Polyethylene Glycol or PEGs: Why We Stay Away

Polyethylene Glycol or PEGs: Why We Stay Away

When you purchase a new skincare or makeup product, how often do you scan each line of the ingredients list? And, if you happen to do so, how often could you identify every single one of those ingredients? Sometimes, we can’t even pronounce each one. 

It’s safe to say that the average consumer doesn’t spend their time perusing the backs of their cosmetics products. Unfortunately, certain companies take advantage of this fact. They fill their products with artificial, harmful chemicals that may do some serious damage in the long run.

Today, we’re discussing one of those very chemicals: polyethylene glycols, also known as PEGs. These compounds are used in a wide range of products and for countless purposes, and they’re not to be confused with ethylene glycol. However, despite this widespread presence in the cosmetics world, PEGs are incredibly harmful.

In this article, we’re going to delve into everything you should know about these compounds. By educating yourself and staying informed, you can certainly avoid the dangers of PEGs.

What Are Polyethylene Glycols?

This is an excellent question and the perfect place to begin. In short, PEGs are petroleum-based compounds used mainly in cosmetic creams. You may also find these polymers in any number of products, from household cleaners and baby wipes to ultrasound gels and medications. These compounds serve as thickeners, softeners, solvents, and moisture carriers. 

If you’re looking for PEGs on your favorite product’s list of ingredients, they may not be so simple to spot. This is because PEGs can be listed in any number of ways. 

You may see PEGs noted as PEG, followed by a number. For example, PEG-40 or PEG-20. Those numbers represent the number of moles, or the amount, of ethylene oxide in the ingredient.

In addition, you might also see PEGs listed as PEG plus a number, plus another sciencey-sounding ingredient. So, for example, PEGs could be listed as “PEG-40 cocamine.” They may even show up in a long list of ingredients and chemicals, separated by slashes.

Basically, PEGs will appear in a huge variety of forms on any given ingredient list. Here’s a solid rule of thumb: if you see “PEG” written anywhere on that ingredient list, even if it’s hidden among a long chain of complex chemicals, the product definitely contains PEGs.

At this point, you’re probably wondering one thing: why does it matter so much? Why should we be so vigilant about PEGs? 

All good questions. Read on to learn about the damaging consequences of using PEGs.

See Real Customer Results

We’ve helped thousands of women fade dark marks, acne scars, and achieve glowing skin!

The Harmful Side Effects of PEGs 

Now, it’s time to get into the really serious stuff. What makes PEGs so concerning?

Well, the main reason that we’re worried about PEGs is because of a few chemical contaminants—ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Sometimes, during the PEG manufacturing process, PEGs become contaminated with these chemicals. This is because ethylene oxide plays a key role in the production process.

Unfortunately, ethylene oxide is associated with multiple forms of cancer. Likewise, 1,4-dioxane is known to be a carcinogen, or a substance that can cause cancer.

In addition, ethylene oxide may have a few other side effects, and certain people are prone to hypersensitivity reactions. For example, it may cause harm to the nervous system. The California Environmental Protection Agency even classified this chemical as a developmental toxicant. 

Although contaminated PEGs are the main worry here, PEGs themselves may also do some damage. For example, when used on broken skin or open wounds, PEGs may cause irritation and more. Allergic reactions to PEGs are also fairly common, including hives and swelling, which we’re pretty sure you’d like to avoid. 

So, to sum it up, PEGs are pretty bad. We should note that these compounds can be decontaminated before being used in cosmetics. However, as consumers, there is no way to be certain that the PEGs in whatever products we’re using have actually been through the decontamination process.

Because PEGs present so many problematic hazards, we like to avoid them completely. Here at Gleamin, we use all-natural, organic, vegan ingredients in our formulas—there are no PEGs in sight.

How to Avoid PEGs

If you’re anything like us, this info dump might have scared you just a bit. It seems as if there’s a constantly expanding laundry list of ingredients that are harmful to our health. Adding another one to that group is just stressful.

However, don’t fret too much—we’re here to help. We’ve put together a short list of our best tips for avoiding PEGs. Likewise, we’ve included some of our favorite natural alternatives. With this guide in mind, you can keep your skincare game strong as ever without putting your health at risk.

So, without further ado, take a look at these tips:

Read Product Labels

This one seems obvious, we know. However, doing something as simple as scanning a label for that glaring term, “PEG,” will make a huge difference for your health. 

We’ve already explained above how to identify PEGs on product labels. However, there is one more component we should mention. If you’re concerned about those two contaminants we noted earlier—ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane—just know that those will not appear on ingredient labels.

This is because, as contaminants, these chemicals are a major red flag. No cosmetics company wants to broadcast the fact that they include harmful substances in their product. 

So, stick to searching for PEGs, and you’ll be just fine.

Use Online Resources 

When it comes to avoiding toxic ingredients, the Internet is your best friend. There are countless resources available to help you determine which products are safe to use and which may include harmful ingredients. 

For example, sites like Made Safe promote products that are certified to be free of PEGs, as well as other harmful substances. There are tons of sites just like this out there. Whether you use Made Safe or something else, those online resources are certainly an excellent way to avoid PEGs.

Find Other Ingredients You Love 

Finally, one of the best ways to ensure that you’re avoiding PEGs altogether is to find natural, organic ingredients that work for your skin. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of ingredient options out there that are practically built to help our skin look amazing. For example, vitamin C brings endless skin benefits to the table. It boosts sun protection, hydration, collagen production, and much more. 

Many of the most popular skincare ingredients today also fit into the natural category. Ingredients like turmeric, desert lime, and Kakadu plums are all considered superfoods—in other words, they’re full of nutrients and vitamins that will help your skin look great and feel healthier than ever. 

Here at Gleamin, we certainly fit the bill. We only use ingredients that are certified vegan and organic, as well as cruelty-free. Moreover, our Vitamin C Clay Mask contains all of the superfoods mentioned above and many more. 

When you shop at companies like Gleamin, you can be certain that your product will not contain PEGs. By switching to all-natural, organic cosmetics, you’ll never have to worry about reading long ingredient lists again. You’re free to treat yourself in peace.


Final Comments on PEGs

If you’re able to avoid PEGs, we would highly recommend doing so. These chemicals may cause some pretty serious side effects, and we wouldn’t want to see any of you going through that. Instead, turn to cosmetics brands you can trust to find high-quality, effective products that won’t harm your health.


The Dirty Dozen: PEG Compounds and their contaminants | David Suzuki Foundation

Safety Evaluation of Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) Compounds for Cosmetic Use | NCBI

#ChemicalCallout: Polyethylene Glycol Compounds (PEGs) | Made Safe

Dark Marks or Acne Scars?

This 10-minute mask fades dark marks & acne scars while brightening + preventing future breakouts.

Back to blog