycerin.html?currentPage=2#comments

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    • Kerry Kuzak says:

      Interesting discussion! It seems that ethylhexylglycerin is relatively new because it is being used as an alternative to parabens. I have confirmed that ethylhexylglycerin is a glyceryl ether. Gylcerin should be added to the alternate names list because, I learned, that when petroleum is distilled, propylene comes off as a top fraction. Glycerin is made by adding chlorine to the molecule and then hydrolyzing the trichloropropane produced. Also, steareth ethers (different numbers) are PEG. Thanks again for your diligence at keeping allergy sufferers informed!

      Like

  8. Kerry Kuzak says:

    You’re probably getting tired of my questioning the alternate names for PG/PEG, but I believe it’s so important to our good health to know all the possible names it can go by. That being said, I consulted my sister who was a chemistry major and pharmacist about mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol and polylactic acid which are listed as possibly being related to the glycols. Her research says that despite being similar chemically and the first three being sugar alcohols, they have different sources in nature, different melting points and different uses which means our bodies, very likely, may react differently to them. PG, she says, lacks an alcohol (OH) group on one of its carbons which makes it different from them. Polylactic acid is also extremely different by its structure and is considered a biodegradable polyester. I don’t know if this helps or confuses, but it makes me think that I probably don’t need to worry about any of these 4 chemicals unless I can make a direct connection with a skin reaction. I’m glad to know this because xylitol, which is supposed to be good for teeth and gums, is being used by my new holistic dentist.

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  9. Kerry Kuzak says:

    Just trying to help keep your list updated–new entry which is a polyoxyethylene–PEG 20 Sorbian/Sorbitol Beeswax–probably found in skin care products/cosmetics.

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  10. Darlene says:

    I’m guessing that hexylene glycol is also a culprit. It’s been showing up in makeup products that I bought recently.

    Like

    • Hi Darlene,
      Thanks for your comment. My first indication that I was allergic was with propylene glycol. Once I found it and eliminated it from my life, I was fine until I started taking an anti-depressant that eventually broke me out in hives. There was no propylene glycol in it, but there was polyethylene glycol, and the pharmacist said I needed to stop taking it immediately and that PEG was likely the cause. He said to be safe, I should avoid them all. Ever since then I’ve avoided all glycols and I’ve only had hives when a glycol sneaks in with an unrecognizable name. There are folks who can use one glycol and not another, but I avoid them all because each reaction tends to be worse than the last.
      I have also seen hexylene glycol in makeup. Just one more thing to watch out for. . .

      Like

      • Georgia Mom says:

        Wow – similar story. I know my son is sensitive to Propylene Glycol. By eliminating that (along with a very restrictive diet) his skin cleared of nearly all eczema. (He had been covered with eczema and coated in steroids for years). He started taking an anti-depressent and I saw his skin gradually get worse and worse again. I checked with the pharmacist and it did NOT have propylene Glycol. But after further digging I discovered it had polyethylene glycol. As an experiment, we stopped the meds – took about 2 weeks but his face cleared. Stayed off them for a full month. Re-started them and his face EXPLODED in red blotches and skin turned to sandpaper within 24 hours. Clearly have to avoid both kinds of glycol from now on.

        Really making taking prescription medicine difficult, as most extended release tablets are covered in PG.

        Like

  11. Hilary says:

    Is there a list of cosmetics/beauty products that don’t contain any glycols? I have found it very hard to just find stuff without propylene glycol in it let alone any of the others as well. I thought I was just allergic to propylene glycol but after reading this I fear it may be more involved than I know.

    Like

    • Hi Hilary,
      Check out my post on “safe” product lists here and then see what I use here and here. As always, your reactions may be different, and manufacturers can change inactive ingredients at any time without warning so ALWAYS read labels.

      Let us know what you find that works for you.
      Amber

      Like

  12. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for this page. After a year of repeat painful bouts of angioadeama, I finally figured out I was allergic to polyethylene glycol. Of course we all know it doesn’t stop there, PEG has many relatives everywhere. My greatest challenge has been treatment for dry eye. Sadly, restasis has polysorbate 80 as an inactive ingredient, as do most OTC eye drops. Today I have found an ophthalmologist who has sent my Rx to a compound pharmacy. They custom make Rx to ensure treatment is free of allergens. Will let you know how it goes.

