Propylene Glycol (Dry skin)

Propylene glycol is an alcohol that functions as a skin conditioner, viscosity-decreasing agent, solvent and fragrance ingredient in cosmetics. Propylene glycol have humectant properties. It dries on the skin to a hygroscopic film that retains moisture by forming a barrier against the evaporation of water. Furthermore it is thought to attract water to the outer skin layers, which accounts for the observation that it leads to a transient swelling of these skin layers. It also helps enhance the occlusive properties of specialised formulations called (NLC) by reducing water loss across the surface of the skin, also known as transepithelial water loss, TEWL.

What does the science say?

Level of evidence: C

Propylene glycol is shown to have beneficial effects in dry skin conditions, and HelloSkin’s experts have therefore highlighted some of the most significant findings below. A study using advanced spectroscopy coupled with additional experimental procedures proved, that propylene glycol improves skin hydration upon dehydration1.

Besides the effect as a humectant, propylene glycol is also demonstrated to possess emollient features by creating an occlusive layer on the surface of the skin2, thereby leading to decreased water loss. The efficient role as humectant and emollient makes propylene glycol very suitable for treating dry skin, and furthermore for preservation of the skin barrier function2.

The concentration of an ingredient is important for its efficacy, and therefore products containing the same ingredient may not necessarily have the same effect as in the studies mentioned above. Updated: July. 2017

Updated: July 2017


1Skin Res Technol. 2014

2Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2004