In my recent post reviewing Glossier’s Generation G, I quickly mentioned my allergy to Propylene Glycol. I imagine most of you (like me 5 years ago) went, ‘what the heck is she talking about?’ So I’m here to offer a bit of an explanation. But first, remember, I am not a doctor. Or even slightly qualified to be a doctor! So a friendly reminder that these words are simply my own, and not those of a medical (or science) professional.
Propylene Glycol, in the simplest term, is a chemical. It’s fairly harmless (though yes, it is used in antifreeze), and has many applications as an ingredient in things like whipped topping, soda, e-cigarettes, hygiene products, makeup, nail polish...you get the picture. PG is in a lot of things.
So where does my story with PG begin?
About 5 years ago, I started noticing my hands were really, really dry. I started buying all sorts of fancy hand creams, moisturizing gloves, trying those paraffin dips, and nothing worked! I then started developing little red bumps on my hands (I know, gross) and knew it was time to turn to the professionals. So I booked an appointment with my trusty allergist; a couple weeks and an itchy chemical patch test later, the doc determined I was allergic to Propylene Glycol. Now let me tell you folks, even trusty doc looked a little forlorn over my diagnosis. But why? She had figured out what the cause was! I can now just avoid it.
And then I went home and realized it was in EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY HYGIENE PRODUCTS. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, the fancy body scrub I treated myself to. I was making my problem worse. I was causing this. I slowly started throwing out every single product, watching my hard-earned money go into the trash-but this is what I had to do to start healing. After a long trip to Target, reading every label of every product I purchased, I restocked my bathroom cabinet, and waited eagerly for my hands to be fixed.
But 5 years later, and my hands still aren’t “fixed.” They are leaps and bounds better than they were-I no longer look like my hands were attacked by a wild animal, and they don’t constantly itch. But I will always have a little red patch, maybe a little red bump. Why? I’m not actively using products that are bad for me. But remember, PG is prevalent in so many things, and even has multiple names! It may be in that hand soap in the public restroom! Or in the cleaner just used at a table you sat down at at a restaurant! Or in a product that didn’t use to have PG, but now does! And in a fun, shocking twist, PG is also in many steroid and antibiotic creams meant to treat chemical allergies!
So how do I deal with this? How do I deal with something that makes me so self conscious, but seems unavoidable? Well, I do what I can, and leave it at that. Most people don’t really recognize it (when I’m not having a major flare-up), and my friends who know what I’m going through don’t even really see it anymore. It’s called being “self” conscious for a reason-as in, I’m really the only one who sees the tiny little bumps or red spots (most days), and who can allow it to bother them, or not. I do my absolute best in trying to avoid it-I read the labels of everything I purchase, and won’t try a new product unless it clearly lists the ingredients. This has luckily cut down on my impulse purchases of unnecessary hair and makeup purchases. Though it may have upped my spending on higher-quality items. Let’s just call that a moot point.
If any of you out there are dealing with a Propylene Glycol allergy, please know that your struggle is not alone. It can be wildly frustrating, but I know I’m fairly lucky if this is my main ailment. If you’re managing this allergy, or have tips or product recommendations, I’d love to hear from you!