    Like

    • kkuzak5gks says:

      I’m sorry to hear of your PEG diagnosis. It is difficult to find pharmaceuticals free of the glycols. I’m glad you’re able to have medicine compounded for your dry eyes. My husband has this condition, but is able to use Restatis. I have researched some natural medicines that you may be interested in. One is fish oil or krill oil. Another is a product called Solgar Bilberry Ginkgo Eyebright Complex Plus Lutein Vegetable Capsules which can be bought over the internet. My husband’s dry eyes have improved a bit with the omega 3s of fish oil and avoiding dairy and gluten. Food sensitivities can contribute to the severity of this condition. Best wishes!

      Like

  13. Wonderful post! Thank you for all the good information. I have had strong reactions to Polyethylene Glycol. I realized it after a nurse at my Gastro office suggested I take Mirilax for constipation. Then I found it in the inactive ingredients in my blood pressure medicine that had been making me sick since it was prescribed to me. I had a horrible rash on my leg like the pictures of your arm you posted and I started changing all personal care and cleaning products, which were already natural products. I had a lot of allergy testing done last spring and allergic to many foods, outdoor and indoor allergens and fragrances. Now I am in the process of trying to find an allergist near me that tests for additives as I don’t think mine does.

    Like

    • Some will let you bring potential allergens with you to test, but it’s usually required to be purely that chemical, in order to make sure the allergy is to that substance and not something else. Is Miralax 100% PEG? If so, you could probably bring that with you and ask them to test you with it.

      Also, to learn how to check prescription drugs for glycols, check out this post: 11-ways-to-make-your-life-with-glycol-allergies-easier/.

      And you can join us on our discussion community, if you like: https://healthunlocked.com/allergic-to-glycols

      We are not super active, but the info is pretty good because it’s all glycol-related.

      Best of luck, Let us know what happens.
      Amber

      Like

  14. Georgia Mom says:

    Does anyone know if polyvinyl alcohol causes similar reactions as propylene glycol?

    Like

  15. Maren Junk says:

    I just found your site; thank you. Please know that Fragrance contains PEG; PEG is an ingredient in Fragrance. PEG and/or PG is in many cake mixes & already prepared cakes sold retail. I just found Benadryl Ultratabs & Benadryl Liquigels both contain PEG; I’ve been wondering why my red rash on both sides of neck refuse to go away. Also PEG AND PG is in generic Muperocin ointment, an antibacterial prescription topical. Sunmark, brand of generic colace contains PEG & PG. Sunmark brand of generic Pericolace contains PEG. Bayer Aspirin 81 mg low dose, and other NSAIDS contains PEG. MS Contin E. R. for chronic pain, doses 15-200mg all contain PEG. All Fluzone influenza vaccines contain PEG! CDC told me “there are no vaccines that contain PEG”. I told them “Fluzone contains Triniton X-100, & Triniton X-100 contain PEG”. Don’t forget to search for ingredients of ingredients. Be sure all doctors’ office document these allergies to PEG and PG. 4 out if 4 clinicians of mine refuse to physically type in the information, choosing instead to put OTHER Environmental. This is because the standard drop down menu on their computers do not list PEG or PG, like it is a rare allergy. I got five day patch testing done & they found allergies to Fragrance, Glutaraldehyde ( present in dtap vaccine), & Amidoamines. What a nightmare educating my healthcare providers on this potentially fatal issue! Thanks a lot for offering this site to help us all learn about these allergens.

    Like

    • Hi Maren,
      I am so sorry you’re experiencing a lack of support from your medical practitioners.
      Even though you have found all those products with PG and/or PEG, it is possible that there may be another version of the very same product without glycols. For example, I have finally found a generic benadryl that has no glycols. Because they are usually considered inactive ingredients, companies can and do substitute other ingredients for glycols. That said, there are some drugs that won’t work without a glycol added, and in some cases, like in some laxative products, the glycol is the active ingredient.
      I suspect that time release and extended release drugs use a glycol because I have never found one without it, but I don’t know for sure.

      It IS a rare allergy, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter. It’s a challenge, but we are in the position to help practitioners understand this allergy and how to care for us.

      Please take good care and keep us posted on how your’e doing.
      There are lots of wise people here who are willing to share their experience. Please know that we understand and you’re not alone.

      Amber

      Like


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