June 1, 2020

Butylene Glycol in Skin Care – Is It Safe?


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Skin care regimens are gaining popularity day by day. 

With so many products to choose from, deciding on what best suits you is a big deal. 

Knowing what’s safe and healthy for your skin must be your top priority! 

Everytime I visit my neighborhood drugstore, reading the back labels of my personal skin care products is a responsible habit I am proud of. 

I admit, some ingredients may not seem as natural. Intimidating sounding chemicals make me wonder if it could possibly be dangerous. 

“Butylene glycol” is no stranger to this. Surprisingly, we find them in most of the products we already use daily. 

Studies show it is safe to use and considered the most friendly of all glycols. I’ll discuss this further more in this post. But first…

Table of Contents

What is Butylene Glycol?

Butylene Glycol is a natural alcohol derived from petroleum. The compound is a colorless, water-soluble liquid. It does not have large scale uses.

It is used in various personal care applications in Skin Care, Hair Care and Colour Cosmetics. 

You find them in products such as serums, moisturisers, lotions, sheet masks, toothpaste, shampoos, and cleansers.

What are the benefits of Butylene Glycol?

1. Alcohol ingredients in skin care products make good humectant moisturisers. 

This means it can hold onto water, keeping your skin and hair hydrated. Hydrating skin cells even play a role in anti-aging and anti-wrinkling!

2. Apart from being a humectant, Butylene Glycol also functions as an emollient.

It creates a barrier on the skin, preventing water loss. The effect is the desirable softening and conditioning of skin.

3. Butylene Glycol is also used as a penetration enhancer. 

Because of its water-soluble qualities, it helps dissolve ingredients unto skin. Most products have heavy active ingredients that end up sitting on the skin’s surface. 

With Butylene Glycol as a solvent, ingredients mix better. This boosts the overall penetration and effectiveness of the product, giving you your money’s worth.

Butylene Glycol is sometimes included in skin care products to create thinner consistency. 

Thick creams can often feel greasy, and uncomfortable for some users. A thinner cream can save you a lot of time dissipating the product on skin. 

This viscosity control is often considered in buying decision factors of users. Everyone looks for a pleasant product application experience!

Butylene Glycol VS Propylene Glycol

If you’ve done a few searches on Butylene Glycol, you probably also encountered Propylene Glycol. 

Both are compounds derived from petroleum and are a colorless liquid. They function similarly and are used in products for the same reasons. However, based on a number of consumer surveys, many had complications and skin irritations with Propylene Glycol. 

In fact, it was named the “Allergen of the Year in 2018” (For more details, read more about “Propylene Glycol in Contact Dermatitis” here!)

Because of this, many brands opted to remove Propylene Glycol from their formulas and liberally considered Butylene Glycol as the best alternative. 

This being safer to use for consumers, without sacrificing quality and effectiveness of product use.


Is Butylene Glycol safe?

Many have expressed concern and skepticism around Butylene and Propylene glycol for many years. 

The EWG rates propylene glycol at 3 out of 10 (10 being the most hazardous) on their “danger scale”, and butylene glycol at the lowest possible hazard rating of only 1.

It is also good to note that Butylene Glycol has been approved as safe by The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), the FDA, and the World Health Organization. 

Studies have proved no harmful effects from this compound, labeling it as non-toxic and non-irritating. 


Butylene Glycol vs. Consumers

Generally, Butylene Glycol has not caused a lot of problems for most consumers. 

Oftentimes, people with very sensitive skin may encounter skin irritations especially when using Butylene Glycol in higher concentrations. 

Some have shared experiences of irritation when applied near the eyes.

If you have very sensitive skin and opt to use products containing natural ingredients instead of Butylene Glycol, note that they too can cause possible irritations. 

The most common are bee pollen, citrus oils, tea tree oils, and other botanical extracts.

It is possible to have an allergy on nearly any ingredient. Butylene Glycol is no exemption. But it is uncommon.

We recommend a visit to your trusted dermatologist for professional advice in case these matters arise.

Is Butylene Glycol safe during pregnancy?

There are not enough studies on the effects of Butylene Glycol on pregnant women.

A study was conducted on pregnant rats back in 1985 that had negative effects on the developing animal. It observed changes in neural and liver protein synthesis on the rat offspring.  

It boils down to personal choice. Some people recommend to completely stay away from all glycol and petroleum products during pregnancy. 

It is best to avoid as much chemical exposure as possible especially during these sensitive times.

Can Butylene Glycol cause acne?

Butylene Glycol is considered a comedogenic ingredient. This means they are likely to clog pores and cause acne, blackheads, or whiteheads.

If you have acne prone skin, it is advisable to be extra careful with products containing comedogenic ingredients. For example, people with acne would prefer non-comedogenic moisturizers to keep their skin hydrated. 

It will really come down to individual skin type and product formulation.

In the case of Butylene Glycol, it is only rated a category 1 on the comedogenic scale (where ingredients in category 0 will not clog pores, and category 5 being the highest probability to clog pores). 

Thus, it is not likely that Butylene Glycol will be a cause of concern for breakouts.

Recommended Products that Contain Butylene Glycol

Butylene glycol can be found in literally thousands of skin care products.

The main reason being it having multifunctional effects on the skin. Here are some you can buy on the market:

This Luminizing Black Charcoal Mask makes your skin feel luminous, clean, and refreshed. 

The activated charcoal detoxifies and gently removes oil and dirt off your pores. It is sure to nourish and refine your skin!


DHC Acerola Extract

The DHC Acerola Extract contains ingredients of the Malpighia Emarginata (acerola) fruit.

The acerola berry is considered a “Miracle fruit” because of its vitamin and antioxidant rich qualities. 

This concentrated moisture treatment helps brighten and soften skin leaving it silkier, more even-toned, and luminescent!

This hydrating facial moisturizer also has anti-aging skin care properties. 

It is sure to give you that plump and healthy looking complexion you desire! Apart from hydrating, this serum tightens pores providing a youthful appearance to your skin. 

It also helps treat pigmentation issues.

This sunscreen is perfect for normal and combination skin types alike. 

It offers potent protection and moisturization. It boosts moisture retention and diminishes fine lines on your skin.

This Tea Tree Lotion softens skin with its gentle blend of Blue Cypress oil, and Jojoba. 

It’s great for all skin types. 

It is also vegan, non GMO, paraben free and gluten free. This lotion is sure to provide daily moisture and protection for your beautiful skin.

Final Thoughts

Butylene Glycol is a popular ingredient in cosmetics and skin care products. 

Many studies prove it is safe for most people to use even on a daily basis. It’s properties have greatly improved the quality of skin care products. They are great at conditioning and softening your hair and skin. 

However, we do not discount the fact that a very minute number of people could possibly be allergic to Butylene Glycol. Although it is a rare occurrence, best to be cautious if you have sensitive skin.

I hope I have shed some light in providing relevant knowledge on Butylene Glycol in skin care. For more questions, feel free to hit me up. I will answer them the best I can!

Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.